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On November 21, 2016, rfeickert commented on Can Technology Transform Education? :

Thanks for the article! There’s no doubt that technology is revolutionizing the education industry, and I’m inspired by organizations such as Khan Academy and Altschool. However, I worry that too much emphasis on technology and finding the right answer vs. knowing information is diminishing certain skills in younger generations. Thanks to my consistent access to Google Maps and Excel, my mom’s capacity to navigate in a new place or do mental math far exceeds mine. It would be great if AltSchool actively combated this by emphasizing off-screen critical reasoning activities.

The same goes for face-to-face interactions; we talked a lot about emotional intelligence in Field Foundations, and I feel that technology is reducing the time and quality of our off-screen interactions. For this reason, I lean more towards the brick-and-mortar AltSchools as the status quo. The online-only versions are certainly necessary in some cases, but I think it has significant drawbacks for helping children develop interpersonal skills.

On November 21, 2016, rfeickert commented on Opternative: Disrupting Traditional Optometry :

So interesting, thanks Divya! I can certainly see how the current system benefits optometrists. Assuming it is accurate, this software could be very useful in rural locations. During my childhood, it was necessary to drive over an hour to see an eye doctor, and many people skipped going for long periods of time as a result. In theory this would be fine for those with good eyesight, but it resulted in some serious consequences for older people who developed advanced cataracts and other age-related eye diseases. While these customers don’t have the familiarity with technology to use Opternative, I could easily see Opternative stations being set up in local clinics and administered by a county nurse.

To me, the most interesting part of Ripple’s business model is its use of XRP as a bridging currency. Ripple is correct in saying that use of XRP facilitates payments in cases where there is no chain of contact between two paying agents on either sides of a transaction. It’s also true that settling transactions in a third currency eliminates counterparty credit risk for the paying agents. My question is whether or not use of XRP fails to eliminate counterparty credit risk, but instead transfers it to Ripple? If so, it seems to me that setting the XRP exchange rates and settling XRP trades could add extra risk into Ripple’s business model, and by extension to its network of global institutions.

On November 19, 2016, rfeickert commented on Sephora: Bringing digital into brick & mortar stores :

Sephora is one of the few brick-and-mortar companies that is truly incorporating digital into its business model. Cosmetics is the ideal industry to do so, because it’s one of the few products you usually need to try in person before buying. Besides the fact that you aren’t sure what shade of lipstick will go best with your skin tone and personality, there are also an overwhelming number of choices for whatever type of product you seek, and an inherent distrust of commission-driven salespersons. Usually digital technology to minimize the inconveniences of makeup shopping not only maintains the relevance of Sephora’s brick-and-mortar presence–it enhances it.

I agree with your recommendation that Kickstarter should expand the categories of projects it allows. Specifically I wonder how much the current restrictions against charity fundraising unfairly excludes participation by social enterprises, especially hybrid ones with only a percentage of the business focused on non-profit endeavors.

On November 7, 2016, rfeickert commented on Imagining Incredible India: Saving Ladakh through Sustainability :

This article perfectly highlights a global conundrum: those who pay the price for human-driven climate change are often not those who drove it. It saddens me that the Ladakh people are suffering so acutely from climate change, and I feel pessimistic as to whether any mitigation strategies will be sufficient to avoid eventual relocation by the Ladakh people. Your point on the detrimental effects of tourism to a fragile habitat is a guilt that I struggle with. As Johnson said in class the other day, it’s impossible to measure something without affecting it; I likewise feel that it’s impossible to visit a place without changing it, and as much as I love to travel, I hate knowing that my existence there will leave it different than I found it. I don’t know that ecotourism is even the best answer. Maybe places that are radically impacted by tourism should operate on a permit system, with a threshold to limit overall visits. Regardless, I feel for the Ladakh people, and am inspired by their efforts to sustain their way of life despite the high obstacles in their path.

On November 7, 2016, rfeickert commented on Best Laid Plans: When an Intended Call to Action Yields Complacency :

I find the vintners’ relief and subsequent complacency to the results of the climate change study incredibly frustrating, but also completely understandable. With all of the innumerable and ever-changing variables surrounding competition, consumers, supply chain, etc. to deal with, it’s no wonder that the vintners feel justified in de-prioritizing climate change initiatives. I think a supporting reason for their apathy is positioning of the study. By focusing on adaptations to climate change, rather than strategies to slow or prevent it, vintners have seemingly no incentive to spend valuable time and capital on mitigation strategies until their operations are actually being affected. I wonder if NVV would have more success by educating vintners on available subsidies and tax credits for renewable energy investments, thereby aligning the environmental benefit of early adoption with a financial one.

NJ234, thank you for the interesting post. I think the situation faced by Cummins is a common one; sustainability almost always seems to be diametrically opposed to the goals of businesses. By addressing climate change, many businesses feel that they have to compromise the value they provide to stakeholders, be it the product experience for customers, profitability for shareholders, or policies for employees. High-emission industries such as transportation face particularly high tradeoffs, as their core value proposition is often not environmentally friendly, and available alternatives are too often inferior or prohibitively expensive. I’d be curious to know how customers have reacted to the newer engines, as the costs of Cummins’ adaptations are being passed on in the former of higher priced engines and increased fuel costs. That being said, customers may have no other choice, assuming that Cummins’ competitors are subject to the same emissions regulations and have innovated similarly. Until we find a way for the environment to win in the long-term without every other stakeholder losing in the short-term, these frictions will continue.

On November 7, 2016, rfeickert commented on Can extreme tomato farming save the planet? :

I really enjoyed this article, as I have no previous exposure to Sunripe, and find their work with the Fair Food Program to be very inspiring. I wonder if future efforts towards environmental sustainability and innovation will conflict with this at any point. I’ve read past articles about the high percentage of U.S. families–particularly immigrants–who rely on agriculture for a source of income. It’s fantastic that Sunripe has taken a stand in an industry that is known for treating farm workers unfairly, and it would be a shame if they eventually replace manual labor with sensors and robots. I would also wonder what magnitude of capital investment dry farming or AI requires, and how Sunripe would justify that considering the fact that they have less than 200 total employees, and that they operate in a very low margin business.

On November 7, 2016, rfeickert commented on The Grass is NOT Greener on the Other Side, and It Looks Great! :

What an interesting topic! My gut reaction is to agree that growing vegetables is probably a net benefit for both the environment and nutrition access for low-income communities, but I wonder if there are unforeseen negatives to this strategy. I worry that between the chemicals used to make the road and the pollution from passing traffic, the produce grown in these locations wouldn’t be safe for human consumption. It will be interesting to see how LA navigates permissible crops as well; I would expect exceptionally tall or bushy plants like corn to be banned, given the risk that it blocks visibility for passing vehicles. Lastly, it would be good to know if there are drastic differences between grass and typical vegetable plants in terms of water needs, and fertilizer and pesticide usage. That would be difficult from an environmental perspective, but a potential opportunity for MiracleGro and other companies to maintain or even increase their market share. I would expect that some plants require even more water and fertilizer than grass does, which could pose a big issue to California given its ongoing drought.