Crowdsourcing democracy with vTaiwan represents an innovative use of a process previously employed by the private-sector to access ideas and expertise of an external community. The idea of applying crowdsourcing to increasing participation by citizens in democracy is intriguing.
In the United States, we often have low voter turnout, particularly among millennials, and engagement on legislative issues. Crowdsourcing might engage younger citizens in the democratic processes. Already, the city of Seattle, NASA, the Department of Education, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs have gathered feedback and ideas from the public to enhance their websites, create apps, and generate ideas for government initiatives. Outside of the United States, Singapore used crowdsourcing to help develop policies and services in its eGov2015 initiative. After the 2008 economic collapse, Iceland used crowdsourcing to rewrite parts of its constitution. Doing so enabled the gathering of ideas on a large-scale to create policies and initiatives to prevent a future collapse.
The best ideas are often outside the boundaries of a particular entities. Crowdsourcing allows governments to access external expertise and creativity without assuming the costs required to hire additional consultants or employees. In addition, the process also increases engagement by citizens, who want to contribute their ideas and feedback. Obtaining more information from citizens helps governments to promote legislation or initiatives that are more in line with the needs of their citizens. Technology has changed so much about daily life, why not democracy as well?
Criminal justice reform is badly needed in the United States, particularly our current cash bail system. The current pretrial detention of those with less socio-economic means because they are unable to pay bail is unjust. It fuels a two-tiered justice system – one for the wealthy and one for the poor. California and other states are taking bold steps to attempt to address this problem by introducing algorithms that evaluate risk. As the author acknowledged, these algorithms might have a dark side. Unconscious biases might be “programmed” into the algorithm, which must weigh various factors to determine the risk that someone may not appear for their trial or will be re-arrested. For example, people of color living in certain communities with elevated crime levels could be deemed high risk and jailed before trial as a result. Local authorities may have too much discretion to decide what is considered high risk. Prosecutors and judges may then keep more people in jail. This technology could intensify racial biases and enable an increase in pre-trial incarceration. While there certainly needs to be a replacement of the current cash-bail system, I have my doubts about whether algorithms are the best option. Machine learning may simply reinforce many of the problems that already plague the criminal justice system like widespread social biases against communities of color and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The latest innovation from Disney – machine learning and wearables – is an exciting development for the company. As a visitor to Disney, I have personally encountered the massive crowds and lines that detract from the park experience. I found the author’s argument compelling that machine learning can help Disney tailor the park experience to guest’s interests as well as manage the growing crowds.
From an operational perspective, Disney is able to deploy additional resources like characters and food carts to places where there are large groups. In addition, it can manage the schedules more effectively of its thousands of employees. As the author points out, machine learning is only as good as the data gathered.
Disney was highly ingenious in how it gathers data. The introduction of the Magic Band offers a lot of benefits for guests, who are sharing their data by coming to the parks. The Magic Band acts as a hotel key, allowing guests to make purchases within the parks, and interfaces with their Disney profile to manage restaurant bookings, park tickets, and FastPass reservations. In return, Disney gathers data on what seems like everything about a guest experience. As a result, they can move towards tailoring shows, schedules, line length, etc to keeping people in the park longer, which means driving greater profits.
The ethical questions raised at the end are important ones. Disney will need to focus on protecting all of the guest data that it’s amassing. As a customer, I suppose I will need to ask myself whether I am willing to give up my privacy for a better and more efficient experience at the park. How much agency and freedom do I have with all of the data being captured by Disney? For convenience, most people are probably willing to part with privacy as long as their data is used in a way that delivers value to them. Many may not want to be tracked by their governments, but companies gathering data to deliver better products and experiences seems to be a different story for many consumers.
Using 3D printing to create customized houses offers exciting opportunities for people looking for affordable housing options. In the future, I could imagine local governments working with a company like Winsun to build affordable housing because the technology reduces the labor, material, and equipment costs that are usually associated with traditional construction. In addition, there have been movements like tiny houses or prefabricated houses that people are considering who want to attain a house (and often financial freedom) at a lower cost. 3D house construction would probably appeal to people who are interested in sustainability as well as affordability in housing. The fact that 3D printing for houses significantly reduces waste might make these houses seem eco-friendly, which could have brand and marketing implications. I agree with the author that obstacles to overcome in scaling are updating building codes to recognize or incorporate 3D housing. Consumers need to know that the 3D house they buy is safe and up to codes, especially in Western markets where regulations might be more strict than in developing markets. To demonstrate the physical integrity of its product, I could imagine an ad campaign demonstrating a Winsun house surviving all sorts of challenges – strong winds, intense rain, a car running into it. This campaign might not be dissimilar from auto makers that run adds demonstrating the durability of their cars or trucks. For now, Winsun may want to focus on consumers. Overall, there are important economic and social improvements that this product achieves with its 3D technology. Whether in rural or metropolitan areas, affordable housing is a key challenge that 3D printing in construction may address in the future.
3D printing offers exciting opportunities for Hershey to offer new customized products. As consumers increasingly demand products that fit their specific needs and desires, a company like Hershey that can provide chocolates exactly tailored to a consumer. As the author points out, there has been little innovation in product design among chocolate-makers. 3D printing is a chance to differentiate chocolate, introduce new products, and even make the chocolate buying process an experience. Given that chocolates are often given as a gift and represent a special occasion, 3D printing, especially in Hershey retail locations, could generate a lot of interest among customers who are buying for an occasion. Imagine giving someone a box of chocolates that you created with all of their favorite flavors. Since Hershey has been losing market share, 3D printing seems like a great way to generate interest in the brand and compete against other companies like Godiva and Lindt chocolate. The challenges that Hershey might face is that it is positioned as a mass-market brand and not a premium brand. How much will consumers be willing to pay for Hershey chocolate made on a 3D printer, even if it is customized? It’s possible that this innovation may be better suited to premium chocolate brands like Godiva or even specialty chocolatiers like Theo or Taza. Overall, despite possible challenges, 3D printing seems like a way to create innovative chocolate that will respond to consumer trends towards more customizable experiences and products.