Whoa. It’s taking me a few minutes to wrap my head around this! Very intriguing topic – thanks for sharing. My knee-jerk reaction to this is a bit negative and skeptical. When I read phrases like “eliminates the need for trust between parties” and understanding that this is completely untraceable leads me to the inevitable question of illegal activity. Now most new technologies can and will be taken advantage of to commit crimes, but I do think the benefits of such a system should vastly outweigh the associated costs of expected crime. I’m not sure what the balance is for something like Ethereum, but I hope the creators are taking that serious.
On the positive side, this seems to open the floodgates to seamless transactions that should be easy, but never are – which is awesome. I have to wonder, however, if the nuanced and situational interpretation and enforcement that comes along with contract law can be properly enforced autonomously. I’m not an attorney, but I can imagine this challenge is very real and quite a hurdle for the technology.
But do let me know when I can put my name in for a yogurt-ordering refrigerator.
Thanks for the post. Knewton seems like they’re onto a really great thing here and I firmly beleive that the educational system and accreditation in the United States and globally – likely led outside of the U.S. – will look very different in 30 years as a result of initiatives like this one. Have they (or you) thought about how they would implement such a system in the Unites States’ current educational ecosystem? Until an education firm or movement can effectively address the politics of education, little will change. I struggle with how this can be achieved, and maybe it is inevitable once alternative options such as Knewton become so compelling that the student and parent demand flock away from the existing institutional system and toward the newer, more effective methods of education. I hope this happens sooner rather than later or the U.S. is especially in for a rude awakening.
I love Waze. I think what they have done is nearly the perfect adoption crowdsourcing a connected network to build something quite complex – and very useful!
I must react to two points made by the critics of Waze because they made me cringe. You say in your article that residential neighborhoods are upset that traffic is being rerouted to their streets. I have very limited sympathy for that argument and I really hope it doesn’t lead to new regulations against Waze and similar apps. That is such a perfect example of how regulations get out of hand. If the intent of a residential road is to be quite, with a limited number of vehicles traveling on it, it’s on the residents and local community to design it that way. Make the road private, make it one-way, increase the number of stop signs or stop lights, do whatever you want – but please don’t tell drivers that you can’t use the public utility next to where you live. If people want to take that route whether their friend tells them about the shortcut or whether an app tells them about the shortcut, they should be free to do so.
And as to the police’s concerns – that sounds like quite the load of garbage. Police clearly do not want drivers to know where speed traps are, so they want to limit that function. If someone wanted to target a police officer, it’s not hard to go find a police officer to attack. Apps like Waze are not facilitating police attacks. Sorry.
But great post! I think many companies of the future can learn from Waze’s business and operating models.
Interesting Tom. As a fellow father of a furry creature, and as someone who pays a dog walker nearly every weekday, this one hits home. My main concern is the inconsistency of the dog walkers themselves. One of the biggest value-adds of a dog walker in my experience, is that they know my dog, my apartment, my neighborhood, etc. and I personally wouldn’t be willing to re-train a new dog walker every time I wanted a dog walk on-demand.
A similar startup from HBS, called Baroo (headquartered out of the Harvard Innovation Lab) is a more traditionally-structured, high-end dog walking service that I used to subscribe too. One of their customer promises was being available within one hour. While they made this promise, it was quite empty and they never delivered on it. So the on-demand aspect of Wag! is something that I really love, but for me they would need to do something to address the “stranger” factor and the fact that they don’t know my dog. Full disclosure, I’m also a wacko dog parent – but I think most of us are.
I’m also not 100% on board with letting a stranger into my house, no matter how much Wag! claims to insure my belongings. Airbnb does this too, but if you have ever spoken with anybody that has had a theft as a result of renting their place, you’ll understand that the policy is far from ideal. In fact it’s a nightmare. And for whatever reason, I trust a Wag! dog walker that has $20 to make a lot less than somebody who pays several hundred dollars to stay in my apartment. All the best of luck to them though!
Well summarized, and I completely agree with you. Looking the other direction when it comes to the cause of climate change absolutely hurts Cargill’s credibility on the topic and it will eventually catch up to them. In fact, they will likely begin to see the financial impacts of this decision as government regulations being increasingly involved in the farming industry. Cargill could very well lose bargaining power during regulation negotiations, and could lose partnerships with their existing partners, both inside and outside of their supply chain. Furthermore, it’s just silly to not acknowledge the root cause at this point.
It is Cargill’s responsibility to educate their farmers on the entire picture of climate change. How can anybody be inspired to fix something that they don’t see as a problem for which they are responsible? Until the individual farmers are convinced that it is their responsibility to do something about it, the impact they make will be restricted.
And convincing them that climate change is human-caused is not a big leap by any means. There is resounding scientific evidence and it’s very easy to convince a rationale person of this. Page’s position is, in my opinion, a cop-out excuse for not rocking the boat. If he doesn’t change his position and pursue the appropriate actions in the near future, I can easily see Cargill finding someone else who well.
Who would have thought that even our precious chocolate would be on the chopping block as a result of climate change! Thanks for bringing this to light… it really makes me realize how nearly every business will inevitably be impacted by this.
While it’s nice to hear that Hershey is making some effort to alleviate the pain cocoa farmers feel from changing climate, their actions do very little to sustainably address the core issue. I’m wondering what they could do in terms of growing technology (see this article by “soup”: https://d3.harvard.edu/platform-rctom/submission/can-extreme-tomato-farming-save-the-planet/) or even if enter into the business of genetically modified trees that could grow the beans in warmer conditions. Here is an interesting article on this: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/04/heat_resistant_seeds_ecological_agriculture_growing_food_after_climate_change_.html
Thanks for helping us learn about this!
Reading this, I wondered if PG&E or similarly-scaled utility companies have considered pushing the responsibility of electricity management onto the end consumers. Specifically, the utility companies could offer to help design and build more sustainable energy solutions on-site – like solar paneling, geothermal energy systems, or even generator/battery solutions for larger clients (think Bloom products: http://www.bloomenergy.com). This would help slow climate change on a broader scale while allowing PG&E to enter into a space that could generate revenue from a new stream. Aside from that approach, direct financial incentives that would encourage users to not consume as much energy in peak times would certainly help the situation. Some companies have started doing this and I think the trend is likely to continue.
I wonder how Bank of America’s default rates have been affected by their initiative to fund fundamentally riskier endeavors. I liken their move to a venture capital firm investing more in the sustainability space, which might expose the VC to greater financial risk in the form of unproven technology, long time horizons, and concerns around societal adoption that innovative “green” firms often face.
Bank of America has clearly identified a strong demand for capital and I applaud them for concentrating more effort into this global challenge we all face, but I hope it doesn’t leave them overexposed in the future, tempted to reverse this socially productive flow of capital.
I’m a bit skeptical of the ability for this or any company that designs organisms to provide ample proof that these new animals will not disrupt the existing ecosystem in a damaging, irreversible way. Local and global ecosystems are incredibly sensitive to outside influences and it can be years before any substantial change is observable. By then it is often too late to reverse any unintentional impact.
You mention that Intrexon needs to get buy-in from the local farming community, but without hard, demonstrative data I worry that moving in this direction could have massive unintended consequences, especially if adopted on a large scale. I hope Intrexon and other companies involved in this are considering this issue in a responsible way.
Thanks for helping us learn more about this approach!