• Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, Carl commented on Data In Schools: Learning From InBloom’s Failures :

I loved that you posted about a company that failed. It serves as a great learning experience for us all.
I’m perplexed why they were so committed to the cloud. Could they have had the system running on computer systems within each school, and send the data over intranets (or encrypted data sharing or even hard drives) versus relying on the cloud? Because, based on your post, the privacy concerns are what started the downward spiral, not the technology itself. The cloud seemed to be an unnecessary capability that ultimately fouled the product. As a Principal, i would be just as happy if the system was resident in my school and provided our local teaching staff a clean dashboard. My old company ran into a similar issue. We wanted to use a software suite that was only available on the cloud, and the company wouldn’t install it on our network. As a defense contractor, that wasn’t an option and we ultimately had to use a less effective, but locally implementable, product.

On November 20, 2016, Carl commented on Descartes Labs: Predicting Farmer’s Fortunes from Space :

Really enjoyed this article. I know the assignment’s purpose wasn’t to write about the technology, but I would love to see a plot of “data acquisition cost” vs time. From this perspective, and to some of the previous comments, my guess is that the price is still too high for other uses. Although they use CubeSats instead of more traditional satellites, the costs are still quite high to launch things into space (~ $1.7M for 50kg payload [1]). This price, however, will continue to decrease.

I liked your recommendations for how Descartes can improve. One additional thought would be to put satellites into higher orbits like middle-earth-orbit or Geo-stationary. Gaining valuable intelligence on items like Syrian Refugee crisis or drug movements may need a “persistent stare” versus a satellite that passes infrequently for a short period (as what low-earth-orbit satellites provide). Revisiting each location every few hours may not be enough to actually track the shipment of goods or people. But, this is a rapidly growing field with many exciting opportunities ahead.


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

Mark, the regulation piece is really intriguing. Could the government eventually require quantum computers \to be registered and regularly audited to make sure they aren’t being used for nefarious activities? In pondering this, one solution is for the government to amply increase funding into the technology such that they own the best equipment. Back during the space race, the government extensively funded and classified technology R&D, thereby leading to complete ownership and the first to reach to the moon. Perhaps a similar approach could be used for the quantum computer, such that the government’s computers would be able to out-perform other systems that are aimed to achieve criminal effects. Although this could lead the government down a rabbit hole whereby others can jerry-rig systems to have comparable effects for fractions of the cost (e.g. expensive Humvee caravans vs roadside IEDs), this solution may help to ensure technology superiority. Though, I realize all the consequences of registering all systems.

Paro, fascinating post. I’ve never set foot in a Sephora store, but was really impressed with their ability to digitize the brick and mortar experience.

It’s very wise to have the store monitors show what your face could look like with different makeup styles. Although one could assume this could be done at home on a computer, people’s computer screens and even mobile devices have subtle differences in color hue. For picking the nuances of a lipstick color, Sephora’s high quality in-store monitors help alleviate this risk. NDG had a great point on customer’s being OK to not take a product home after selecting it in store. I wonder if Sephora can partner with Amazon or another future similar Prime Now service that can deliver the product within hours. This may pacify customer’s need for the product, since having to wait 2-4 business days to receive purchased goods is quite long in our culture. Who knows – in the future a drone may be able to deliver it by the time the consumer gets home!

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

I had the privilege to work with a Naval officer who worked with USDS appointed people while at a government agency. He mentioned the program and talked about both the benefits and challenges. On the plus side, the Silicon Valley coders were “wizards” in their ability to code and solve problems. However, the challenging part was for the other people that had to work with them. Specifically, he said their entry in the office was contentious because they were being paid 3x more than others holding similar positions in the office. The high wage is the only way they would come to do Public Service, but this frustrated many of the public servants because they had worked for much longer in the government yet were being paid less. Anyways, his insights helped highlight the cultural challenges when combing employees from different organizations. One method to potentially entice coders to work for the government is to have their original companies guarantee their positions after the one-year commitment, or even have them stay permanently located in California and then alternate weeks between working remotely and traveling to Washington, DC.

