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On November 20, 2016, JPW commented on Nuclear Power Upgrades :

Great post!

I share Art’s concern here that digitization of control presents some serious risks in an industry where the magnitude of a negative outcome can be quite significant, potentially threatening the health and well being of a large radius around the plant for many years after an event. Nuclear plants fall high on the target list for malignant actors — in a world where even air gapped systems (e.g., the Iranian centrifuges) are vulnerable to hacking and degradation, I wonder if there are any precautions you could take that would satisfactorily reduce the risk of infiltration and sabotage at a nuclear plant. Even less intentional incidents (e.g., electric power failure in the plant control room) could render a digital control system ineffective for enough time for something bad to happen. Given all of this, I hope this is an industry where there remains robust analog controls that can be leveraged in times of crisis.

On November 20, 2016, JPW commented on Citibank: Protecting Against Cyber Threats :

Great post!

Like AHM I’m very interested in the questions this raises around cooperation with both other banks and with the government. On the government piece in particular, I know that DHS ( has tried to take the lead as companies’ go to when an actual or attempted cyber attack takes place, but I would be interested to know more about how the banks (and other companies view them as a partner. A particularly difficult aspect of going to DHS or another part of the government would be the likelihood that a breach would then become public knowledge — I imagine that for many companies the incentive is quite strong to bury minor breaches rather than admit that they have occurred (which then creates the opportunity for those minor breaches to occur across many institutions). It is exciting to see that the banks have taken the step of forming their own knowledge sharing cooperative — hopefully their efforts and DHS efforts are integrated rather than duplicated/ at odds!

On November 20, 2016, JPW commented on Drones to the rescue! :

Great post!

With respect to Paul’s comment, it is interesting to note that Zipline is in fact a for profit, and its operations in Rwanda were negotiated at a price per delivery that generates a profit for the company. Great to make some money while saving lives in an innovative way.

Also to Paul’s point, I worry too that some of the craze around drones could serve as an excuse for underinvestment in traditional infrastructure, particularly in countries like Rwanda (geographically small and densely populated). For countries with more dispersed geography/ populations (e.g., Indonesia, Nigeria’s delta region) where traditional infrastructure will never make economic sense, these types of drone delivery systems could have incredible impact — I would love to see Zipline tackle one of these areas next!

It will also be really interesting to see what other health commodities this will be useful for. The model is an expensive replacement for commodities where you can forecast supply and demand (e.g., vaccines) and an impractical solution for bulkier commodities (e.g., bednets) — their core competency feels like it may be very small and expensive commodities that are not often needed (e.g., blood, antivenoms).

On November 20, 2016, JPW commented on Eyes and ears in the sky :

Very interesting post Stefan!

Applications here certainly seem endless, as Aviad started to dig into in his response. Another fascinating company I ran across was SilviaTerra, which uses satellite imagery to assess forests for potential lumber extraction (using color and density to determine type, quantity, and concentration of trees in minutes, vs. a traditional labor heavy process which could take months).

It would be very interesting to plot the cost curve and see what other applications may make economic sense as the price of satellite generated data decreases over time. If the cost curve drops fast and far enough, I wonder whether we may see a return of satellite based communication (a la Iridium) at a larger scale, particularly in more rural areas devoid of cell tower/ broadband infrastructure.

On November 20, 2016, JPW commented on Defeating Terrorism With Big Data :

Great post MM!

Building on AJ’s post, these incredible capabilities are only as good as the data they are fed and the way they are built into standard operating procedures/ daily workflows — I have heard from former users of Palantir products that the latter issue can sometimes be even more challenging than the former (e.g., Palantir will come in and build a great predictive tool that will then sit on the shelf without being utilized with the regularity/ in the way it was envisioned to). I could imagine this being a particular issue in deployed combat operations, where there are so many demands on a unit leaders time that it may not be feasible to circle back with the analysts on what the Palantir tool is saying. It sounds like Palantir could create a lot of value by investing more energy into actually building utilization of its tools more closely into workflows and making sure that the end users are trained well enough to use the tools to their full capability and to be able to propose incremental improvements.

On November 7, 2016, JPW commented on Oysters: Climate Change Served Raw :

Very interesting post!

