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On November 20, 2016, AHM commented on Citibank: Protecting Against Cyber Threats :

Great post, thank you! I think you bring up a very important suggestion regarding closer cooperation in the future. Cyber security scares me! Largely because I don’t fully understand the vulnerabilities and safeguards that are in place, or how to assess efficacy from one company to another. I think many of us take for granted that our information is protected, but as more cyber attacks have made international news, this is becoming harder to do. I understand the benefit of sharing information and analysis of attacks between banks, but like you, this feels like only a first step in a much bigger challenge! Banks, and other industries for that matter, would benefit significantly from also sharing best practices and maybe even new technology innovations. I understand there is also a competitive advantage if one company is “more secure” than another – but considering the wide-spread impacts of cyber security threats, across every sector and industry – it seems to me that the government and every company has a moral and social responsibility to be as cooperative as possible. Would we have a free-rider problem in this case? Possibly, but the alternatives seem even worse given that this is a global threat.

Great post, thanks! I agree that it’s hard not to get excited about the potential developments machine-learning and digital technology could bring to the field of education. It feels like we are moving more and more towards customizing everything, but we have yet to really figure this out with education. Last year, I learned about a similar organization, called Teach to One, which was originally started in New York City. Teach to One developed a math curriculum, using machine learning to completely personalize the teaching plan for each student, and also had huge success. What I found interesting about Teach to One, is that they also used the technology to determine what teaching styles worked best for each student, and would tailor the daily teaching plan based on this information. While Knewton sounds more flexible since it allows schools and publishers to use their own content and integrate the tool into their existing teaching system, I also like the idea of redeveloping curriculums to take better advantage of machine learning. There are definite trade-offs to both, particularly when considering less quantitative subject areas, but I definitely agree that this has huge potential either way.

On November 20, 2016, AHM commented on Drones to the rescue! :

Awesome post, thank you! I have a friend working at Zipline, who would have been a classmate of ours this year, but decided to defer to continue working in Rwanda. I love the idea of Zipline, and I think it is a great example of a company that sits at the intersection of business and government – with huge economic potential while also creating significant public value for society. You also raise some really legitimate points about regulatory challenges, which is one of the areas my friend is working on. Regulation can be good and bad. We need regulation to ensure safety, security, and to correct for market failures where they exist, but regulation can also hinder innovation and create huge barriers to entry. I think the benefits of drones are apparent and are becoming better understood – maybe what we really need, is to help governments develop regulations that make sense, to protect society and the industry? I struggle with Uber’s strategy of ignoring existing regulations when they enter new cities, and then continuing to fight them tooth and nail…I expect this will come back around eventually and hurt the company. I agree with you that Zipline’s collaborative and information-sharing approach is a much better, and hopefully will serve as a model for other disruptive technology companies.

Nikki, thanks for this post! While I was living in Doha, Qatar also implemented a new e-gate system for Qatari citizens and residents (they usually don’t wait too long to follow in Dubai’s footsteps!). I can also attest that it was a life saver in Qatar, where the lines were dramatically shorter for everyone, and I didn’t have to replace my passport as frequently since residents also don’t have to get a stamp for each re-entry. Like Jose, however, I’m excited about the opportunities, but also worry about the security. I understand why the use of biometric data and digital technology can enhance security, but on the other hand, I worry that electronic databases of personal data for large numbers of people are also vulnerable to cyber attacks, which seem to be increasing. Arguably, passports and other existing immigration systems aren’t any more secure, but what new “doors” might the technology open for hackers trying to manipulate the system? I agree that this is the future of immigration control, but I also hope the authorities are being thoughtful about the challenges as well as the opportunities, and putting the right safeguards in place. When I was in Doha, there were many times when the iris scan didn’t work properly, but after a few tries, the system would let me enter – presumably because it had already processed my finger print. I’m sure the technology will improve over time, but nothing is perfect, and we always need to keep that in mind.

I love this idea as well, thanks for sharing! ChopChop demonstrates how digital technologies can transform an industry, creating huge opportunities for both consumers and the company – but also many of the challenges that companies face when they are first movers in a space, and introducing a “disruptive” new technology. I’m excited to see where you go! It seems like you have huge potential for growth, and the main challenges ahead (apart from continuously improving the technology and algorithms used) is racing the clock.

This post also got me thinking about other ways in which AI can be used to enhance the cooking experience. I think ChopChop has already hit on a lot of the challenges that people face in the kitchen, particularly with sequencing. I would also love a tool that helps me adjust recipes for the number of people I want to cook for – i.e. the recipe says it makes enough for 8 people, but I only want to cook for 4. I would also love to be able to input my own recipes. For example, I may be cooking for a group of people and I’m happy to source most of the recipes from ChopChop, but maybe I find a recipe somewhere else that I really want to try or have a family recipe I want to add to the menu too. The ability to enter my own recipes, and let ChopChop help with the sequencing would be amazing. I wonder if there might also be a crowdsourcing benefit there…many other companies have benefited from crowdsourcing as a way to gain new users but also to gain new content at minimum cost.

