• Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, JW commented on The Battle of the Books: Should Barnes & Noble Concede? :

It’s interesting that we are only considering e-books as the main threat to paper books. Before e-books, we likely considered computer text reading as the only threat to the paper book industry. Perhaps before that, it was just audio books. With each novel media consumption innovation, we dilute the pool of users who are willing to be paying customers. There is likely also a 30-40 year lag on seeing sales impacts, as late-age consumer behavior is much harder to change. As the cycle time of these innovations accelerates faster and faster, will we see more stratification in terms of how people like to consume media? Already today, we have teenagers largely consuming 10-second snapchat clips, 20-30’s consuming primarily via screens in short form, 30-40’s on e-books, and majority older staying on print media. What is next? Google glass could have been a viable option, perhaps augmented reality and virtual reality sets will dramatically increase in the next 5 years such that we will wonder: “Why did anyone bother with a smartphone, let alone a kindle??”. One step further would be to imagine the effect neural implant/input technology would have on how humans interact, consume and learn. The thought is scary when you leave “projecting out the past” and jump to “imagining the future”.

On November 20, 2016, JW commented on Uber’s Bet on Self-Driving Car :

I have to agree with Denton. In terms of displacing labor, it is a tale as old as time for people to be losing their jobs to machines and fleeing higher up the value chain. Regarding security concerns: a popular theory in the industry to is assume that those with malicious intent will always have the upper hand: a terrorist only needs to find the backdoor once, cyber security only needs to fail once to fail entirely. That as a given, should we simply stop developing past the point where our technology has the capability to cause mass loss of life and/or mutually assured global destruction? This I am not as clear on. N_N brings up a relevant secondary point: when should we begin to fold in the scale and magnitude of our technology into the ethical discussion of should we do this, or shouldn’t we? Currently we are already seeing many of our greatest minds wrestle with this topic in the artificial intelligence community. No clear answers yet.

Shaun, thanks for the introduction to Rhumbix. As I was reading your value proposition to workers, I thought back to Anglo American and Cynthia Carroll: is there a synergy for how Rhumbix could help actively impact worksite safety, both for injury prevention as well as resource and time loss? Increased reporting times are certainly important, analogous to decreasing lead times in a supply chain, I am sure they work well to make sure that dangerous features or behaviors are curbed. Perhaps Rhumbix could combine with certain RFID or BLE technologies to develop sensor/actuator active prevention in the field, to even catch near-miss incidents that are not derivative of operators cutting corners. In line with the IOT revolution and connected devices permeating every part of working life, do you think these devices and project work flows will be able to move between worksites or will they simply become entrenched within the construction itself? Rhumbix certainly looks well poised to continue to grow market share and explore these questions.

On November 20, 2016, JW commented on BIXS: Tracking Cattle to Fight Disease :

Building on the issue BMW has raised on regarding the most out-of-compliance farmers dodging the system that is designed to protect the industry from those exact practices, this type of platform immediately feels like a tragedy of the commons to me. Each individual rancher adds value to the entire system of other ranches by complying and adopting the technology; however, at the time of adoption, there is no benefit to the rancher him/herself to reward sign-up behavior. In theory, the best place this could go would be to invoke a nash equilibrium situation, where every actor is making the best possible decision for him/herself participating, as long as the behavior of all the other ranchers does not change.

To Denton’s suggestion, regulation would be both expensive and difficult to enforce. I could imagine a system where no beef could be brought to market or exchanged without a tag history of where it came from; however, I feel ranchers would be heavily incentivized to cheat such systems to meet cost and profitability constraints. BIXS strikes me as one of those great platform ideas that has an uphill battle to fight to drive value and reach ubiquity, I agree with Fris’ analysis above.

On November 20, 2016, JW commented on A Brief Survey of IoT Solutions for Agriculture :

Looking at Amy Nordrum’s projections, it would seem that the number of IOT connected devices that will be seeded around the world has been written down in recent years. Given the sources you shared above, I would disagree with Amy. Agriculture has been our world’s oldest and most labor intensive industry, still employing over 40% of our 7+ billion people. While the estimate of total devices may need to be written down for 2020, I think that the extrapolated future potential for devices should still continue to be increasing. If we are able to develop IOT at the nanoscale, then the number may increase by many orders of magnitude. These nanodevices, should they be applied to farming, could interact with the field on a per-plant bases, or even multiple devices interacting with each individual plant. Over time, the question of cost vs value comes into play in terms of adding additional sensors and actuators to the field.