Nick, fascinating read. I agree that the gene mutation and/or medicines to alter the methane output could be tough to implement. Although the public cares about climate change, they also care about wholesome and non-genetically modified foods.

Could cows be trained to excrete waste in facilities that can capture the methane? Cats and dogs can be trained to use the bathroom in particular locations. I would if cows could be trained in the same way to enter designated facilities. I know it sounds funny, but I actually wonder if it’s possible. Plus, the farms could capture and then sell the methane gas, adding a revenue stream.

Casey + prior commenters, great ideas! I may be a bit of a contratian here and would love people’s thoughts. I liked Casey’s point that, “While sustainable farming practices may increase costs in the short term, failure to change current farming practices will only lead to even higher costs as global climate change worsens.”

My thought is that if McDonalds takes the selfish short-term view, it seems that although they may pay more in the future, everyone elsewill as well. In the future everyone’s prices will increase, and they will still be the lowest price option (just more expensive than now). A similar metaphor is that the tide rises for all boats.

If they can market the sustainability practices to increase sales or qualify for tax benefits, then the sustainability view will help their performance. Or, if they can reduce cattle costs (as you mentioned), than it may be clear to justify larger initial investments. However, in such a low margin industry, it’d be hard to be in the Board Room advocating for significant investments with a long-term horizon when competitors may not be doing the same.

In sum, as a millennial that (hopefully) lives for another 70 years, I’m all about sustainability investments. But taking the long view when Wall Street values short term gains will be hard to implement.

I don’t see the NFL making a large push towards sustainability anytime soon. Not at least when they can point the finger to sports like NASCAR or Baseball – the latter because they simply play so many more games and therefore use more energy than football. That said, I like the ideas people suggest and have an additional one.

The parking lot’s at Football Stadiums are massive. Teams could look at using a more eco-friendly asphalt like “pervious pavement” such that would permit water to pass through to the soil below. In addition, this would help the parking lot drain after a large rain storm, which we should expect more of due to climate change.

Lastly, even more than helping combat climate change directly, I believe the NFL should be in an advocacy role. Various promotions and protests held by teams and players have started national dialogues (breast cancer research, Kaepernick and racial equality…). The NFL is a powerful megaphone for change.

Dima, great write-up. The potential of a Northern Sea Route is increasing the U.S. Navy’s attention to Artic capabilities and operations. Although I find the Northern Sea Route to be a huge economic enabler, I was surprised when I recently read that we are still many years away from being significant.

According to the CEO of Maersk, ““The way global warming is going, of course there is the opportunity in a very far, very distant future that the northern sea route will open up and it will be a major shipping route. But it will definitely not be within the next 15 to 20 years in our opinion so it’s far too early to start constructing vessels for it.”

I would be interested to see how much Pattern invests in port infrastructure and other North Sea Route enablers in light of an extremely long time horizon. That said, the globe IS warming, so it seems they are well positioned.

On November 7, 2016, Carl commented on The US Navy: Are the Oceans Reaching a Boiling Point? :

I tend to side with those who are pessimistic in the Navy’s approach to climate change. Although I agree with your assertion that the Navy needs to consider the implications of climate change, in the current geopolitical environment, I think the Navy cannot reasonably be expected to contribute substantial R&D costs to clean energy alternatives. Although Climate Change is important, it is nowhere near the largest existential threat to our national security.

In 2011 the Budget Control Act (BCA) went into effect and immediately cut funding to discretionary spending, of which the Defense Department falls, by 10% and stays at reduced levels until ~2021 ( The Defense Budgets, which are submitted by the President and approved by Congress, have to keep as much military capability in tact while absorbing the massive budget reduction. This environment, coupled with an increasingly hostile and volatile geopolitical environment, makes allocating funds to climate change technologies difficult, if not impossible. For example, the Navy assessed it needs 48 submarines to meet it’s national security objectives, but in the mid 2020’s will be short by ~8 submarines according to the current shipbuilding plan ( Under these conditions, it’s difficult to make a case for Climate Change technologies when the Navy can’t meet the mission requests of its leaders.