Hi Marcos — thanks for your comment! Yeah I’m pretty blown away by the app — I honestly have been using it all week and it really has helped me focus on getting all of these projects done. I’m excited to see where the company goes and how the technology evolves!
Hi Juan Carlos — yes the end of the year can be tough! Definitely give Endel a try, I’ve actually been using it all week since I wrote this post and it’s been shockingly helpful.
If you’re interested in the science behind the model — I’d recommend this interview, they go into quite a bit of detail and cite numerous studies around how they chose their data inputs: https://www.amazon.science/latest-news/the-science-behind-endels-ai-powered-soundscapes?fbclid=IwAR2yMfT9089llBso_4s9GWvb1Q0b95NMg8SOJVlFlH6y0FjrGB7SvLjPpuo
I didn’t stumble across any plans to integrate other mechanisms, but if not clear from the post, you do need to indicate what “mood” you’re going for — relaxation, focus, sleep, etc. — which I think helps. I would surprised if that wasn’t in the plans given that the model today actually doesn’t take in too many inputs as your comment suggests. I also think they are a bit limited to what is measured via wearables, so the advancement of wearable technologies will have a big influence the development of their models.
Hi Cristina — thanks for your comment! I completely agree — a fabulous mission statement, and it’s nice to see a company use AI in way that is intended for good!
I totally agree with your point here — I especially think the technology is well-aligned Apple’s view of the world in particular, since the model building process happens entirely on the user’s devices and data is not sent to the cloud or sold to third-parties.
Wow — what a fascinating product and application of AI! Great write-up!!
I would be curious to get your take on what the logical conclusion of this advancement in ag-tech. Are we moving towards completely automated farming? Are John Deere/Blue River well-positioned for this AI-driven agricultural industry? Do you anticipate resistance from families who often are farmers over multiple generations?
Wow — fascinating article!
Personalized learning is such a hotly debated topic — I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the logical conclusion of its place in the classroom. It’s hard to imagine school becoming a completely individualized experience, with students only learning from what is on the screen in front of them. It seems like there is value to group teaching and education (here at HBS with the case method we certainly think so!). So what do you think the role of personalized learning is actually going to be in the classroom?
Hey Vartan — super fascinating! Great write-up!!
I’m wondering if you have any business model concerns for Zebra Medical. I’m trying to understand what truly makes them sticky — it strikes me that they are purely algorithmically focused and most of their algorithms, I would assume, are built on open source tools.
Is it not likely that other companies (especially those that have major hospital equipment contracts) could build similar functionality, but better integrated into the hospital-software ecosystem?
Yes! I found this so fascinating as well. This will be a really interesting company to watch.
I definitely read through a lot of tension felt by musicians and composers about what Endel is doing — and there is definitely debate about whether or not the music that Endel creates is truly “art.” I think its a fascinating debate.
If you’re curious — I’d recommend this article: https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/27/18283084/warner-music-algorithm-signed-ambient-music-endel
Hey Omar — yeah crazy, right? I agree there are some potentially troubling implications here.
If it is any consolation (at least given my understanding of the technology at play here), there are limits to AI-generated music. As we’ve learned in class, data in is data out, so though you could theoretically build a model on classical music, your model would create infinite variations of classical music, but wouldn’t be able to innovate to create jazz.
So though Endel can now make infinite ambient tracks, it’s hard to imagine that the technology as it stands could create the next wave of musical innovation.
I find comfort in this realization — because I think there (at least for now) is still room in art for human creativity and innovation that is uniquely human. My hope is that AI music tools can assist composers and writers, but certainly not replace human intuition and creativity.
Hi Molefe — great article! It is really interesting to read how Square has built out their loans business and how ML has played a significant role in helping them manage risk.
The potential world where Square is no longer able to obtain access to the necessary data to assess loan applications seems like a tremendous risk to this part of the business! Do you see a path forward for Square in this line of business if they are no longer able to access necessary data?
Hi — great post! As an avid Duolingo user myself, it was really interesting to read how the company is leveraging ML and using A/B testing to create optimal experiences for its users.
Duolingo has faced controversy in the past over its “gamification” approach — as they’re engaging in significant amounts of A/B testing to leverage some of the addictive tactics that normal mobile games utilize.
I wonder what your thoughts are on this — given that Duolingo is a language learning app first, how should they draw the line between “gamification” of education and full out gaming?
Hi — great post! Really interesting to read how Etsy is using ML to tackle a truly challenging search problem.
I wonder if you came across how the company handles quality control? Conceptually, the process seems complex and there are multiple points for error — be it in text analysis or image recognition.
Further — does Etsy help sellers write descriptions/take pictures to ensure optimal search results?
Yes this is a great point!
I’d even take it one step further — that if taken to its extreme, a campaign only focused on persuasion tactics could use these methods to only focus on the opinions of likely voters in strategic locations required to win the election. This usually comes down to a handful of counties in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida.
The reality is that campaigns usually don’t operate in quite an extreme — and usually persuasion and turnout (getting voters don’t typically vote to turnout) tactics are seen as necessary to win an election.
Yeah — great question! I think like many major technology innovations, the answer is: it’s complicated!