The thought of losing our oyster beds to acidification born from climate change is even more troubling when you consider that oysters more than pull their weight in combating climate change — from source below “Recent work done by Roger Newell of the University of Maryland shows that a healthy oyster habitat can reduce total added nitrogen by up to 20 percent. A three-acre oyster farm filters out the equivalent nitrogen load produced by 35 coastal inhabitants”. The ability of oysters to act as effective nitrogen sinks could potentially be a compelling argument for securing government investment in R&D to combat the effects of acidification. One potential avenue that R&D could explore, in addition to genetic modification, is multi-trophic (i.e., multi-species, different levels of the food chain) aquaculture which seeks to grow oysters in combination with another commodity that acts as a sink for ocean acidity (thereby improving at least local acidity conditions) — some species of seaweed could potentially fulfill this function/ could be genetically engineered to do so with potentially less backlash than genetically engineering the oysters themselves.

On November 7, 2016, JPW commented on An Explosion Redefines a Worst-Case Scenario :

Great post Hugo!

This becomes even more urgent if you consider that at a national level, power outages due to resiliency failures, could be destroying $18-33B in economic value per year (with outliers as high as $75B in 2008) (see report below). The failure to invest in resiliency thus feels like a systemic market failure, ripe for potential government intervention. It is interesting to consider whether a more market driven approach (e.g., regulators taking pressure off of margins with the mandate that additional funds be spent on resiliency) or a government-led approach (e.g., improved set of central standards and approved funding) could be more effective at resolving the market failure. This feels like a problem that would benefit from forced cooperation between the different regional utilities to determine cross-cutting best practices for resiliency measures — I worry that if you left each utility to their own devices a lot of duplicate dollars would be spent developing action plans and inefficient solutions would be implemented. In either case, there is a compelling argument for billions of dollars to be redirected to this problem, potentially substantially more than the $4.5B in recovery funding, which was the last big chunk I was able to identify at the federal level.

Great post Chris!

Given the very real implications of climate change for the military and the direct resulting risks to US national security, the actions you have outlined above, both those already being executed and those you recommend, seem like no regrets moves. I am left concerned however, given that funding for these activities is, at the end of the day, approved by political bodies (i.e., our executive and legislative branches). While the past 8 years have provided runway for the needs identification and initial project launch of climate change initiatives by DoD, is there a serious risk that future initiatives will not be able to get funded/ off the ground if Republicans control the Exec/ Legislative branches? Could the initial strategy/ needs assessments completed by the Pentagon be brought into question/ revisited? Funding for the military tends to be a fairly non-partisan issue, but could the issue of climate change make it more partisan and endanger US national security as a result? Hopefully not!

On November 7, 2016, JPW commented on BMW iDisruption :

Very interesting post Jessica!

I think that BMW is doing some really innovative things relative to it’s competitors (e.g., wind powering/ hydropowering the plants where i series is assembled) to have a positive effect on the environment. It is interesting to consider the all in effect of electric vehicles more broadly, and how it may affect BMW (and other e-car manufacturers’) marketing of their lines. There are a few interesting studies that show the impact of electric powered vehicles may actually be more harmful than gas powered in specific geographies over the near term — the underlying rationale being that the energy generation mechanism (e.g., coal) used to create the electricity necessary to move an e-car 1 mile may emit more GHG than a traditional car emits in 1 mile (see Atlantic study below). Some folks have even gone so far as to argue that a tax should be placed on e-cars in geographies where the net effect is worse than driving a gas powered car. I think there could be a lot of opportunity for BMW to partner with other e-car makers to ensure there recharging infrasturcture is powered by green sources — could be excellent marketing, as well as a great way to hedge against any policy changes requiring taxation of vehicles based on energy consumed.

Very interesting post Ginger!

With respect to your third proposed intervention (i.e., developing sustainable infrastructure for deploying interventions) it is interesting to think about the supply chains necessary to get health commodities to the populations at risk, and the implications of climate change for those supply chains. In places where malaria has traditionally been an issue, delivering commodities such as bed nets or anti malarials could become significantly more complex (e.g., refrigeration issues as temperatures rise, access to rural villages via dirt roads which can be affected by extreme weather) — a significant investment could be made in preemptive upgrading of supply chains, utilizing innovative methods (e.g., drone delivery, piggybacking off of the coca cola supply chain). In places traditionally unaffected by malaria, where infrastructure is being built from the ground up, it could be much cheaper to plan resiliency into that infrastructure in the front end, rather than invest in it at a later point. An overall infrastructure upgrade could be a huge opportunity to embed knowledge into processes and build the capability of local actors as well. Hopefully the RBM coalition will take a thoughtful approach to holistic implementation!