Love this topic! My main question regarding this topic is if one holds Twitter, or other platforms, responsible for the content, or if one believes that these platforms have a responsibility to police its content, how would they do so? Certainly, the FCC has traditionally regulated speech on television to a moderate degree, though this has been reduced in the past few decades. One could argue that large internet platforms could be brought inline with the existing regulations for TV broadcasters. Yet, the logistics of doing so are of an unimaginable scale. There are more than 500M tweets a day on Twitter. Even if the vast majority would not fall under any scrutiny, how could Twitter possibly police its entire platform? Automation can only do so much. Nefarious trolls and bots are a dime a dozen. Any tweets deleted, accounts closed down, can reappear instantly under different and new accounts. Reporting functionality can be easily abused by similar, leading to an extraordinary amount of human review necessary. The only plausible way to reduce bots and trolls is to increase the friction of opening accounts or posting tweets, but increasing such friction would also lead to a massive reduction in the real user base of the platform. Meanwhile, Twitter would not be able to hire enough humans to keep up, the cost would be astronomical. This is especially true when some of the nefarious actors are nationstates with far deeper pockets than any private company.
Personally, I believe something definitely needs to be done, but I am not sure there is a reasonable solution in the near future. One day, AI will be advanced enough to do the job of humans in this capacity within an acceptable amount of false positives, but that is not today.
Of course Brian would write about a Canadian company, but one question that lingers is…what free T-shirts! HBS has been extraordinarily stingy about handing out free swag.
On a more serious note, I wonder what the endgame is and what the impact on someone like Gildan would be. As noted in the essay, nationalistic tendencies are not unique to the United States. Gildan may have begun making large investments in Europe, but Europe is undergoing a messy transformation as we speak, not only with Brexit, but core EU countries including Germany. Does Gildan need to establish large-scale operations across even more varied markets? If this is a global phenomenon, even large enterprises such as Gildan would not be able to expend the resources required to influence each ongoing situation. I would love to know how the global giants in the auto industry are approaching the issue.
This is an issue that insurers and reinsurers in the United States have recently had to grapple with given the uptick in natural disasters in 2017, including the fires in Norcal and flooding in Puerto Rico and Texas. From a more macro perspective, I wonder what the role of government ultimately plays in this equation. Generally, one would imagine that insurers and reinsurers will adjust to a new equilibrium relatively quickly, as those who do not will become insolvent fairly quickly. There is the risk that a major event wipes out too many insurers all at once, but one would then imagine that the government would step in as necessary. Take for example the many governments which provided massive capital injections into insurers and reinsurers during the 2008 financial crisis. It seems unlikely that any given catastrophe would ultimately lead to an inability for insurers to pay out en masse. As for a specific company and its role in this, i would imagine that so long as one stays one of the the largest insurers in a market, one would fall under the protection of the government in any sort of black swan scenario. Meanwhile, as pointed out by the essay, working diligently to improve predictive analytics and influence government and social policies would seem to be the best plan of action.
I look forward to seeing the long-term impact and cost / benefit analysis to this with regards to food waste as Barilla / Cisco run through their pilot. A slight majority of food waste in the developed world occurs prior to reaching consumers, while the vast majority of food waste in developing countries happens before reaching the consumer. Where in the supply chain would Barilla and Cisco’s efforts impact, and how much would it cost? The dream of using IOT, primarily through radio / RFID tags, has been around for decades, yet has never been deemed feasible for foodstuffs due to cost / benefit ratios. As the technology becomes cheaper, it will no doubt one day be feasible, and hopefully Barilla and Cisco’s efforts will contribute to making it a reality sooner than later. However, how far up the chain can this be done? How far up the supply chain does it need to go? Does it need to happen at the grower level? If so, how can this provide value to the grower? Can it be abstracted up a level and still derive the majority of the benefits?
This is a trial that is going on across many industries at the moment. From verifying the authenticity of diamonds (DeBeers reacting to the rapid growth of lab-grown diamonds), to the tracking of vaccines, there are many different solutions being developed. As Wal-Mart develops its own solution in conjunction with IBM, how will its suppliers work with other competing solutions? There is risk in the possibility that Wal-Mart, or some other entity, develops a proprietary blockchain and uses its size and early entry to force suppliers to adopt its system, enabling it to engage in rent-seeking behavior. Separately, how will suppliers react to competing blockchain solutions? Will suppliers one day be abstracted from individual blockchains by an intermediary, perhaps some sort of software that interconnects them all?
A completely separate issue is what type of blockchain solution is implemented. Will it rely on proof of stake? Proof of work? Blockchains require some sort of proof, and it is possible that what may be a reasonable solution in a trial may not scale well in terms of resource requirements. The most prominent blockchain currency today, Bitcoin, already consumes more electricity than the majority of countries in the world, and that is with a marketcap under $200B.
I find the question of REI’s responsibility for its suppliers’ carbon footprints a curious one. It seems to be there is no right or wrong answer here, but rather, simply one of whether or not REI believes it should or should not, and if its members agree. If one looks at it from a macro angle, there is the much larger question of any business’s responsibility for its suppliers’ carbon footprints. Legally they do not. and the markets certainly don’t believe so either. Even if the current consumer zeitgeist is one which believes in some sort of moral obligation, at a larger scale, either regulations or investors will always win the battle. Consumers are generally satisfied with the impression that a company is sustainably conscious, rather than actually demanding that they be so. Everlane is an excellent example of a company which uses marketing to imply that is has a transparent, sustainable, and ethical supply chain even though in actuality its supply chain is far less transparent, less auditable than many fast fashion major retailers.
This leads to a larger question regarding the issue of scaling. While REI and its owners (cooperative members) can choose to be sustainable, what does that imply about the larger issue of sustainability for companies generally? REI is an upscale retailer of limited scale, and its impact on global sustainability is de minimis in itself. Can sustainability be scaled? At some point on the consumer spectrum, price matters more than sustainability. Where is that point, but more importantly, what can REI do once it hits that point? Meanwhile, for public companies, sustainability is only possible up until it has a material impact on growth and profits. Is our society doomed to only enact sustainability measure that have a positive impact on short-term growth and earnings?