Excited to see where this goes!

Thanks for this super interesting post! I love what Tesla is doing. As Aayesha pointed out, there are very few companies that have been able to marry speed, luxury, functionality and sustainability the way Tesla has. Your point about the need for additional supercharger stations is a really important one as well. As we try to move towards a lower-carbon and more sustainable future with vehicles, infrastructure will present a significant challenge. Our current infrastructure system supports a high-carbon transportation model (and intentionally so). I believe the public and private sector will need to work together to adapt our infrastructure to support a more sustainable transportation model in the future. Companies like Tesla may be able to use their expertise and leverage to influence this kind of transition.

As a separate question, I would also love to hear your thoughts on what Tesla is doing internally to enhance its sustainability? I assume car manufacturing can be energy intensive, and there may be challenges with battery production and waste. How is Tesla getting innovative in its manufacturing and supply chain as well?

On November 7, 2016, AHM commented on The Anti-Organic: Super Salmon for Dinner :

Thanks for this super interesting post! As someone with a background in environmental studies, I have long worried about GMOs and synthetic biology – for some of the reasons already mentioned, such as health and environment concerns, but also for the public policy challenges that it raises and the potential impacts on society. We desperately need to enhance food security around the world, and I’m hopeful that synthetic biology and other innovations will lead to agriculture developments that are truly safe, sustainable and equitable. But I’m not convinced we are there yet. There are so many different opinions on GMOs and synthetic biology, it can be confusing for consumers. As we discussed in our Indigo class, people also tend to dislike the idea of technology and science “messing” with their food. For companies like Intrexon to be successful, I believe they will need to focus significant resources on research that demonstrate safety, working with policymakers to develop regulations that protect people and the environment from unintended consequences, and communicating with consumers. Consumer buy-in will be critical, particularly given the existing concerns with GMOs.

Thanks for this really interesting post! The San Diego desalination plant is a great example of the tension we discussed in class last week – in trying to address climate challenges, what kind of harm are we creating in the process, and what is the net effect on climate change in the end? As you pointed out, desalination is particularly problematic because it is a very energy intensive process. Considering the water needs in California, the San Diego plant will only make a small dent in meeting overall demand as well, which likely means this tradeoff/tension will become even more relevant in the future. I agree that San Diego needs to enhance local conservation and equitable distribution, and should also look to use renewable sources of energy to power the plant. As private-public partnerships become more prevalent for large infrastructure projects like this, I think the public sector also has to think carefully about long-term tradeoffs for citizens. For example, some concessions might be necessary to attract private capital, but what does this mean for pricing and (as you mentioned) equitable distribution in the long-term? The San Diego desalination project also highlights another tension I often worry about – our dependence on technology and innovation coming to the rescue to address climate change, so we don’t have to make any significant changes to our current behaviors and way of life. I’m hopeful that technology and innovation will result in significant and positive developments, but I worry about over depending on this as well.

On November 7, 2016, AHM commented on Keep on trucking: An overlooked lever for sustainability :

Vincent – thanks for this super interesting post! We often hear how the majority of emissions come from burning fossil fuels, particularly from vehicles, but I think the trucking industry is often overlooked – both as a contributor, but also (as you pointed out) as a key driver of innovation. I thought you brought up some great suggestions in regards to DT accelerating its technology bets and focusing on supply chain optimization. I wonder if DT could also look at potential public/private partnerships to give its R&D development the boost it needs? I assume the public sector (US Postal Service, etc.) also has a sizable fleet of trucks, and would also benefit greatly from these innovations. This may also give DT more leverage to engage with policy makers as new regulations are developed. One question that I often have, when thinking about challenges like the one facing DT, is why does commercialization take so long? Climate change is clearly an urgent challenge…if we have the technology, should we not push for commercialization at a much faster rate? I realize that I’m likely oversimplifying this, but would love to hear your thoughts on why commercialization is such a big challenge!

On November 7, 2016, AHM commented on Uber: Climate Change Hero, or Villain? :

Laure – thanks for this great post on Uber! I think many people assume Uber is having a positive impact on climate change because it claims to reduce the number of people driving personal cars, and incentivizes a lot more sharing (i.e. uberpool), but you highlighted some important tensions. Even if Uber is complementing public transportation, I wonder what the net effect on emissions is when comparing the number of people sharing rides to the number of people replacing more sustainable options. To become more sustainable, Uber will have to think carefully about how to incentivize changes in sustainable behavior, both among its customers and drivers. I really like your idea of Uber building its own fleet of hybrid and electric cars as one way to accomplish this. A partnership that allows Uber drivers to access sustainable cars at a more affordable price could have even wider ranging impacts, since drivers use their cars outside of business too. One of my concerns, however, is that Uber will use its Public Policy Associate to fight sustainability regulations that might negatively impacts its operations – as they have done with pending regulations that relate to rider safety – rather than embracing these sustainability challenges and turning them into opportunities for the company.