Great post showing how technology can help bringing back quality in our fast food restaurants!
I particularly like the seasonality aspect of the food offering: this could be a first step to creating a more sustainable food industry, where consumers accept the idea that they cannot have all types of food all year round.
I would be curious to learn more about how the company managed to make its operations flexible enough to accommodate a menu that is in constant development, as they state on their website. Usually fast foods rely heavily on standardization in order to cut costs: for instance, the steps to create a Big Mac are codified in a scientific manner, and are applied exactly in the same way across the entire world. In the case of Clover, however, the use of seasonal ingredients might introduce substantial complexity in its operations, requiring specific and frequent training. This tension between seasonality and local sourcing on one hand, and standardization on the other hand, will become even more critical as the company expands beyond its current 11 restaurants.
That said, I love the model and I really hope that their approach will set a new gold standard in the industry!
Thank you for this excellent on piece on the impact of digital technologies on the Syrian refugee crisis. Indeed technology is dramatically changing the balance of power between smugglers and refugees, who now have unprecedented access to information and the ability to communicate with families and friends.
Another interesting impact of technology is on the humanitarian sector, which is now heavily leveraging technology to enhance its impact across Europe.
Refugee.info, for instance, is an excellent platform for refugees to find all information regarding border crossing, asylum options and emergency contacts.
Trace the face is an initiative by the Red Cross to help migrants find relatives and friends that they have lost during the journey .
Many efforts are also made at a city level: Dresden, for instance, has launched a dedicated app, Welcome to Dresden, to help incoming refugees find healthcare, register with the authorities and integrate .
Amid all this sufferance and political inaction, it is heartening to see that people are still showing compassion and solidarity, and that technology is helping them to be more effective at it.
Very interesting article on the future of Ford, but also applicable to many other car manufacturers across the world. Ultimately, the success of these companies will be determined by how they can move from being car manufacturers to providers of transportation solutions, i.e. how they can redefine their market to remain relevant in a changing world.
Another big stakeholder to be impacted by the change is public transport. As OEM, as well as companies like Uber, disrupt the transport industry, the role played by public transport will change. Its model, usually requiring heavy infrastructure and overall quite inefficient (buses and trains are either empty or completely full), might actually benefit from these technological advances, such as Uber-like algorithms to better forecast demand. At the same time, however, the shift of passengers to more convenient forms of transportation might decrease overall demand for public transport, making it costlier to local administrations who might in turn start cutting some services . This is surely a big threat to public transport agencies, but a huge opportunity for the new providers of transport solutions, including OEM like Ford. Once again, history confirms the old adage “mors tua, vita mea”…
Excellent post and choice of topic: improving the way we manage our waste (and we recycle it) will definitely be a critical element of our quest for sustainability in the near future.
I really like your suggestion to push the concept of smart bin further. Identifying how to recycle different materials, in particular, seems to be a big issue: about 20% of recycled material is actually contaminated, that is, it contains non-recyclable material .
A French startup, Uzer , has started to tackle the issue by inventing a bin that identify the most suitable recycling bin for each item. The user simply needs to scan the item’s barcode on the bin’s barcode reader; the bin then leverages a comprehensive online database to retrieve information about the packaging material used for that particular item, and suggests to the user the most suitable recycling bin. What is more, a purpose-built app allows the user to run some useful statistics about his/her consumption and recycling habit to help reduce his/her environmental footprint. This is genius!
Yet, however smart a bin can be, nothing will be more effective than changing the people’s consumption habits. With waste generation expected to treble by 2100 , we simply cannot continue with the current practices based on disposable packaging and fast changing trends. An alternative model is possible, and might just require us to look to our past: our grandparents, for instance, would have considered completely normal to bring their own containers to a store, and some stores are starting to go packaging-free again . Smart solutions don’t always need to be high-tech!
Excellent post, thank you for sharing. This is an excellent example of automation, where algorithms can now do many of the tasks previously performed by a tax accountant. It would be interesting to know what will be happen to the profession.
On the long term, as demand drops, there will probably be less tax professionals on the market. They might also start using software like Turbotax themselves, in order to improve their own efficiency and serve more clients, while dropping their prices to remain competitive. I actually wonder if today Turbotax markets itself to professionals in addition to private customers.
At the same time, it is likely that the nature of their job will change, and their role will move from being mere accountants to advisors, hence focusing on helping people improve their tax situation. Differences might not be huge for many people, but for some in special situations the delta might be worth the higher fees.
Yet, even this might not be enough to protect the profession from automation: Artificial Intelligence might soon be capable of replacing a good part of professional service providers, including tax advisory . Simultaneously, tax authorities are also considering using AI to identify tax evasion . Will this lead us to a battle between machines, where each side will try to outsmart the other?
Mr. Franklin was certainly correct on death. Taxes, on the other hand, seem as uncertain as ever.
Thank you Nick for your interesting post on Tesla’s challenges.
Although I agree with you that Mr. Musk is taking some big risks, he has also proven that he is capable of turning old paradigms up-side down, and achieve things that others would have considered impossible.
Take batteries for instance: as the single biggest cost item in manufacturing an electric car, their costs and limited availability was seriously hampering the development of the entire electric car market. What did Mr. Musk do? He completely turned around the situation, by building the single biggest, most advanced battery factory in the world, which alone is expected to bring costs of battery down to $100 per kilowatt-hour from an industry average of $350 . In terms of capacity, the factory will produce in 2020 the equivalent of all battery manufacturers’ capacity in 2013. As reported in Leonardo Di Caprio’s new movie “Before the Flood”, 100 of these factories could transition the entire world to sustainable energy .
