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Interesting point Dong, re: military and strategic interests. To Ryu’s earlier comment, it is difficult to quantify the strategic benefits of such entrenched military interest in Boeing as there is limited data (if any) on the impact of the relationship on the military’s strategic edge. Perhaps it’s worth comparing Boeing/U.S. military prowess versus military innovations in countries that don’t have a strong relationship with a manufacturer (i.e. Japan, Russia, Singapore, Russia). But how to quantify such a comparison? – that remains an outstanding question.

Interesting points Roger. I agree, Boeing could really benefit from being the largest player in the space by embracing global markets, using its footprint to win partners in emerging economies.

Very interesting, did not consider this from the angle of Boeing workers abroad. I agree with you, I think the ongoing risk of Boeing’s dependence on protectionism is that it comes back to bite their workers, their trade partners, and their clients.

Very valid points, Ryu. Without information on the number of jobs gained through Bombardier Alabama plants vs. lost by Boeing (although they never seemed to bid for the C-series to begin with…), it’s hard to assess the impact on the U.S. It is quite likely that this ended up being a net positive for the U.S. The real concern, however, is that countries ultimately get fed up with such protectionist measures and end up finding other trade partners or assemble their planes without any Boeing components at all.

On November 26, 2017, Rhonda commented on Diamonds Are Forever…But Their Supply Chains Are Not :

Very interesting piece, quite insightful analysis of potential benefit of blockchain on diamond industry. I have one question for the author: do you think that implementation of blockchain may actually jeopardize diamond sellers (consumer-facing) as it would provide radical transparency on pricing?

In a past life, I spent time investing in gold mines, understanding the supply chain. My main takeaway after that experience is that the cost of extraction from mines, the spot price of gold, and the smoldered end-product price are three disparate prices – with the spread between the first and last often being quite large. If, as a consumer, I can suddenly notice that there is a sizable spread, wouldn’t this put a downward pressure on pricing? Why is it in Chow Tai Fook’s interest to introduce such radical transparency if this underscores that diamonds, like other precious stones, are ultimately commodities that should trade at extraction cost?

I assume that this transparency allows Chow Tai Fook to distinguish itself from less-authentic competitors (or seemingly less authentic) but how does it differentiate itself from synethic diamonds? Wouldn’t a consumer that fully follows the supply chain of a diamond through a blockchain likely be more willing to buy a synthetic? I would assume synthetics and Chow Tai Fook are fighting for the same type of consumer.

On November 26, 2017, Rhonda commented on Trade wars for aircraft OEMs: Can Boeing keep cruising? :

Lynn, your suggestions are very impressive and I agree with them wholeheartedly. I find it bizarre that a company like Boeing, which operates in a effective duopoly alongside Airbus, wastes so many resources in protectionist battles which will likely – to your point – only come to harm their OEM relationships. Boeing is operating in a very global industry and is the most vulnerable company in the US (given its size as percent of U.S. market) to the ramifications of the protectionism it embraces–getting cut off from global trade outright.

Your automation point really resonated with me. At its core, Boeing needs to revolutionize its manufacturing process by embracing automation. Boeing to date has benefited from being one of two incumbents in the aircraft manufacturing space, but that seat is by no means defensible. China plans to spend more than $60bn annually on robotic research and development, which will account for more than 30% of global robotic spending. Once China leads global robotics adoption, it is unlikely that they will need companies like Boeing for any portion of their supply chain as economies of scale will enable them to make the same parts with more precision and accuracy at a lower cost.


On November 26, 2017, Rhonda commented on Gotham Greens: Transforming the Produce Supply Chain :

This is a very interesting conundrum that companies like Gotham Greens face, especially as they try to scale to tackle larger incumbents. How do they stay true to their organic knitting? However, I am truly optimistic on the ability of blockchain to allow Gotham Greens to take on the agri behemoths, by precisely enabling them to stick to their knitting.

