As I read the article I had the same concern as Milkman: while parents would love the idea of having frequent and regular updates on their child, how willing are daycare teachers to put in the extra effort to pull out a digital device and “push” an update to a parent?
While not completely analogous, if we look at the fact that most Twitter users never post (and only read) my takeaway is that it is easier to be a consumer than a content generator. Given that (1) PreciouStatus two-sided platform like Twitter and (2) one side of the market appears to derive more value from the platform than the other, how can the PreciouStatus ensure that daycare teachers find the experience as valuable and enjoyable as parents? Or will teachers use the platform infrequently, seeing it as a chore or extra work that they do not have time for?
I am astounded every time I look at the recruiting / headhunting / job placement industry because it seems like such an unnecessarily laborious and expensive process. In my mind, companies such as http://www.monster.com have fixed one problem (provided a platform for getting a bird’s eye view of vacant jobs) but created another (added to the information overload faced by both job seekers and employers). The information overload problem is an important one, since employers I have interviewed frequently complain of the need to purchase Applicant Tracking Systems to filter through the overwhelming number of applications for each vacant position based on key words used in an applicant’s resume and cover letter.
LinkedIn showed (and still shows) a great deal of promise by flipping the job application process on its head and allowing companies to reach out to potential job seekers, rather than rely on job seekers to bombard employers. Where Hired excels (and where LinkedIn falls short) is in its ability to match based on interest and intent – and not simply based on qualifications or key words on one’s resume.
While interest and intent are important, fit and retention are still lacking. Companies are increasingly worried about employee retention and the average tenureship of tech employees is the lowest of any industry. Will we look back at history and compare Hired to Monster in its fixing of one problem, only to create another? Low employee tenure / high employee attrition is ultimately a good thing for Hired – but terrible for their corporate clients.
Awesome post, Sharif!
I see a great deal of promise in the domain of tele-medicine, but how would physicians deal with liability? What happens if a diagnosis or treatment is done incorrectly, and the “blame” cannot be attributed to a particular, identifiable individual? Perhaps this issue is less relevant in a development context given the more “dire” circumstances (which I feel terrible saying, but hope you get my point)?
In a developed market context I think of Teladoc, which connects patients to doctors for one-on-one consultations for “general health” concerns, such as cases of fever, asthma, cold, pink eye, and eye infection. However, the MSF telemedicine process appears to involve relatively more serious / invasive procedures where the downside risk of misdiagnosis could be higher. How far off are we from being able to distribute the workload of a procedure to a network of professionals in the United States?
Anita’s comment about accessibility is spot on. At $128/month, Talk Space seems out of reach to low-income individuals, and this is precisely the population that is more likely to be exposed to the biological stresses, substance abuse, and environmental pressures that contribute to low mental health. We observe this disparity from the fact that social workers predominantly serve populations in poverty. Talk Space is doing valuable work, but I wonder if a different business model is needed. I am aware of two alternatives:
(1) Crisis Text Line – a text line that anonymously connects those in crisis situations with live peer counselors
(2) Lean On Me – a similar model to Crisis Text Line, but focused on university campuses such as MIT
We are comparing apples to oranges in some ways because Talk Space is a for-profit, whereas the two above are non-profit. Nevertheless, the mere existence of these non-profit models raises the question of whether a service with the objective to serve those in such dire need can ever be a profit-maximizing entity. A modest fee makes sense; government subsidies make even more sense; I’m not sure that charging $128/month makes sense.
I’m thrilled that you chose to discuss IFTTT, Denzil!
I use the platform whenever I am on the market for something on Craigslist and want to be notified whenever someone posts an item on Craigslist within certain parameters (e.g. if… someone posts a chair in like-new condition within 5 miles of 02138… then… send me an email). This automated process allows me to stay on top of activity on Craigslist without having to check myself, since Craigslist does not currently offer a push notification feature.
While Milkman’s security concerns are valid, I do agree with Ameg that this is the future: basic digitization / automation processes will become so accessible and commoditized that (1) ordinary, non-technical consumers will be able to get more done on their own without having to hire a software developer, and (2) software developers will be increasingly pushed upstream to higher-order tasks, such as developing back-end algorithms and hardware, rather than basic front-end development. We not only see this with IFTTT, but also with https://bubble.is/home, a platform that allows users to code mobile and web apps using a simple drag-and-drop interface akin to Microsoft PowerPoint. As a result of this “consumerization” of technical functions, I have two personal takeaways: (1) Our schools need to increasingly equip students with the aptitude for thinking both conceptually and technically (so that they can not only understand WHY IFTTT is powerful, but HOW to use it), and (2) job seekers who believe that simply learning to code will somehow weatherproof their careers should take a hard second look.