Even more strikingly, Mr. Musk has removed all protection to his patents , making them fully open source. This apparently counterproductive move is once again a clear strategy to turn around the table in the car industry: instead of preventing competition, he encourages it, in an attempt to transition the entire industry to electric-powered vehicles. This, he believes, would no longer make his company a niche player, but rather the first mover and market leader in a new, massive industry.
Mr. Musk has proven that old industry paradigms do not apply to him and has convinced investors that nothing is impossible for him. He might really be invincible, or maybe just lucky. Whatever the truth is, he is changing the world, for the better.
Thank you for your excellent post and for bringing up such an important topic!
Reducing or finding alternatives to our meat consumption is probably one of the most effective actions we can take in our everyday life not only to fight climate change, but also to ensure that humans follow a sustainable development in the years to come.
Meat is an extremely inefficient source of calories: it accounts for 17% of global calorific intake, but uses twice that amount of land, water and . As consumption in emerging countries increases, driven by changing eating patterns and raising disposable income, the environmental cost of this industry will become even more evident.
A second point is the health hazard represented by such a huge animal population: given the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in which animals are held, diseases can quickly develop and spread to humans. Numerous events over the last few years, such as the mad cow and the avian flu, are clear examples of how dangerous this aspect can be.
Finally, the ethical aspect should not be underestimated: do we really want to live in a society that mechanically slaughters millions of animals on a daily basis, when we would have the technology and the means to change our eating habits?
Let us hope that clean meat reaches our tables fast!
Thank you for your post: very educational and original!
I need to say that I am a hard-core supporter of fake trees, but my struggle is more ethical than environmental: I cannot accept the idea that, while I celebrate the birth of Jesus, a tree is slowly dying in my living room. That said, I understand the environmental value of purchasing a real tree over a plastic one!
There is one thing that would probably help the cause of real trees: consistently recycling them after the holiday season. Ikea has been doing this for ten years in a few European countries, including Italy: they offer a discount voucher to anyone buying a Christmas tree in one of their stores and bringing it back after the holidays . The tree thus recovered are turned into compost that is used for forest restoration programs across Italy. The initiative has been successful, with return ratios of ~60% in some cities .
This example is particularly meaningful as it shows that, with the right incentives, people can be encouraged to do much more for the environment than we commonly think. How about leveraging this learning further to make our civilization greener?
Thank you for your excellent article on the political ramifications of pushing a renewable energy agenda in Spain.
This is indeed one of the core issues for Democracy: the difficulty and the unwillingness for politicians to propose ambitious, long-term programs to an electorate that is essentially more interested in short electoral cycles of 4-5 years. This is why the West needs real Statesmen and Stateswomen, not mere politicians and or demagogues, capable of focusing the entire population’s efforts on a common and ambitious agenda. Just as JFK was able to catalyze the efforts of an entire nation just to bring two men on the Moon, we need today to concentrate all of our efforts on the ambitious goal of becoming completely independent from fossil fuels.
The advantages for our societies are numerous, and on balance, much higher compared to today’s fossil fuel economy. Lower reliance on imports, for instance, can lead to better wealth distribution in our countries, while health will improve, increasing the quality of life of our citizens and lowering our medical bill. Even more importantly, the R&D efforts in the renewable energy industry can be a real boon for the West, allowing it to gain a real edge in a technology that will eventually spread to the rest of the world, as the real cost of fossil fuel becomes evident to developing and developed nations alike.
Just as the Apollo program sparked a technology leap in the US in 70’ and 80’s – just think of Intel, GoreTex and telecom satellites  – renewables have the potential to reignite our slowing economy, increasing productivity and employment and ensuring that democracy remains the most attractive political system in the world.
This, however, requires investment and bold political moves, such as banning fossil fuels altogether and financing important scientific programs: how many politicians are ready to do so today?
Hello Doug, thank you for this well-written article on such a relevant topic.
Climate change is indeed bound to become one of the main drivers of political instability in the near future, to the point that the Department of Homeland Security now considers it a major homeland security risk for the US . As temperature rises and weather patterns become more extreme, millions of people will be forced out of their homes, and this displacement will exert enormous pressure not only on neighboring populations, but on the entire geopolitical landscape.
As an example, one can look at the effects that the “Little Ice Age”, an unusually cold period between the 14th and 19th century, had on Europe: a sharp reduction in agriculture yields led to famines, wars and eventually, mass migration out of the old continent . This displacement of millions of people, in turn, exerted unprecedented pressure on other populations across the world, followed by wars and, in some cases, the quasi-elimination of entire civilizations. When one considers that this happened in response of a temperature change of only -0.6°C , it is easy to see how a potential increase of 2-3°, as anticipated by some climate change scenarios, could have devastating effects on our world.
It is also clear that our societies are absolutely not ready to handle such large-scale phenomena. To have a remote idea of what this would mean in today’s world, just look at the refugee crisis in Europe: a movement of a few millions people into a wealthy continent of 500m is already bringing many societies to the verge of social unrest, violence and the collapse of political structures such as the EU. When one multiplies this effect by 100, or 500 times, it is easy to see what the potential consequences on society would be.