Thursday, November 05, 2009

Power and Responsibility

Power comes in two forms - one power by association or pedigree and two, power through internal efforts. No matter where the power comes from, the way the power is to be used is the same.

Take for instance many successful people. Many come with an enviable pedigree. Most head honchos of big firms come in from the Harvards, the Whartons, the Kelloggs of the world. Back home the breeding ground almost always is an IIT and an IIM. Take prolific professors - almost all of them have the same pedigree! They learn at the IITs and IIMs, proceed to a PhD and then get tenured at one of the best schools in America. So, it almost looks as if success is a given for a strong pedigree. So, one can perhaps interpret this as -Rule 1 : have stellar education from a fundoo institution, will be successful in all walks of life! If not successful in something, strongly believe rule number 1 and proceed with life! Such is the power of a powerful background! So, build a regression of successful people and degrees from IIT and/or IIM and you might end up seeing a very strong correlation. Very high R squared - for all those who love vitalstatistix (no the sky won't fall on your head!). Most people are typically awestruck by the mere mention of the names of these institutions. Plus, they have seen a zillion success stories thus far, and so, correlation ends up becoming causation of sorts! But that is still beside the point. A number of success stories of the creme de la creme of brains adds on to the legend of the success factory!

Then that brings us to the second point - Power of absolute power. Take China. She is powerful. Mighty. No doubt. The Renminbi is undervalued. China has 2 trillions of foreign reserves. They keep their currency fixed in order to keep their exports competitive. The world is perhaps suffering because of this. The world wants free markets to prevail. But the world can only request China to pleeeeeeeeeeease do something. A satellite spots dam construction work on the arterial Brahmaputra river on the Chinese side. This dam could cripple irrigation and the water table in the North Eastern states of India, or so agriculturists and geologists claim. But when asked, China flatly denies the existence of any construction work. Then what are those satellite images? Can someone be so powerful as to render false, hard and strong evidence? Wouldn't this amount to some sort of pressure tactics, capitalizing on a position of power?

Well, on one hand, a past legacy of a string of successful 'products' from an institution provides anyone and everyone associated with it with a stamp of sorts that brands them successful by default. That is power. On the other hand, a power that has come into being on account of relentless internal efforts harbors a gross disregard towards others who perhaps are not as mighty as they are. With extreme power, comes extreme responsibility. This adage should ideally apply to both wielders of power. Class A, which has been bestowed a position of power on account of association is responsible for not tarnishing the legacy and Class B which has become powerful is responsible for using her power responsibly. Do both classes adhere to these requirements and how can adherence be enforced? Well, the best enforcer, I guess, has to only be the cosmic power of justice!!!!!


Manish Acharya said...


A bit of nostalgia from MGTO: I would think that to establish Rule 1 (Education from two renowned institutions = assured success in all walks of life), one also needs to consider the number of people who *did* graduate with the dual degrees that you mention, yet *did not* make it big in life. Selection bias may otherwise result.

Chanced to come across your blog. Will be following your posts!

Sindhu Subramaniam said...

Hey Manish,

Thanks so much for visiting. And you do raise a valid point. Correlation is not always Causation :) (Another piece of Stat jargon now)
But the general world is tempted to believe in Rule 1, based on the number of successful instances they see. Again, success is subjective and need not always be based on the same metrics, but then again, each one has an opinion.
Do keep visiting... And when will I see your first post at sleepless in ISB???