On efficiency, hiring, incentivisation and how we confuse communication latency with analysis speed
Great article. Thanks for it. As a British Indian this was enlightening.
The impact of social controls can’t be underestimated here.
First, the members of EIC, as you stated, were from a pretty concentrated part of English society.
Second, for these types of people there were three careers: EIC, government/chancery, military.
Third, societal status for a man was equal to one’s status on the one of the three you were in. Marriage, children, salary, future prospectives etc.
Finally, due to the concentrated nature, reputations were permanent.
A risky PM at stripe who wastes 6 months of an engineering teams time and produces a bad product will quit, join another cool startup (or google) and carry on. Today, CVS, references, networks are pretty weak in reputation permanence. Recent example is Neumann from WeWork.
So it’s this social controls on risk taking that allowed an autonomous structure more than anything, IMO. There was a highly centralised meta game that governed the highly decentralised core game.
I've just finished reading Dalrymple's The Anarchy, a history of the East India Company and of India at the time of its expansion. Absolutely brilliant, hugely recommended. It really highlights how qualitatively different the EIC was versus other colonial ventures, as well as the dangers in entrusting human lives to a transient rulership (employees generally returned to England) and amoral corporation (the only obligation was profits) with distant shareholders (who were conveniently isolated from the horrors inflicted).
Great piece. I think it would be better if you defined latency for those of us not in tech, and if you think EIC’s need for bailouts means the model didn’t really work.
If you were to guess, would you say that the number of high-agency roles in the British economy has increased or decreased since then?
If you really want to know the answer to that question, study the Catholic church. It's been going for a lot longer than the EIC.
It was the introduction of the Telegraph that ended the EIC. The mutiny of its Awadi sepoys created front page news in the UK in 1856 within days. In 1800 the story would be months old before it hit the papers.
It is disgusting to read such romanticization of a company which killed tens of millions of people. No, it was not efficiency, it was slavery and brutality.