First, big agriculture often looses credentials on the “organic” labeling front, because they are either not able to claim that their whole sourcing chain is organic or because the chain is simply not organic. Blockchain utilization allows companies to track all aspects of their supply chain and allows customers full transparency into their product – from seed to store shelf. This allows for transparency not only on the organic-labeling side but also in terms of fair wage practices.

Second, blockchain allows companies like Gotham Greens to scale through financing. Traditionally, big agri has benefited from being able to purchase and sell on credit. It often takes months if not seasons for money to come through to a farm after fertilization. Blockchain allows for immediate transactions and real-time payment on delivery, with farmers being paid instantly through the blockchain by providing transparency to end consumers.


On November 26, 2017, Rhonda commented on Economic Isolationism and America’s Biggest Rival: Canada :

Very interesting essay, this reminds me of the spat between Canadian and American paper mills. To that end, however, I do think it’s important for you to recognize the amount of protectionism is rampant across the U.S. economy. The United States protects manifold industries, including paper, iron ore, steel, cotton, and military defense, to name a few, suppressing prices at times when advantageous or allowing outright ban of foreign imports when better suited for the United States. In the larger scheme of things, if you think about the scale of the U.S. military industry protected by tariffs and compare it to an industry such as dairy, you’ll clearly see which country is committing the greater injustice. Moreover, the United States has an obligation as the world’s largest economy to set a foot forward in free trade negotiations, instead of retracting from them as it has done in every convention of the Doha Round talks.

Instead of making it easier for American companies to complain about foreign trade stealing their lunch, the United States needs to prioritize industrial innovation. For the paper mill example, the U.S. paper industry had been losing jobs for years not only because of foreign competition but also because of automation and an exogenous decline in paper consumption due to technology. Of course companies will reel because of globalization and global competition, but maybe that’s a symptom of changing times? Shouldn’t we think a couple of steps in advance about how to create new livelihoods for our children, than castigate our North American brethren for worrying about the same concerns?


Thank you for this work, Ashley. I particularly am interested in the blockchain aspect. In order for blockchain to be adopted at a wide scale, we need first adopters to prototype and test fundamental concepts. It behooves a company like Pfizer to be an early adopter, lest it be cast away as a curmudgeonly dinosaur in a rapidly innovating industry.

I recently read about an initiative that spun out of the MIT Media Lab, MedRec. MedRec was developed on Ethereum, a blockchain technology, but is a privately managed blockchain. The system incentivizes miners to analyze data sets through computational science – in this case the miners are medical practitioners and scientists – by rewarding them with anonymized data sets whenever they contribute to the blockchain, which helps advance their research.

In order for such a system to work, more and more miners will need to participate and this will require computing resources. Large hospitals and pharma companies, like Pfizer, are perfect candidates to advance the entire industry’s adoption of blockchain given their access to capital. The size of Pfizer too can enable advancement in blockchain’s regulation, given its lobbying footprint.


Adding to the list of climate concerns for the military is the (already occuring) deterioration of physical assets by climate change. These assets include the DOD’s over 500K facilities in the United States covering 28mm acres of land, valued near a trillion dollars. The DoD even noted that 15 of its sites in the U.S. were already witnessing deterioration to runways, roads, and buildings. Air Force radars are being rendered useless in the arctic, as rising sea-levels have eroded installations. That’s not to mention airbases which can’t even be accessed due to flooding. Lastly, the U.S. coastal bases are already reeling from floods which cost millions of dollars in repairs for roads, bridges, and runways (i.e. California 2016 flooding). This doesn’t even take into account offshore bases, such as in the Marshall Islands, which are expected to be completely underwater within years. How can we maintain our military preeminence if our bases are being erased away?

I agree with Fidel Cashflow’s conclusion; the DoD needs to recognize climate change as a geopolitical, national security imperative. Apart from its own internal efforts to stymie rising sea levels, the DoD should use its full clout in Washington to lobby for the bipartisan effort needed to combat climate change.