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On November 13, 2018, Sam commented on LEGO: Leveraging the Building Blocks of Open Innovation :

As a former lover of LEGOs, and now as a parent of a young child, I admit I am concerned by the shift to digital. What I always loved about LEGO was that they were real. Today, my child is surrounded by screens and digital influence. I would see value in the company actually sticking to its core, physical product. It is great that the R&D cycle is shortening thanks to open innovation, but I think it needs to stay focused on the children seeking a way to actually physically interact with their environment.

On November 13, 2018, Sam commented on Betting on machine learning to save lives :

If you believe all human lives are equally valuable, then not using AI seems to be clearly unethical – as the technology can dramatically increase the number of patients receiving (even close to) quality care. Yet on an individual level, implementing AI in healthcare means that some people will die because of algorithmic mistakes – which many will find objectionable. Navigating this balance will be a key challenge in the coming years.

This is a really fascinating topic – especially because finding similar things is pretty easy for humans! I have tried using some websites based on some version of this technology (e.g., Houzz) and found the inaccuracies to be maddening. I am sure the technology is improving everyday, but until it works well, I think companies risk losing customers.

I also wonder if companies with a greater number of SKUs (e.g., Walmart, Amazon) have a huge advantage over more narrow retailers. Having a larger body of products, and therefore images, will help companies train their algorithms in the long run. While a limited set of SKUs (e.g., a shoe retailer) is easy at first, in the end, it means that the abilities of the visual recognition software will be capped.

Colm, great stuff here. I recommend reading Let There Be Water ( to get even deeper on the topic.

To your second question, I think the pharma industry is a good comparison – there are a set drugs that would not make sense to commercialize without tax incentives and other more creative solutions. Given that those drugs can save lives, governments have stepped in to make a new market. Perhaps there is room for something similar with water (and indeed other sustainable) technologies. Whether by offering tax incentives or assuring temporary monopolies (e.g., patents for blockbuster drugs) governments could help change the calculus for private corporations.

Very surprising to learn that 3-D printing was used to improve potato chips! I admit that this seems to me to be a strange use of R&D spend for Pepsi. There is so much happening in the food system – protein alternatives like clean meat/plant-based meat, more effective sugar – that I would have thought that Pepsi would be more focused on larger breakthrough ideas. But this convinced me that new technologies could still be used to improve core “boring” products.

On November 13, 2018, Sam commented on Machine Learning enhances Public Policy in Colombia :

Very interesting research – thanks for sharing. Using AI in governments seems especially fraught in my opinion. Corporations already control an immense amount of data with very little oversight – but it gives me some modicum of comfort to know that companies can be disrupted, competed with, or displaced. Less so with governments. In the majority of cases, a government will simply “turnover” at the top, but the plumbing and systems remain the same. This means that an AI-based government would have an almost limitless life. So, I would prefer that AI remain outside of a government’s normal usage.