I remember seeing this ad during the Super Bowl and thinking “oh boy, some people are not going to be happy with this.” Like you said, with the financial crisis in such recent memory, it seemed that Quicken Loans was inviting controversy by touting how quick and easy their Rocket Mortgage product was.
However, I, for one, am in favor of the automated mortgage processes. Like you had mentioned, Rocket Mortgage uses the same underwriting standards that Quicken does, merely using technology to quicken the approval process.
One area, in my opinion, that Quicken doesn’t get enough credit for is that by removing the face-to-face element of applying for mortgages, Quicken has reduced both the racial discrimination and the seedy practices that occur during meetings between borrowers and mortgage lending officers.
In terms of racial discrimination, it has been well documented that there is serious bias on the part of mortgage officers when making lending decisions. In a 1996 paper, Munnell found that minorities with similar characteristics as whites were rejected 2.8 times more often . In terms of seedy practices, lending officers during the crisis encouraged borrowers to borrow more than they could in order to win commission. With all communication being electronic, hopefully Quicken will be able to keep a record of all communications and therefore discourage such practices out of fear of consequences.
Overall, despite widespread (and arguably well founded) fears of mortgages being too easy to obtain, I believe that moving the process to a digital format will have highly valuable effects.
 Munnell, Alicia H., et al. “Mortgage lending in Boston: Interpreting HMDA data.” The American Economic Review (1996): 25-53.
Thanks for this post. I’ve found the strategic decisions that Boeing and Airbus have made over the past couple of decades to be very interesting. However, I disagree with your conclusion about the level of success that Boeing has achieved through their outsourcing and modularization. While one could agree with that the decisions to break out their manufacturing into pieces and spreading them globally could have positive long-term results from lessons Boeing learned that could be applied to future models of airplanes, when looking at the 787 in isolation, I believe that Boeing lost more than it gained.
In fact, if you look at cost and timeline, both of these would indicate that the manufacturing decision to outsource and modularize led to significant delays and cost overruns. The 787 had to be delayed 7 times, was eventually billions of dollars over budget, and was finally released 3 years late .
But the negative consequences are in fact greater than merely time and cost. After launching, due to technical defects partially arising from the non-integrated manufacturing, there were several technical problems including fuel leaks, cabin smoke, and fires from faulty batteries . The decisions to modularize and outsource combined with the amount of highly complex new technology that was being implemented had significant impacts, such as the faulty batteries which required all 50 operating 787s to be grounded in 2013.
While I think we have yet to see the benefits of Boeing’s decision to outsource and modularize their planes, when looking at the 787 alone, I would argue that their decision was a net negative. However, as I said, I agree than in the abstract, there are enormous benefits to such decisions, and if Boeing applies the lessons they learned on the 787 to future development and manufacturing, Boeing will be able to truly benefit from those decisions to a degree that outweighs the price they paid on the 787.
 January 2013, Forbes “What Went Wrong at Boeing?” http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/01/21/what-went-wrong-at-boeing/#490907ac5aad
 January 2013, Harvard Business Review “The 787’s Problems Run Deeper Than Outsourcing”
Thanks for bringing this issue up. While on the bleeding edge in terms of medical device technology and drug research, hospitals are notorious for their slow adoption of technology that administers the hospital.
You had mentioned telemedicine and I wanted to share one other area where telemedicine could potentially be very helpful. I think more than the example of Kaiser, which is obviously a highly scaled system with large provider locations near dense population centers, providers that are reaching those who live in rural areas are a better example of where telemedicine can be very helpful.
In the U.S., there is a troubling trend where doctors, and especially the best doctors, do not want to practice in the rural areas of the U.S.  Obviously, this would be a perfect area to use telemedicine, especially in areas such as therapy, where the physical proximity of the doctor is not as important. Luckily, studies have shown that video conference therapy is just as efficacious in treating mental diseases such as mood disorders, which affects 20-25% of all people in their lifetime .
All in all, I am excited to see what the future brings for medicine. I think we can all agree that there are many areas that are not only ripe for improvement, but must adapt in order to survive.
 August, 2014 The Atlantic “Why Are There So Few Doctors in Rural America?” Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/why-wont-doctors-move-to-rural-america/379291/
 Stubbings DR, Rees CS, Roberts LD, Kane RT. Comparing In-Person to Videoconference-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Randomized Controlled Trial. Eysenbach G, ed. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2013;15(11):e258. doi:10.2196/jmir.2564.
Thanks for posting this. I think the money remittance space is a fascinating industry since it is critical in alleviating a significant amount of poverty around the world. I think a concern I have about Remitly is that it still relies upon the historical SWIFT payment system along with the correspondent banking network.
