FF Daily #526: Doves vs hawks

November 18, 2021: Will Meta be any different?; Should you wait before you vaccinate your child against Covid-19?; Rabbits versus turtles

Founding Fuel

[From Unsplash]

Good morning,

We like to visit the pages of Deep Simplicity by John Gribbin every once a while because he compels us to think hard. 

“[I]magine a population of a single species of an animal in which each member of the population acts in one of two characteristic ways. Some are ‘hawks’, which means that they behave aggressively in disputes with other members of their species over food, and some are ‘doves’, which means that they behave more submissively in such arguments. Real doves, as Maynard Smith acknowledges, are really rather aggressive birds, but since they are often used as symbols of peace the choice of name makes sense in this context. When a hawk finds a piece of food, and another member of the species is present, it will always fight for the food. If the opponent fights back, one of them will eventually give in, short of it being a fight to the death, leaving the food for the victor. When a dove finds a piece of food and another member of the species is present, it will never start a fight. If it is attacked, it will run away at once; if it is not attacked, it will make a threatening display, but when two birds are making such displays at each other, one will eventually give up and withdraw more or less gracefully from the confrontation… 

“If it eats the food, it scores 50 points. If it runs away, it gets nothing, but it costs nothing to run away. If it fights for the food, it may be injured, and lose 100 points, or it may win and gain the 50-point prize; if it makes a threat display before running away, or before eating the food, that costs it 10 points.

“We can study the implications by starting out with a population consisting entirely of doves. In any confrontation, each individual loses 10 points for making its display, but one of them gains 50 points (40 points overall) by eating the food. On average, everybody gets 15 points in each confrontation (40, minus 10, divided by 2). Nobody gets hurt, everybody gets to eat. As near to Utopia as this model permits.

“What happens, though, if everybody is a hawk? Absolute disaster. Every confrontation leads to a fight, the winner gains 50 points while the loser loses 100 points, and the average is a lousy –25. Such a population would soon go extinct unless there was plenty of food around that could be picked up without a fight. But imagine that in such a situation a single mutant dove arises. It never gets in a fight, so in any ‘conflict’ it scores zero, but it too gets the free food that is available. The dove will do better than the hawks, and dove characteristics will spread among the population.”

Fascinating, isn’t it?

In this issue

  • FF Exclusive: Will Meta be any different?
  • Should you wait before you vaccinate your child against Covid-19?
  • Rabbits versus turtles

FF Exclusive: Will Meta be any different?

In his piece on Mark Zuckerberg’s latest big bet, the metaverse, NS Ramnath writes, the entire industry is at the beginning of a big wave and Zuckerberg has been building capacity for some years now. However, the key to Meta’s success will depend on whether and how fast customers adopt it to work, learn, play, build and live.

He writes, “Facebook’s business model was designed for scale, and it got reinforced by the leadership’s obsession with growth. Data is at its core. The more data it collected, the better it could target users, which was exactly what the advertisers wanted. (Facebook’s revenue per user is $8 a quarter, against Twitter’s $4). Ad revenues, which make up 90% of Facebook’s income, poured in. Facebook used the cash to make the product more engaging, more attractive to users (and also buy up Instagram and WhatsApp, companies that attracted users at scale). More users meant more data, and more data meant better targeting, and the cycle went on.”

But the very model that helped it make huge revenues and profits also led to huge problems that we are all aware of. Will Meta be any different?

“Andrew Bosworth, who is leading the metaverse initiatives, and is slated to be the next CTO of the company, is aware of the problems with Facebook’s earlier approach. He told Bloomberg that Facebook ‘has learned about the consequences technology has on society and thinks it has to have faith that it can do better this time around.’”

Even if we assume that the company has learnt its lessons, will it succeed? Ramnath writes, “If we act as if Facebook will fail, we might end up not building the legal, regulatory and other institutions that will help society deal with virtual reality. If we do, there is a possibility that we will be able to reap its benefits while avoiding some of the harms it might cause.”

Dig deeper

Should you wait before you vaccinate your child against Covid-19?

Yesterday, many parents woke up to a new WhatsApp poster doing the rounds. 

It was by the SRCC Children’s Hospital in Mumbai which had opened up Covid vaccine registrations for children aged 2-18. Parents could fill in their details, and as soon as the vaccines (Covaxin and/or Zydus) would receive government approval, the hospital would get back with potential dates for the drive.

The reaction of parents ranged from excitement (Finally! Now everyone in the household would be vaccinated) to caution (Is there enough data to establish the safety of vaccines?).

In case you are on the fence on whether to vaccinate your child now or wait for more data to emerge, pointers from Dr. Gagandeep Kang and Dr. Lancelot Pinto can help you make an informed decision.

Dr Kang says, “The decision that needs to be made always has to be made balancing risk and benefit. In India, the situation we are in today is we have two approved vaccines. Are they the best vaccines? Until you actually have data on how they perform we won’t know. But what is the risk of delaying vaccination? If we say we want to wait for more evidence, then how long should we wait and for what kind of evidence? These are also things we need to consider before we make any decision. The last thing that we want to do is to deny children protection. 

“To me, taking all aspects of the picture, I think children are generally at pretty low risk at this time. There isn’t a lot of virus in the country. We know that if children get infected their risk of severe disease is low. So if there was ever a time to wait and make sure that we generate evidence correctly, this is the time to do that.”

Here’s what Dr Pinto had to say back in October, when he anchored the #FFRecommends decision making guide for parents on whether they should send their kids back to school. 

“First, anytime we vaccinate someone, we need to assess the risk of severe disease if they are infected versus the risk of vaccination. For most adults this calculation is a no-brainer. However, it starts changing as we move to a younger population. That’s why AstraZeneca’s vaccine was suspended in young adults because there was a question whether the incidence of clots, which was an extremely rare event, outweighed the potential benefits in a young person. 

“Children have been almost unaffected by Covid. A vaccine that is offered to children will hence need to have almost zero serious adverse effects to be able to justify its use in a population that’s vulnerable (they do not give consent themselves) and has an extremely low-risk of getting a serious Covid incidence. The strongest reason to vaccinate children is to protect the elderly from transmission. Parents need to consider if it’s justified as it means exposing healthy kids to even the rarest serious adverse effects.”

Dig deeper

Rabbits versus turtles

(Via WhatsApp)

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Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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