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Why everybody should study Economics?++ #36

++ GenWise Residential Program | Rise Global Scholarships | Upcoming Events

Quote of the Week

“The prisoners were dying of scurvy, typhoid fever, and smallpox, but nothing was killing them more than bad incentives.” –Opening lines from the textbook Modern Principles of Economics by Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen. Scroll to the end of the main post to know what saved the prisoners finally.

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. We are also a founder-member of the Gifted India Network– if you are interested in issues related to gifted education and talent development, an easy way to keep updated about talks, programs and resources is to join the Gifted India Network telegram channel (

In this week’s main post ‘Why everybody should study Economics?’, GenWise mentor, Ashish Kulkarni, explains that the essence of economics is ‘how to get the most out of life’; thus everybody should have some understanding of economics.

Our residential winter program starts Dec 18, 2021. Students from schools around the country are attending the program including Oberoi International (Mumbai), Jamnabai Narsee (Mumbai), Arya Vidya Mandir (Mumbai), Modern High School for Girls (Kolkata), KC High (Chennai), Greenwood High (Bengaluru), and APL Global (Chennai). Scroll below for more information.

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 this link for more about the club and how to join it. It is open to all in the current beta phase. 

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


Why everybody should study Economics?

GenWise Residential Program, Dec 2021

Upcoming External Events

Why everybody should study Economics?

In this post, GenWise mentor, Ashish Kulkarni, explains that the essence of economics is ‘how to get the most out of life’; thus everybody should have some understanding of economics. Ashish is teaching a 1-week course ‘Economics and Life Choices’ from Dec 24-30, 2021 in our upcoming residential program.

“Who made the shirt that you’re wearing right now?”

It needn’t be a shirt, of course. Whichever item of clothing you happen to be wearing right now, do you know who made it? I’m not asking, I should make clear, which firm manufactured the shirt. I’m asking the name of the employee within the firm.

And the odds are that you don’t have the faintest clue. In fact, you might find this to be a rather weird question. Who asks these sorts of questions anyways?

Well, one economist did, and he happened to write a rather interesting book about it. It’s called The Company of Strangers, and the author’s name is Paul Seabright. The reason I bring this book (and this question) up is because the book helps us understand what separates us from other animals on this planet. 

Animals meeting each other for the first time – even animals belonging to the same species – don’t exhibit overt friendliness. The default state is one of cautious curiosity.

Us humans? We’re wired differently. We don’t just trust strangers, we’ve come to depend on them. We trust people we’ve never met to do things for us. 

Think about it: when a young person enters a college, they have likely never met even one of their professors. And the professor is also blissfully unaware of your existence. And yet both the student and the professor go about their lives in march, blithely assuming that somebody somewhere will do the work to ensure that that student (and hundreds of other students) will meet that professor in a classroom setting in June.

The study of how we, as a civilization, have gone about constructing a society in which these exchanges can take place is the subject matter of economics. The study of how we as a society have become unimaginably wealthy over the course of centuries is also the subject matter of economics. And finally, the study of what motivates us in this society to do the things we do: what we choose to study, where we choose to work, who we choose to marry – how and why we make the choices we do is also the subject matter of economics.

Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen have come up with a definition of economics that I find the most satisfying. Economics, they say, is the study of how to get the most out of life.

Not only is this definition of economics concise and understandable by all, but it also works across multiple levels. Economics is the study of the choices you make to get the most out of your life, but it is also the study of the choices that a nation makes to get the most out of its resources. Why, as I just pointed out, economics is also the study of how we as a civilization have made the most (or not) of what was available to us on this planet. 

When you study economics in a formal sense – maybe in a classroom, maybe as part of a YouTube series – what you are really learning is how to think about how to get the most out of life. The textbooks, the diagrams, the equations, the exercises and the lectures aren’t economics. All of these things are the tools that we use to help us answer the question that lies at the very heart of the subject:

How can we understand how to get the most out of life?

And if that is not worth studying, then what is?

If you liked this post you may want to check out the ‘EFE (Economics for Everybody)’ website run by Ashish Kulkarni and Vasundhara Sen.

About the prisoners in the ‘Quote of the Week’ section– this refers to convicted felons who were shipped to Australia by the British Government. A large number of prisoners used to die on this journey. Several newspaper editorials argued for better conditions, clergy appealed to the captains’ sense of humanity, and legislators passed regulations requiring better food and water, light and air, and proper medical care. None of these lowered the death rate, till an economist suggested paying for each prisoner that walked off the ship in Australia. Till then, the ships were paid by the number of prisoners they took on board.