I wholeheartedly agree with HBS2018 that Disney has the opportunity to play a powerful and enduring role in shaping kids’ perception towards societal issues. We saw it with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, a well-known children’s story of a character that stands up for nature in the face of deforestation and industrialization. Indeed, the story became so powerful in its allegory that parents in logging communities have even attempted to ban the book from school libraries and classroom reading lists. The fact that such a seemingly benign tale can evoke so much push-back leads to two conclusions: (1) stories can, in fact, be enduring (after all, why else would parents get so worked up about schools using The Lorax as a teaching tool?); (2) prolific platforms such as Disney can be tremendously influential given its ability to penetrate through intermediaries and reach children directly through the computer, television, or movie screen, circumventing the classroom. The Disney theme parks are particularly important since they go further than just digital media: at Disney theme parks kids have an opportunity to experience an alternate reality up close. What if Disney produced a kid-friendly distopian story and then had kids come to its theme parks to experience what a post-climate change world would look like?
 Foss, A. (2014). “An Investigation into the Impact of Children’s Literature Through a Review of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.” Earth Common Journal, 4(1). Retrieved from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=956
pperonto – I agree that it is refreshing to see Chipotle staying true to its values despite being a public company facing tremendous shareholder pressure. On the topic of what else can be done, I wonder if Chipotle, as the 15th largest restaurant in the US, could do more to raise consumer awareness of its impending guacamole cliff through in-store publicity campaigns or even by raising the price on its guac and allocating a greater portion of the guac revenue proceeds toward supporting farmers. While such a move is likely to face immense customer backlash, I do believe that Chipotle is one of the best positioned companies to pursue such a campaign since it is only second to Taco Bell as a high-volume avocado user (unless McDonald’s plans to venture into this territory). While such a publicity effort might be not actually be feasible, I do bring it up as food for thought because I am fearful that a lack of consumer education will exacerbate the issue long-term by shielding customers at the expense of punishing farmers. Without visibility to the gravity of the issue, I doubt consumers would fully appreciate just how dire the situation could become. Perhaps we are not yet at the cliff, but the cliff is clearly just around the corner.
Gabo – to your point about the need for “real Statesmen and Stateswomen, not mere politicians and or demagogues, capable of focusing the entire population’s efforts on a common and ambitious agenda”, I believe we also need to reevaluate the language we use to describe pro-environmental policies and initiatives.
The Liberal Party of Canada lost the 2008 federal election at least party due to their “green shift” policy, which the opposing Conservative Party immediately described as a “tax trick.”
British journalist Leo Hickman hits the nail on the head with the following assertion in his 2009 Guardian article: “No matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise, the Greens seem destined to remain on the fringes so long as they are perceived by the electorate to be a one-issue political force. (The clue’s in the name.)”
My view is that we are stuck making sweeping claims – rather than engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions – on the topic of climate change policy so long as we confine ourselves to believing that “green” is at odds with growth, and synonymous with taxes.
To add on to Anja_A’s note regarding the possibility of unaffordable insurance policies, I can foresee three potential future scenarios (of many):
Scenario 1 (optimistic): Insurance costs rise in high-risk areas –> residents of high-risk areas move to lower-risk areas –> economies of high-risk areas decline –> governments are forced to invest in greater risk mitigation mechanisms to curb the effects of climate change
Scenario 2 (base case): Insurance costs rise in high-risk areas –> residents of high-risk areas move to lower-risk areas –> economies of high-risk areas decline –> governments redirect funds towards higher population density areas and neglect high-risk areas due to population decline
Scenario 3 (pessimistic) Insurance costs rise in high-risk areas –> residents of high-risk areas stay and opt to not purchase insurance policies –> massive damages and human casualties ensue
Given the lack of political on the issue of climate change I suspect scenarios #2 and #3 are more likely. What can we do as a society to light a fire under the feet of our political leaders to make scenario #1 more likely to occur?
Thank you for the thought-provoking analysis, Doug.
While the term “refugee” is conveniently used to described displaced persons, according to Marine Franck, Climate Change Officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there is a legal “protection gap” for persons displaced due to environmental reasons. This lack of legal protection is due to the fact that the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees only covers individuals who for are displaced for “reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” This legal oversight is concerning because it effectively allows countries to turn a blind eye to those in need – until the problem can no longer be ignored.
While it is difficult to not be pessimistic, I do believe there is still hope since the countries directly neighboring those that are most likely to be impacted by climate change – namely the US, China, and Europe – will feel the aftershocks most acutely, with refugees potentially flooding their doorsteps in the millions. Will the political turmoil that Europe has thus far experienced with the influx of Syrian refugees prompt developed countries to be more proactive with their policies, if nothing else to avoid the turmoil that has engulfed the German political system? Could the “canary in the coal mine” that is the Syrian refugee crisis inject within our political leaders a new urgency to take more proactive measures against climate change?