The problems I see with this are:
• Security: Recently, there have been significant breaches in the “secure” SWIFT messaging network which has caused large amounts of money to be stolen from the network . This leads people to believe that either the SWIFT system needs serious revamping, or that an entirely new payment system must be created.
• Fees: While remittances conducted over SWIFT between countries such as U.S. and Mexico with large trade balances and close connections can be easily settled, when transferring money between countries that are more distant in the trade network, money transfer often depends on multiple chains of banks through the correspondent banking network, each node of the network which add fees.
In the long term, for Remitly, my questions are:
(1) Are the existing international money transfer systems between banks upon which Remitly depends on secure enough for the 21st century?
(2) Are Remitly’s current product offering be profitable, and if not, can it achieve profitability in the long term? I find that the problem with many of these start-ups is that they are unprofitable with the hopes of one day becoming profitable – hopes that sometimes never fully pan out. Without the ability the become profitable, Remitly is obviously not a sustainable solution (but we should all take advantage of it while we can!)
(A side note to Gustavo’s comment: I’m curious to see how TransferWise manages payment “corridors” where the payments are heavily one-sided. E.g., I would imagine there is significantly more money moving from U.S. to Mexico than vice versa)
 May, 2016. The New York Times “Once Again, Thieves Enter Swift Financial Network and Steal” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/business/dealbook/swift-global-bank-network-attack.html
Ryan, I was reading your post and was reminded of another article I read and wanted to comment because I think beyond the primary level of environmental impact, I think we should also consider the secondary impact of Mars on the environment because of the ingredients they use.
One of the problems I think of Mars’ candy is their environmental cost of using dairy products. As I’m sure you know cows produce an enormous amount of methane which is a very damaging greenhouse gas. While beef cattle are the largest contributors of methane with 71% of all U.S. emissions, dairy cows are the next biggest source with 24% of the share!
Beyond the greenhouse gas, dairy cows actually cause even more environmental damage due to the energy that must be used to milk the cows. Research shows that it takes 4-7kWh of electricity each week to milk each dairy cow, which includes the heating and cooling of the milk that is required to pasteurize then cool the milk for storage.
Altogether – I loved your post! Thanks for bringing Mars’ efforts to light. Let’s hope they continue to do more to fight climate change.
Patrick – thanks for your interesting post. I actually wanted to disagree with your and Stephen’s point above about the environmental cost of logistics and transportation. Let’s not forget the alternative world we lived in prior to Amazon – each individual customer would drive their entire car to a local supermarket to buy what they needed. The benefits to the environment of Amazon shipping goods to consumers is two-fold.
First, by removing supermarkets as a “hub and spoke” of a community where every consumer must drive themselves, Amazon dramatically can cut down on the number of car-miles driven. Amazon ships their goods through their own logistics network or third party partners such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx. The benefit of this is that rather than the “hub and spoke”, third party delivery companies can be thought of as a “daisy chain” where one route can service a large number of households. Packages are grouped and delivered at once, dramatically cutting carbon emissions.
Second, by pushing delivery logistics to a sophisticated company such as UPS over a non-transportation focused delivery agent such as your typical consumer, you are going to gain efficiencies since UPS I much more intelligent about saving fuel than your average consumer. UPS is known for highly intelligent route-planning which minimizes miles and time on the road, as well as for using highly fuel efficient vehicles, such as 1,300 LNG tractors and 2,000 propane package cars .
I think when evaluating the environmental impact of companies such as Amazon, it is important to keep the alternative in mind. While shipping things by truck may seem environmentally unfriendly, because we aren’t moving from a prior alternative of, say, a bicycle based culture, this can actually be a net positive move in terms of fighting climate change.
Charles Johnson, I’m really glad you brought this topic of, as I’m sure you are aware, it is a “go-to” critique of renewable energy advocates by fossil-fuel based energy advocates. I think it is a fascinating problem with multiple potential solutions and I wanted to suggest one other.
I as well as others believe that a cheaper and more environmentally friendly solution may be a combination of nuclear power as well as pumped-storage hydroelectricity. Pumped-storage hydroelectricity can be thought of as one giant battery, where a power source (such as a nuclear power plant) can store power by pumping water up a hydroelectric power source, namely a dam (i.e. using the power generated from the nuclear plant to move water from the bottom of the dam into a storage above the dam.) The benefits of this are obvious, even a small nuclear power plant can continuously pump water while the renewable energy infrastructure (such as solar or wind) is used as a source of power, and when the renewable energy source is out of commission due to inclement weather, you now have a combination of power from the nuclear power plant as well as a dam.
