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Bhagavad Gita & a game theory simulation; Upcoming Events++ #6

++ toddler screen-time; vignettes from The GenWise Club

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and collaborating on this.

This week’s main post ‘Winning vs Being Nice’ talks about how you should treat others when they don’t treat you well- and shows that the Bhagavad Gita, as well as Game Theory make similar recommendations! Do play the simulation game as a family and let us know how it went in the comments.

You are invited to be an early member and beta-tester of the GenWise Club (ages 13-90), a community of interested students, parents, and educators. Check out section 2 for how to join the club.

Join this conversation on learning by commenting on our posts, or joining our club community for more regular and closer interactions.


Winning vs Being Nice

Vignettes from the GenWise Club

Upcoming Events (Free & Paid; both external and GenWise events)

Parenting Tips: Toddler screen-time

Winning vs Being Nice

Tit-for-tat is the real golden rule

This post is by GenWise mentor, Navin Kabra and appeared first on his personal substack newsletter here.

A lot of religious teachings boil down to “Always be good, and do good to everyone.” You are also often told, “If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn your other cheek towards them.” And, of course, the golden rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

So I find it interesting that the Bhagavad Gita advises that we should always do the right thing, even if sometimes the right thing involves killing bad guys. If someone mistreats you, the Gita encourages retaliation. If you choose not to retaliate despite provocation, it mocks you by saying “this cowardice does not befit you.” (Chapter 2, shloka 3. The Gita also points out that your action shouldn’t be for the wrong reasons, you shouldn’t initiate the misbehavior, and you should be forgiving. )

What is most fascinating is that after decades of Game Theory analysis (last 50 years or so), researchers have reached pretty much the same conclusions about the winning strategy. 

Before continuing, I would highly recommend going through this simulation called The Evolution of Trust. It helps you understand retaliation, co-operation, and trust via Game Theory. It takes about half an hour, but it is totally worth it. Although it is analyzing a simple game, the lessons apply to a surprising number of real-life situations, including relationships, and the principles will stay with you for life.¹ 

It comes as a surprise to many that the winning strategy in that game is for you to be a Copy Kitten. You start with co-operation and be forgiving of your opponent’s misbehavior initially, but if the misbehavior continues, then you must retaliate. Players who are always good lose the game quickly because they get exploited by the bad guys. Note the similarities with the teachings of the Gita.

The game in the simulation is a well-studied game from Game Theory, called the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (IPD) and a lot of situations in life are similar to IPD. Should you regularly help your coworker with their problems? Even if you know that helping them will improve their results, and give them the promotion that you could have gotten? What if they don’t help you back? A careful analysis will reveal that this is an IPD, and the correct strategy is Copy Kitten—start by being helpful, be forgiving of some lapses, but if it continues, stop being helpful. Should you trust your driver with cash for filling petrol? Should he take advantage or not? IPD. When two businesses compete in the same market many IPD situations arise—price war, advertising budgets, bad-mouthing the competition, etc.

I have noticed that even though our religions teach us to always be nice, a lot of people when faced with IPD like situations in real-life tend to default to the defect scenario—i.e., assume the worst of the other party, and take preemptive defensive actions. This leads to suboptimal results.

In contrast, in most cases, being a Copy Kitten, you will manage to identify the good-guy third parties and find win-win situations. So start by being nice, be forgiving of some lapses, and retaliate when necessary.


¹ Even school-going children can enjoy and appreciate the Evolution of Trust simulation, so let your children go through it too.

Navin teaches several courses at GenWise and also teaches a course on game theory. Read more about this course in this blog post by Navin.

Vignettes from The GenWise Club

Students owning the action at the club

The sign of a healthy community is when the lines between ‘facilitators’ and ‘participants’ starts blurring. We were thrilled to see students organizing themselves to form a chess club. One student asked if there were members interested in playing chess, a bunch of students responded positively, there was a request to the administrator create a chess channel and an @chess role.. and in 2 hours we had an operational chess club! If you fancy a game of chess, just send out a message with @chess, asking if folks are interested, and somebody will respond soon and play with you…

Apart from this, students have been very active with posting memes and puzzles and responding to these. Here’s a meme posted by a student, Sanay, and Navin’s response to it.

Club Lounge Discussion: How scientists figure out things

Students and parents had a fascinating discussion with Sukanya Sinha and Vishnu Agnihotri on this topic last Saturday. What was supposed to be a 45-60 minute session went on for 85 minutes!

The roles of experiments, observations and theory in the scientific process were discussed through various examples. One question that was posed to students was ‘Pasta sauce should be of just the right consistency- neither too thick nor thin. How will you measure the consistency of pasta sauce?’

Various interesting ideas were proposed. Avnish suggested measuring out the exact amounts of the ingredients that work well and using that ‘formula’. Omkaar proposed boiling the sauce to measure the amount of water in the sauce, and later to pour the sauce through a funnel and measure the time it takes to come out of it. The ideas were discussed and critiqued and we plan to continue this discussion and finalize some good methods. If you have an idea for this, please share in the comments.

