Great article, Laura! I am also a pianist who has both a grand piano and a Yamaha electric piano. I had to switch to the Yamaha electric piano when I moved out of my parents’ home when I started college and into apartments / dorms for the last 10 years. After graduating from college, I tried to take piano lessons using my Yamaha electric piano, but it simply did not work out well. While there has certainly been improvements to the Yamaha pianos, the depth and complexity of an acoustic instrument just cannot be 100% duplicated. Real pianos are very complex and fragile instruments, requiring tuning even when moved across a concert hall. Moreover, even the humidity can change the sound and in my experience, the mechanics of very soft sounds such as staccato on ppp are not completely the same. While that may bode well for beginners or those who cannot live in a large enough space for a grand piano, I think for concert pianists or competitive players, there will always be a niche market for handcrafted goods like Steinways. If I were Steinway, I would therefore just dominate that niche (along with others such as Bosendorfer or Petrof) and not try to move into the lower end electronic market, which may even dilute the brand value.
BMC, fascinating article! I think while some may be skeptical on the cost/benefit analysis of such a digital and capital intensive apparatus as you have described, I do think there is an area that has high potential to use a digital farm. The International Space Station has been growing crops and testing agriculture for some time now. And just last year, humans ate a non-Earth grown vegetable for the first time:
As NASA has laid out as well as other entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, there will likely be a mission to Mars at some point in our lifetime. But given the high cost (up to $10,000 per pound) and long duration of the journey, humans will not be able to sustain themselves without an ability to grow crops. Having a high throughput feedback loop as the digital farm and open source sharing you stated will be crucial to collective learning and success in farming in space. I think this provides a very important first step toward realizing that dream.
thenrich, great article on the WSJ. As an avid reader of the WSJ, I’m very glad that there is still quality journalism out there even in an age where speed has become a substitute for popularity rather than content. WSJ articles tend to be well researched, in-depth, and insightful. One other thing within the digital world that WSJ is developing is a VR driven page. It is currently available on their mobile app, and I find it pretty compelling. The VR page has videos of places such as an Indian carpet factory, and I can understand the area better than simply reading the article. I can also see in the future more “Charlie Rose” type videos where I could be in the room with CEOs as the interview is occurring.
Amanda, it is so exciting to see drone technologies used for such high impact, high need areas. I think drones are a great way to monitor large swaths of land in a relatively cheap manner. Furthermore, companies such as FLIR are developing more sophisticated thermal imaging technologies to search for unwanted intruders in protected environments. What’s next though is to find a way to enforce the situation. I am afraid given how large these areas are that even if a drone could find poachers, rangers would not be able to respond in a timely manner. Perhaps having camera capture technology or even green lasers that confuse / stun poachers in a non-lethal manner mounted on the drones would help.
Nichols, this is a very exciting concept and I think it is doing a lot of good to the unbanked populations of the world. I did some research in Mongolia many years ago, and it was incredible to see the pace of change there. Nomadic herders did not go from the desktop, to laptop, to phone like we do. Instead, just like those who use M-Pesa, these people went directly to smartphones. I think for a lot of these populations, it will be hard to drive a credit score, given lack of history and infrastructure. But there are actually companies out there that will find a credit score based on your smartphone usage behavior. For example, how willing phone users are to draining their battery to the last percentage is an indication of their tolerance of risk. I think that is an exciting opportunity for M-Pesa and could certainly drive larger barriers to entry.
MayC – a very well written article on a topic that is controversial. Many people who identify themselves as eco-friendly are also fervent dissenters of GMOs. I understand CMH’s response on unintentional impacts on the ecology by introducing genetically modified animals, but I think if done in a controlled environment, it is a very practical solution to a growing global middle class. For example, in my hometown in LA, if you drive a few hours east into the desert, there are large tanks that serve to grow salmon. These fish are cut off from the environment and pose no risk to more “wild” waters. On a similar note, companies like Monsanto get a lot of bad publicity from the media. But GMO corn has been a large driver of increasing protein consumption worldwide. This is because like fish, eating animals require more vegetable feed than the weight of the animal itself. 2.5 lbs of corn produce 1 lb of chicken. 5 lbs of corn produce 1 lb of pork. 10 lbs of corn produce 1 lb of beef! As the developing world continues to increase purchasing power (a good thing!), we need to weigh the practical demands of consumers with potential ecological effects.
Grace – great work on this post. I never knew about the behind-the-scenes situation on cashmere and its ecological effects. I agree with Erica that changing the perception really starts at the customer. I am reminded of the shark fin crisis many Asian countries faced a few years ago, when celebrities like Jackie Chan and politicians came together to ban shark fin in restaurants. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in many Asian countries, in particular the Greater China region. But the ecological effects are devastating, not to mention unethical – fishermen kill the entire shark just to take the fins off. But despite grassroots uproar, it took high-profile individuals to embrace the situation to change it. And in regions where laws were not passed, celebrities helped make ordering this delicacy more of a taboo. We should encourage the same effort on the cashmere crisis. By doing so, hopefully we could educate consumers and the public to look at the entire system, rather than what comes off the rack.
In the recent election cycle, many candidates (including those in the primaries) cited the benefits of Nordic countries and how Americans should look into the government programs they have and mimic them. I appreciate how the author has shined a light on why these Nordic countries, especially Norway, is able to support these programs (on top of having low population density) and I criticize politicians who think that success in another country could be automatically applied in ours. I agree that Norway is able to fund its generous benefits and promote many of the tax credits on eco-friendly matters due to a much less eco-friendly piggy-bank, StatOil. But I disagree with the author that Norway’s future should be to push StatOil to innovate. If Norway truly cares about climate change, then it should realize that no matter how clean they could make the oil extraction and refining process, this finite resource will be burned. I would instead challenge the Norwegian government to implement sustainability goals by becoming more self-sustainable and curtailing exports of oil, keeping it in the ground, even at the cost cutting funding of its current government programs.
My friend works at SAP in their new offices on the West Side, which is a Hudson Yards property. I just visited him and his offices yesterday and I completely concur with the author. This project is an efficient usage of space with intelligently crafted interior and exterior designs that maximize eco-friendliness. For example, all floors on SAP’s offices have automatic LED lighting that saves energy. And the windows are all slanted (in an “armor” like fashion) that blocks out sunlight, thereby saving on cooling costs. That being said, I agree with the author that there needs to be holistic accountability, which LEED seems to be unable to achieve. Perhaps one thing to do is for governments to create a “carbon credit” version on buildings to enforce both the design and ongoing maintenance of all properties. This may encourage older buildings to consider retrofitting and push them toward the right direction.
As I am writing this post, I am currently riding on the Acela (“fast speed” rail) from NYC to Boston. Unfortunately, the time I shave off this route versus the NorthEast Regional Rail is only about 40 minutes of a 4.5 hour journey. I agree with PThatai’s point on the need for better rail infrastructure. The reason why fast speed trains cannot help increase speeds is the sharp turns found in current rail infrastructure. Because the existing rail network was driven at slower speeds, trains were able to travel on sharper curves and route around existing private property. Therefore, the upgrade to faster rail must coincide with a private and public effort to uproot existing properties for a straighter path. The other way this could potentially be done is through Elon Musk’s idea of the hyperloop. Such a vehicle would not require as high of a maintenance capex (in theory) found in traditional rail. Powered by electricity in a close to vacuum compact tunnel, the hyperloop could be more space saving and energy efficient, leading to a greener future.