I do actually think there are many net positives here. I think the potential to truly understand national sentiment in essentially “real-time” is a net positive for American democracy. In particular, I think, if applied correctly, the infrastructure and analytic methods can provide our representatives with significantly more insight into the opinions of hard-to-reach and marginalized populations and how they evolve over time. Giving “voice to the voiceless” — if you will.
However, I definitely am with you that the unnecessary amassing of data on American citizens is not a net-positive, and as we’ve seen, in the wrong hands can lead to significant harm.
I am intrigued by recent conversations on industry norms that I posted above about data handling/governance.
I’m also pretty into the recent idea to make platform companies and data brokers into “information fiduciaries” — which could guide the decisions on how these companies would use data so that it is in the best interest of the people.
See below for more!
Yes! Honestly it’s a fascinating topic and a whole separate blog post could be written around challenges around political surveys/polling.
To your point — if your data collection is poor (i.e. your surveys are not representative of the voting population), then your turnout, support, and persuasion models will end up being poor as well — and lead to bad strategic decisions from the perspective of a campaign.
In short: Polling used to be phone-driven, but over time, the population of people picking up the phone and answering surveys were not the same as the population of people who weren’t picking up the phone — so a major trend of voters increasingly supporting the Republican candidate was being missed because these were the same people not answering phone calls. Hence support for the Republican candidate was significantly underestimated.
A ton of R&D work has been done since then to move the political survey infrastructure online, and forecasts have improved drastically since then (see 2018 and 2020 election cycles).
My former colleague did a great interview about what happened in 2016 — I highly recommend the below read for some deeper insight.
Great post Shekeyla! Fascinating to learn about how Zola has created value for couples planning their wedding.
I’m going to be intrigued to see how Zola thinks about providing additional value through its Vendor Platform. It was interesting to read that they are planning to keep listing for vendors free, and that growth has still been slow even with low barriers to entry.
I would imagine such a Vendor Platform is a true challenge to build and manage, but necessary to differentiate from the wedding registry services provided by the Amazons or Bed Bath and Beyonds of the world.
Great post Julia! Strava is a super interesting company and it was wonderful to read about how they’ve created value for their users, and even for city planners! Very neat.
I wanted to note here an additional risk facing Strava (and many platforms) — and that would be around the issue of privacy given the sensitive location data. In particular, I know the company faced controversy around a “flyby” feature that allowed users to see other users in the app while working out and see their profile/loop. I would imagine that additional precautions would need to be taken for premium users who track health data in the app as well.
It’ll be interesting to see how Strava continues to manage these privacy challenges moving forward!
Fascinating post, Cristina! You do a wonderful job outlining just how challenging it is for a program like 60 minutes (and perhaps — more generally — organizations) face when needing to collaborate with new platforms to get their content or services out to the market.
In this particular case — it’s hard not to imagine the partnership with Paramount+ having a similar fate as their recent partnership with Quibi. My gut response is that it might be because the content form doesn’t seem to match the form in which younger generations consume news today — consumed mostly through their smartphone either via social media or direct via a news provider’s application. It’s hard to imagine younger generations watching a lengthy news program on their computer or at their TV.
I suppose we’ll see! But it seems like maybe there’s a generalizable lesson here around how organizations need to leverage their resources and adapt to changing behaviors enabled by new platforms.
Thank you for raising this.
I actually would go one step broader and argue that overall platform governance is a major risk to Patreon. In addition to the issue you raised here, the company has received quite a bit of scrutiny in its history around several aspects of its community guidelines and content policy — including its definitions of and enforcement of “hate speech,” “harassment,” “disinformation,” and more. There are too many articles to list here on the topic, but a quick Google search will show the breadth of the challenge for Patreon.
In short — you’re right that governance couldn’t be more relevant for platforms like Patreon today, and its management of its content policy could have a significant impact on the platform’s ability to attract and retain creators and users alike.
Hi Vikram — yes this is a great point. I should note there is tremendous risk with the approach McDonald’s is taking. You’re right that the future they’re proposing would fully automate the drive-thru experience (e.g. AI for taking orders and making the food, building conveyor belts to deliver the food to cars). Further, another risk they are facing has to do with franchisees. Similar to our Domino’s case, McDonald’s will mandate the technology changes and charge additional fees. Franchisees were apparently caught off guard with the Accelerating the Arches announcement. It’ll be interesting to see how they adjust given these challenges.
John — great article! Super interesting to read how Albertsons is innovating to stay a leader in the grocery sector — it’s especially interesting that they started a fund! Cool stuff. It’s hard to read this and not think about the effect of popular third-party grocery delivery services like Instacart. Today they appear to be a partner to Albertsons, but looking at where Albertsons is innovating, it appears that they might be encroaching on Instacart’s original territory. What do you see as the future of these partnerships, and where do they fit into Albertsons’ (and other grocery store’s) future?
JTan — fascinating article! It’s really interesting to see how digital advertisers emerged as an unlikely winner during the pandemic! I’m really interested in some of the trends you note at the end of your article — how increasingly people are turning to YouTube (and as I was discussing with a friend last night — maybe even TikTok) as an actual source of information. How do you think these trends are going to change the landscape of digital advertising?
Juan Carlos — great article! Thank you for previewing how technology is impacting the future of work. I wonder if you see any risks with AI being applied in this way? For example, it is absolutely fascinating to me that AI is being considered as a solution to remote employee engagement — a seemingly depersonalized approach to very human challenge.