1. http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/popular-internet-of-things-forecast-of-50-billion-devices-by-2020-is-outdated
2. http://www.momagri.org/UK/agriculture-s-key-figures/With-close-to-40-%25-of-the-global-workforce-agriculture-is-the-world-s-largest-provider-of-jobs-_1066.html

I have to disagree with JBD. If we simply allow pricing to dictate what we are willing/not willing to serve and transitively support, where does it end? Do we not walk into the tragedy-of-the-commons situation where you can pay your way out of any situation, if you have the means to? One could argue that you didn’t tell the farmers to keep growing avocado’s, you just buy the ones that are available; however, I think that by creating a market you do indeed influence the producer side of the equation in terms of how to operate and how much to produce. Such is the reality of our markets. Now, some would argue that this exact market system has us moving toward an unsustainable future. I myself and not so convinced. Perhaps, with the right regulation and subtle adjustments to how our markets work, we can have our guac and eat it too. IF Chipotle halted all further purchases of avocado’s, perhaps they could instigate a conversation on both the customer and producer ends of this supply chain to really ACT on making sustainable change. People need a reason to revolutionize and act. Perhaps if we continue pricing to avoid our problems, we won’t see action until it is too late.

Of the four suggested actions, I’m the most torn over the investments to upgrade existing infrastructure. To be through, no doubt will we need to coordinate research efforts to develop smarter grid management and renewable sources. Even demand manipulation, social or technological, is a no-brainer, why shouldn’t we consume less if we can afford it? Upgrading infrastructure presents a dilemna in a way these other three suggestions do not: now or later?

As we have seen with some government-supported urban utility infrastructures installed in the late 60’s and 70’s, their 30-year project timelines are all but expired. Why hasn’t congress appropriated the funds necessary to do these overhauls and upgrades? One argument is political, the other transcends party lines and is that there simply isn’t money to do it and that costs need to be deferred. How long can we defer? How long can the private sector defer? These questions make me wonder if we will start seeing wide-spread failures in our bridges, sewers, reservoirs and other public utilities bases. IF we are to upgrade, when? Are there going to be dramatic improvements in infrastructure technology and construction/planning efficiency in the next coming years such that it might make sense to delay? From what I can tell, electric grid and distributed storage/generation seems to be one of the likely places where this innovation may occur. Thanks for writing.

On November 6, 2016, JW commented on Apple Reacts to and Leads in Climate Challenge :

I really appreciate the distinction that you drew between Apple entering the renewable space for the corporate social responsibility reasons, versus their drivers to mitigate exposure to volatile energy prices in multiple markets. I see Apple’s moves as much more the latter, given the fact that they are now past their prime as being the industries #1 product revolutionaries. The industry media and operators a-like have all but agreed: Tim Cook’s Apple looks eerily similar to Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. Given, Apple has reached this same conclusion and no longer has confidence that they can win the design game, wouldn’t it make sense for them to reinvest their cash in other outlets that can give the appearance that the company is ‘moving forward’ and ‘pushing the limits’ as it was under Steve Jobs? I think the key difference here was that while under Jobs’ leadership, the limits that they were pushing were the core foundations of their market: consumer electronics. Without that core, Apple is heading down a dark and uncertain path.


On November 6, 2016, JW commented on Sunny Days Ahead for SolarCity? :

I’m concerned about the timing for SolarCity merging with Tesla and also scaling heavily into the domestic energy production game. SolarCity has acquired several new silicon wafer solar cell manufacturing companies, as well as solar technology R&D firms. Perhaps their bet is to be the fore-front designer or new panels as well? With such a visionary as Musk at the helm, it’s hard to believe that anything is off SolarCity’s ambition plate, but the question to ask would be where SHOULD they focus their efforts now and WHEN should they push to scale their presence into every home and business nation wide? My guess would be to emphasize SolarCity’s ability to install new solar arrangements to downstream customers and leave the R&D element out of their portfolio. Perhaps then, they can ride the ebbs and flows of new efficiency gains and maintain their role as a market leader and driver of market adoption. In merging with Tesla, I see they creating a serious bet on integration into the transportation space, which I hope will pay off in the years to come.

Thinking about utilizing AI in data center power usage brings many smart-grid applications to mind. Are there ways to increase sharing of information between data centers and future smart-grids to utilize load balancing and demand charge minimization as well? This would involve AI optimization both on the load as well as cooling ends of data center management. Moreover, as our AI becomes more intelligent, I anticipate we will begin threading data center back up and bridge choices through optimization algorithms as well, further complicating power usage management at the individual center level.

One more question I’d ask is: In the face of other pressures on data centers (bandwidth and security to name a few), how will we incentive centers to prioritize power management over other drivers? If solar electricity production efficiency takes off in the next years, aided by AI no doubt, will the power management equation even be relevant? Thanks for writing!

On November 6, 2016, JW commented on Koch Industries: Whose side are you on? :

Great find on the Ayotte donations bit.. Thanks for reading!