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On November 20, 2016, amaleki commented on Uber’s Autonomous Vehicle Transformation :

I’m actually less worried about the potential reputational hit Uber may take switching to AVs. In an improving economy, and with more focus given to increasing minimum wage, I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach a tipping point in terms of what drivers make and what passengers want to pay. In 10 years’ time, a lot can change. I think what we actually might find are passengers relieved to go to driverless cars, which will inevitably hold down costs (which hopefully translates to lower prices for passengers). As a result, I don’t think Uber will take a hit at all by replacing their drivers, because at that time their customers may be demanding it.

On November 20, 2016, amaleki commented on Bigbelly Trash Cans: They know a lot more than you think :

I remember back in middle school we were required to draw a still-image of an object, and I chose a trashcan to be edgy. I’m glad that was actually foresight into how much power trashcans would hold in the future!

On a serious note, I agree with Olivia that the next step I see for “smart” trashcans is figuring out what is recyclable vs. not. I can imagine a future where there is a single receptacle, and the trashcan can determine whether or not any item that is inserted is recyclable or not. I’m not sure how much money goes into trashcan R&D to develop something like that, but I know prototypes have been developed in hackathons.

On November 20, 2016, amaleki commented on Stock Options? Don’t Need ’Em! I’m Coding For Uncle Sam :

I agree with prior comments that recruitment is key. I’m less worried about the financial package – what has motivated high-performing people in the past to go into government has been a sense of duty (at least in theory). I think the same can apply for tech-minded folks. What worries me is that the government bureaucracy is so far from the fast-paced world of tech that it will be hard to retain talented people. Caroline’s proposal of company rotations into government is compelling, but I think for really impactful innovation you need a talented group of people for a more extended period of time.

I think one creative way to attract people is for the government to create an organization that sits out of the normal command and control structure of the government, where it can steer clear from government bureaucracy yet benefit form government dollars. It’s a bold organization structure, but one I think we need to stay ahead in a digital world.

On November 20, 2016, amaleki commented on YOTEL-ing Me Free WiFi’s as Creative as You Can Get? :

I remember running across YOTEL five years ago and thinking the robot luggage handler was really cool. However, like Pablo I wonder how much YOTEL is using technology to actual reduce costs, versus using their tech as a gimmick to attract customers (although the CEO has obviously insisted that is not the case).

For example, in an interview with the WSJ this past June, the CEO mentioned being one of the first hotels to offer free wifi and smart TVs as examples as YOTEL being tech savvy. I would consider neither of those to still be particularly large technological advancements – I wonder if YOTEL is just trying to coast off their tech rep at this point? I think they need to constantly innovate to maintain their reputation – maybe a robot doorman could be next?

On November 20, 2016, amaleki commented on The next quantum leap and the end of business as we know it :

The potential for quantum computing is really mind-boggling. I wonder how D-Wave made the decision to go into the industries they did? Or perhaps the decision was made for them given the customers who were actually willing to partner…..

I can see this sort of technology having interesting applications in drug discovery. In fact, when IBM opened up their quantum computing platform to the public, that was one of the first areas they mentioned potential applications in.

On November 7, 2016, amaleki commented on Will Global Warming Destroy E&J Gallo Winery? :

I wrote my blog post on a Australian winemaker that has pursued a number of innovative strategies to mitigate the risks of climate change on winemaking. Perhaps Australia, which has been hit hard by climate change, may serve as a harbinger for what is to come in California. Based on this post, I think California winemakers could stand to learn a bit from Australian winemakers. For example, greater investment into understanding the impact of global warming on their supply chains could help California winemakers (including E&J) quickly adapt to a changing climate. Software that helps companies do that already exists (see link below), so California winemakers don’t need to start from scratch.

On November 7, 2016, amaleki commented on Exxon Mobil; Oil and Gas Giant or Much More? :

I completely agree that Exxon has the heft to really shift global energy use patterns, and I think they should get into emerging technologies and renewable energy. But, unfortunately, I don’t think they will in any major way. Exxon is a mature company with (what I believe to be) a very low risk tolerance and an investor base that rewards low risk decision-making. Exxon is more interested in returning cash to shareholders (15+ years of steady or increasing dividends) than investing in real innovation. The fact that dividend payouts currently exceed profits further supports this – Exxon is selling assets / borrowing against its future to pay investors now. Is a company that does that really planning for the long term?

It’s great to see GE taking an active role in water conservation. But, is optimizing existing water infrastructure the long-term solution, or is it just a near-term fix? I agree that using the same old approaches to accessing water (e.g., drilling wells) aren’t the solution, but can we think of more creative approaches? For example, a non-profit called XPRIZE recently launched a contest which will award $1.75M to participants who create a device that can extract water from the atmosphere in a cost-efficient way. (article link below)

Perhaps GE can sponsor similar contests to help crowdsource innovative approaches?

I agree that Suncor should publicize anything that they may do that even has the appearance of being pro-environment (a better reputation for Suncor might have led to a different outcome for Keystone XL). Case in point, the WSJ had an article back in September on Suncor looking to abandon some oil fields, ostensibly because they were “greenhouse gas-intensive”.

My concern is with the high cost of production associated with oil sands. Although the price of oil has recovered, it wouldn’t be surprising to see continued downward pressure on price over both the near and long-term. If oil is trading at or below $25 a barrel over a decent period of time, will Suncor continue to enact pro-environment measures?

On November 6, 2016, amaleki commented on “Waste”-ing our Planet Away :

I like the idea of providing the right incentives for recycling the right way. Maybe one way to structure it would be through a rebate program where ADS sets a baseline rate of “correct recycling”, and passes on a percentage of the cost savings to municipalities that beat that rate.

I’m not so sure about ADS charging more for garbage and less for recycling.With falling commodity prices, recycling has been less and less profitable, so encouraging more recycling doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.

In fact, it might not even make sense from an environmental perspective. Couple quotes and link from an interesting NYT article on that below.

“In New York City, the net cost of recycling a ton of trash is now $300 more than it would cost to bury the trash instead. That adds up to millions of extra dollars per year — about half the budget of the parks department — that New Yorkers are spending for the privilege of recycling. That money could buy far more valuable benefits, including more significant reductions in greenhouse emissions.”

“Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special-interest politics is one reason — pressure from green groups — but it’s also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint.”

Given that, I think ADS might (counterintuitively) have a greater positive impact on climate change by shrinking their exposure to recycling.