Be sure to tune in to the weekly Lounge sessions on Saturdays at 11 AM (To join, just log into the GenWise Discord server and click on the “Lounge” on the left-hand-side.). Details of the next 2 Club Lounge sessions are available in the Upcoming Events section.

How do I become a member of The GenWise Club

In the beta phase, the Club is open to all. All it takes to join are these steps:

Get an account for you and/ or your child on Discord

Use this invite (valid till May 20, 2021) to join the GenWise server. If the link has expired or doesn’t work, please write to, requesting a new link.

Direct Message (DM) Vishnu with your full name and details once you slide in to The GenWise Club!

Upcoming Events

External Events

Alternative Exam Routes for Children with Special Educational Needs on Saturday the 15th of May 2021 at 11 AM. Shweta Sharan (also a parent to a child with LD) will talk to the Linguaphile Skills Hub team about some exciting qualifications, exams, universities and career progressions for children with special educational needs. Shweta will be in conversation with Saurav Dutta and. Papiya Banerjee of Linguaphile Skills Hub, and Ankita Narua (Edexcel Exam Coordinator for IGCSE and BTEC.) They will also speak to a parent who can give us an inside look at how students and parents can work with these options and chart the way forward. Register here. (Free)

Parenting Knowledge from Upanishads and Gita, by leading children’s writer, Roopa Pai, for the Indian Women Blog. Sat, May 15 at 5 PM. Register here. All proceeds go towards supporting the education of children of daily wage workers. If you can’t attend the talk, even buying a few tickets or at least one will help the cause. The tickets are just Rs. 250 apiece.

DNA Replication with Hands-On Activities Join ‘Talk to a Scientist’ in their next episode where Dr. Karishma Kaushik conducts a hands-on session by using simple items available at home to help understand how DNA replicates! Check out this facebook post for details. Date: 15th May 2021, 5-6 pm IST. For ages 6-16. Register here. (Free)

CONTAGION Exhibition from Science Gallery, Bengaluru. CONTAGION explores the phenomenon of the transmission of emotions, behaviours, and diseases. CONTAGION is a 45-day exhibition season, from 30 April to 13 June. There are also several interactive workshops for 15-28 year olds beginning May 9 and ending June 6. For more details visit their website here. (Events are free)

The neutrino story: from impossible dreams to unreachable stars is a talk by Dr. Srubabati Goswami as part of the series ‘Kaapi with Curiosity’ by ICTS. The talk is on Sunday, 23 May 2021 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm. For more details and to register, click here.

Events @GenWise

“A naturalist, scientific thinking and personal responsibility”- Sat, May 15, 11 AM @The GenWise Club Lounge

Radha Gopalan, an environmental scientist, will be in conversation with GenWise mentor, Sowmya. The session will draw inspiration from this talk of primatologist, Jane Goodall and explore what is involved in doing science, especially in natural environments and what is the nature of responsibility we have towards the environment. All students and parents welcome!

“12 Angry Men and Psychology”, with Vishnu Agnihotri- Mon & Thu at 3 PM, starting May 17 @The GenWise Club Lounge

Are you interested in watching movies & analyzing them? Are you interested in understanding why people think and behave the way they do? If so, join Vishnu twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at 3 PM in the Club Lounge for a 30-45 minute session for 2-3 weeks starting May 17. We will be discussing the movie ’12 Angry Men’. The chat discussions will happen in the #psychology-of-behaviour channel. All students and parents welcome!

“Why a lake exploded: thinking about cause and effect” – Sat, May 22, 11 AM @The GenWise Club Lounge

Rachit, a GenWise mentor, will be in conversation with Vishnu Agnihotri on this topic. We tend to explain events by ascribing the cause to a recent event and referring to a specific ‘actor’ (e.g. someone ate a bat in Wuhan and now we have a pandemic). However causality can often be complex- how can we train our minds to think beyond the obvious? All students and parents welcome!

Details of at least 3 GenWise courses coming up soon (out of 30+ courses listed here), are shared below. The 1st course in the highly popular ‘Math Adventures in Problem Solving’ series by Jerry Burkhart starts on May 24. Watch this short film to hear Jerry speak about the goal of these courses and his approach.

Parenting Tips: Toddler Screen-time

Dr. Bhooshan shares this article saying that the introduction of screen time early on in life is harmful in more ways than one. It leads to various developmental delays.

One quote from the article that points out that gadgets are not bad per se, but should be used as a tool.

if they’re introducing young children to the technology, they should try and do it in a way that teaches the child to use the device as a tool rather than purely for entertainment. – Jenny Radesky, University of Michigan Developmental Pediatrician

Dr. Bhooshan Shukla, GenWise Mentor MD, DNB, MRCPsych (London), Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Twitter – @docbhooshan

Dr. Bhooshan conducts various courses about parenting for GenWise. Register below to learn more about working with your teenager.


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