GenWise Residential Program, Dec 2021

We are running a 2-week residential program from Dec 18-30, 2021 at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence in Bangalore for children currently in Grade 8, 9 or 10. The recommended duration is 2 weeks, though participants are free to choose either week. For more details and to register, visit the program page

Our residential programs are much more than the ‘academic enrichment component’ the above courses represent. The benefits of attending a GenWise Residential Program are highlighted here.  GenWise co-founder, Vishnu Agnihotri, has also shared his personal take in a previous edition of this newsletter titled ‘The Magic of Residential Programs for Children’.

We have very high standards in ensuring the safety of children. Several young athletes (age 9 and upwards) have been staying at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence Residences for the last few months- a child-friendly facility with strong COVID protocols for all residents and visitors. We are actively tracking developments regarding the Omicron variant. We also consulted with Infectious Disease experts and have put together a robust protocol for managing our program this month.

Rise Global Scholarships for 15-17 year olds

Apply for Stage 1 by Dec 22, 2021. All participants apply for Stages 1, 2 and 3.

Rise, an initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, is a program that finds brilliant people who need opportunity and supports them for life as they work to serve others. The program is a $1 billion commitment from Eric and Wendy Schmidt to find and support global talent. The program starts at ages 15–17 and offers access to benefits that last a lifetime, including scholarships, mentorship, access to career development opportunities, funding, and more as the Global Winners (100 every year) work toward solving humanity’s most pressing problems.

Unlike many traditional applications, Rise uses videos, projects, and group interviews, so applicants have multiple opportunities to showcase their potential. 

All applicants must be 15-17 years old as of July 1st, 2022.


Stage 1 applications- Dec 22, 2021

Stage 2 application- Feb 16, 2022

Stage 3 application- Feb 23, 2022

Selection of 500 Finalists- June – July 2022

Selection of 100 Global Winners- Late 2022

For details about the entire Rise scholarships application process, click here.

JUMP! Leadership Workshops and Rise Scholarship Applications

Apply by Dec 12, 2021. There is no fee.

The JUMP! Foundation is a partner of Rise and will be running leadership workshops, followed by an info session on how to apply for a Rise scholarship. Students between 15-17 years old, interested in science, innovation, technology, art, policy, community organizing, or any other discipline are highly, encouraged to join.

During the virtual JUMP! Leadership Workshops participants will go through various activities which will be highly interactive. The session aims to empower students to build their leadership capacity. Details of the first workshop are shared below.

Date: Tuesday, December 14th

Time: 5:30-7:30 pm IST

Venue: Zoom

Event registration Deadline: December 12th 2021

Upcoming External Events

To Paint the Lily (mathematically) is part of the Kaapi with Kuriosity series and is scheduled on Sun, Dec 12, from 7 to 8 PM IST. The speaker, L Mahadevan is de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Professor of Physics, Harvard University.

Prof. Mahadevan says this in the session blurb-

A walk in the garden reveals a remarkable diversity of living forms, leading Darwin to exclaim that they “might drive even the sanest man mad.” I will argue that there is perhaps a method in the madness, that comes into focus by combining the lenses of biology, mathematics and physics. Along the way, I hope to convince you that the everyday world is a rich source of mystery and magic that gradually leads to mathematics – the mundane provides a perennial path towards the sublime!

You can register for the session here.

The Challenge of Water Conservation- Kalpana Ramesh @Manthan

Sun, Dec 19, at 1030 AM IST

Here’s what Kalpana says about her approach and the upcoming talk- “The challenge for water conservation is complex and urgent. It is imperative to believe in the ability to get tangible quickly, to hold both the individual needs and the big picture at once. This is what’s needed to change the system.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. A sustainable economy isn’t just going to happen. We’ve got to make it. That’s what drives us. I strive towards achieving local water security. Slowly, each of these local solutions will build together a larger hope for the city, state, and country. Individual action as a doer and inspiring larger communities for water conservation is what I really aspire to do. Rather than to sit back, analyse, and see our future crumbling down, building action on the ground is the way forward.”

You can attend the session live on the Mathan Youtube Channel.

About the Speaker

Kalpana Ramesh, fondly called as ‘Water Warrior’ is an environmentalist advocating water conservation and restoration. A designer by profession and vexed with the cities’ dependency on water tankers, she started working towards solving water woes by implementing rainwater harvesting in and across the city. She believes in building communities for local decentralised action for water and works on replicable models with a city wide approach . She believes in working on a three part plan which includes communities, corporates and the government for a sustainable water future. Her current social start-up, “The Rainwater Project”, provides sustainable integrated water management solutions in public and private sectors, along with lake & well restoration and conservation.

She is one of the seven women honoured on women’s day to take over the Prime Minister’s social media handle for a cause. She has received many recognitions with many prestigious awards like Water Heroes by Jal Ministry, SCSC awards,HMA Women entrepreneur of the year 2021 and Hysea award.


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