(Diagram of Pumped-Storage here: http://www.hydro.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Pumpstor_racoon_mtn.jpg)
While it is not commonly known, pumped-storage hydroelectricity is not a new concept and actually has been in use in the U.S. since the 1920s. Today, there are 40 pumped-storage projects operating in the U.S., which can handle up to 2% of the U.S. electricity supply system.
Nuclear energy, while often feared by the public, is a relatively clean source of energy. While there have been unfortunate accidents in the past, on a per watt basis, it is much safer than coal or natural gas. The reason why we believe that nuclear energy is so dangerous is that deaths caused by nuclear energy are caused by highly visible accidents. In fact, there have only been 3 nuclear accidents in history (Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl). By comparison, every year thousands of people die in coal mines but do not receive press coverage. Three Mile Island was quickly contained, Fukushima has caused no deaths, and Chernobyl is the only nuclear accident that have been linked to deaths, and itself only caused 31 deaths .
As we move towards more renewable energy, we should cut through popular perception and look at the facts on what the dangers are with each source of power. Even without nuclear power, pumped-storage hydroelectricity clearly is a valuable source of power storage that can avoid the environmental damage of lithium mining as noted above.
HC, thanks for the very interesting read. Although I like your proposed solutions for Starbucks to combat climate change, I have two additional thoughts on how Starbucks can fight climate change even further.
First, the business model of Starbucks relies on an environmentally unfriendly idea. Starbucks encourages consumers to drive to their nearest café on the way to work instead of taking the extra 2 minutes to make coffee themselves at home. Furthermore, the fact that most consumers will order their coffee in a disposable cup from Starbucks rather than a re-usable cup. Due to the thing waterproofing material of a coffee cup makes the cup non-recyclable. As a result, a medium-sized coffee cup has a 0.25lbs of CO2 cost on the environment.
Second, generalizing more broadly, I think your post on the Arabica strain of coffee bean is a great example of why we as a society should embrace genetically modified organisms (“GMO”s). As you may already know, in 2014, a breakthrough by a consortium of scientists completely sequenced the genome for a different very popular coffee bean strain (the Robusta strain) .
As a result, scientists were able to start experimenting with genetically modifying the coffee bean, specifically to combat the effects of climate change, such as making the beans more drought resistant. Needless to say, this could be a significant boost to coffee farmers around the world who depend on the cash crop for their basic livelihood. Additionally, it would allow existing coffee farmers to preserve their current way of life, instead of having to uproot their culture. Lastly, it would require less damage to the environment to use existing land that is already used to farming coffee, instead of potentially clearing out forests to create space for new coffee farms.
While there have been very vocal concerns about GMOs among consumers in the U.S. as well as European countries, the best science says that we have nothing to fear. If we are not willing to put up with the fear mongering of climate change denialists, we should not put up with the scientifically unsound anti-GMO movement. GMOs are a useful technology that can be used to save our cup of joe.
Sam, great post – I found it a very interesting read. However, I was a bit skeptical about your claims about the minimal environmental damage of the ski resort and decided to dig in a bit further particularly on the snow machines.
While I do applaud The Aspen Skiing Company (“Aspen”) for taking environmentally precautionary measures in their snowmaking, it seems that there are limits to their solutions. For one, even if Aspen returns to the watershed 80% of the water consumed in snow making, unfortunately periods of low water while the water is on the slope as snow can be devastating for the rivers and lakes where the waters are typically sourced from. By lowering or actually completely depleting the water levels of these nearby natural water sources, fish and other animals are left without water which prevents them from breeding . Additionally, recent efforts to replace the natural sources of water with water extracted from treated sewage has introduced dangers levels of minerals such as zinc, copper, and lead.
In fact, during a previous dry spell when Aspen decided to heavily rely on their snowmakers, they were sued by local environmentalists in the Colorado Supreme Court to stop them from further harming the surrounding ecosystem.
The particularly dangerous aspect of snowmaking for Aspen in a business sense is that much of their clientele are avid outdoors-people who deeply care about the environment. As a result, having an environmentally unfriendly policy such as snowmaking can have severe negative impact on Aspen and its brand, which may end up hurting Aspen even more than not having enough snow.
While I do applaud Aspen’s efforts in climate change and agree that they have made great progress, I hesitate to give them as strong praise as you have. It seems that skiing in an environmentally responsible way may be a much more difficult – and by extension likely a much more expensive – proposition than we may think.