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On November 20, 2016, TOM commented on Can a 3D printer solve the world’s housing crisis? :

What a time to be alive, beaups! Big Delta’s speed, portability, raw materials, energy use and cost make it and incredibly exciting prospect. Outside of its current operating model, I wonder if there are any other approaches to building sustainable, cheap, portable housing. Perhaps WASP could build smaller versions of Big Delta that could each put together significant pieces of a house, which could then be assembled. Parallel processes could significantly reduce the time required and increase their output. I agree with dfeldpausch on the building materials, and am also concerned about their durability. Could a mud-based house survive a serious catastrophe or are there more durable materials that would achieve the same goals? Overall, such an amazing model!

On November 20, 2016, TOM commented on Digital Farming :

Agree with LS, that this is a very exciting post, dfeldpausch! In particular, I’m intrigued by the implication that a digitally-supported detailed understanding of specific crop issues can lead to more targeted and therefore lower use of pesticides and fertilizers. On top of that, I wonder whether the same technology could be applied to organic farming, where yields have been historically lower and there are fewer chemical levers to pull. The ability to use area-specific yield data to optimize future plantings is promising, and could help to increase yields and lower the cost of organic produce to the market.

On November 20, 2016, TOM commented on Inmate Reform Goes Digital :

Great post, Τιμή Ωκα! Reform of the criminal justice is an issue which deserves significantly more airtime, and I’m excited to see the progress that California has made in incorporating digital education into their programs. In my opinion, the most important aspect for the subsequent diffusion of this technology is the ratio you mention of dollars spent on education vs. spent on reincarceration. I look forward to seeing data on this new project as well, since I believe those numbers may become even more stark with this highly effective format. I wonder whether similar programs could be implemented for those on parole, including digital check-ins, geotagging, and continued education and support, reducing recidivism, improving lives and saving money. Hopefully similarly creative programs will be introduced in other states, as well!

Great post, MrNMS! I’ve always wondered how brokers could continue to justify their 6% commission, particularly in markets like New York City, where a 1-bedroom apartment could sell for $2 million or more (compared to the median national value of $150k – and require a similar amount of time and effort to sell. Craigslist has made a significant impact on the rental market, but as Garet points out, having a physical person mediate the act of touring a home has a significant role for both safety and confidence. I wonder if brokers will ever be forced to switch to a flat-fee metric, or if the physical presence aspect will be disintermediated by a digital service like TaskRabbit.

On November 20, 2016, TOM commented on Three lessons from building the digital city :

Great post, Peter! Sidewalk Labs is a fascinating company and Intersection has certainly received a lot of press lately. You raise an interesting point about the iterative nature of implementing digital products in the public sphere – since the public generally expects a public roll-out of a service to be in its final form, this poses problems for beta testing, iteration and adaptation, all necessary for fully functional digital products. In addition, I’m intrigued by the idea of implementation in different regions. Perhaps a product like LinkNYC would be significantly more impactful in a region where smartphones and tablets are less prevalent, though funding will certainly be more difficult, as you point out.

On November 7, 2016, SH commented on Growing a Brighter Future – Philips Lighting :

Such an interesting perspective! I had no idea how powerful lighting could be in indoor farming, and how much this could revolutionize non-traditional agriculture. A few questions:
1. I’ve seen work debating (on both sides) whether hydroponically grown produce was more or less nutritionally dense than organic produce grown in rich soil. You mentioned that the specific spectrum of light can change qualities of the produce and I wonder whether this could affect or even solve the problems of hydroponic produce?
2. While LED lights are much more efficient than incandescents in home use, I assume that energy expenditure is still a significant input/cost for a large-scale LED operation. Does Philips have plans on ways to source this energy in an ecologically-friendly manner? Are there other concerns related to power use?


I wrote about Allstate too! Great minds and all… Such an interesting topic, since they’re literally insuring against the damages of climate change, so every move they make to decrease emissions should theoretically increase their bottom line. I didn’t know about Milewise, which is such a cool and innovative program. Since Allstate is clearly on top of the issue, it was a real thought exercise to come up with additional initiatives they could implement! I wondered whether their advocacy could be stronger, in terms of writing and enforcing stronger building codes, which they could also incentivize in their policy-writing. Additionally, I wonder if they’ve considered special programs for low-emission vehicles – they likely get into accidents with the same frequency, are likely more expensive to repair, but also help decrease emissions!

On November 7, 2016, SH commented on Going bananas over climate change :

While I’m not a big fan of bananas, I respect that they’re a staple crop across the globe and the treats of climate change to banana production are all too real! As a follow up to @#CE#, I wonder whether there are additional approaches to managing the impacts of climate change with science. Are GMOs a significant factor in banana production? It sounds like there are a ton of strains, but I wonder if resources have been allocated to creating drought- and pest-resistant strains for the new world order. In partnering with farmers, per @Ina’s suggestion, I wonder if Dole will need to work to transition farmers in areas that can no longer produce bananas to other productive crops, and what impact this will have on local economies. Perhaps there are opportunities there, in addition to risks?

On November 7, 2016, SH commented on American Electric Power — The Coal Problem :

Interesting post, kfh! I’m intrigued by the conditions it would take for AEP to move faster on these points. You mentioned that pricing conditions are unfavorable at present, but how far would prices have to move for them to make significant changes? I’m also curious what “carrot” government programs exist, in addition to “stick” regulation, that could help facilitate these changes. I know it’s something that’s been in the press a lot, but I wonder how these play out on the ground. On the demand side, are there movements from customers to clean up their operations? Are the preferences of end consumers getting translated up the chain, or getting stuck in the middle? I also wonder what additional changes their competitors have made that help them produce less CO2 – perhaps AEP can adopt these changes as well.

On November 7, 2016, SH commented on The Death of the Ski Industry? :

Such an interesting post, and clearly a topic of dire concern for passionate skiers! I appreciate your analysis of how Whistler is managing their long-term risks here, but also wonder if there are some short- to medium-term opportunities for the company. WB is thousands of miles north of many popular ski resorts (i.e. Colorado and Utah) and its summit elevation is only moderately lower. While I’m not well-versed in the meteorological patterns of the Rockies, I could imagine that WB may experience climate change at a slower or at least delayed rate compared to the more southern resorts, which represents an opportunity to draw skiers north. I wonder if the deal with Vail was also an opportunity for Vail to hedge its climate risk, too. Additionally, I wonder if there are opportunities for WB to build support in the skiing community to combat climate change, drawing on grass roots support to advocate for aggressive policies to protect their business (and the skiing lifestyle).