While Bitcoin may seem like a clear solution to the problem of expensive money transfers, I believe there is far too much risk in using this system. While it is true that the world’s major economies use the fiat system, where the value of money is not tied to a physical asset, I would argue that there is much behind the value of those currencies. Currencies fluctuate based on the ability of a nation to raise taxes and pay back its debt, whereas bitcoin has no underlying asset whatsoever to derive its value. I fundamentally question why bitcoin needs to fluctuate in value at all. If bitcoin is purely used to circumvent the traditional financial system, avoid regulation and lower transaction costs, why allow the value to fluctuate at all? Or, why allow individuals to own bitcoin? A central system could “own” the bitcoin and instantaneously allow for a transaction once two users agree to a transaction at a specified price. Allowing bitcoin to fluctuate in value only creates risk for its users and creates the illusion of owning an asset.
Bitcoin has also shown itself to be vulnerable to theft. In one major incident in 2014, an exchange (similar to BItso) was hacked, resulting in the theft of $450 million of bitcoin. With little government oversight or accountability, bitcoin simply does not offer a better alternative to using traditional currencies.
Gyjiang – interesting thoughts about opportunities for Athenahealth going forward. I think Athenahealth has shown itself to be a leader purely by acknowledging that the current system is terribly broken and needs help at every level. For small offices, I can imagine that it is difficult and time consuming to take care of scheduling, paperwork and billing, particularly when there are many regulations that make doctors and their teams very cautious about new technology or making any adjustments to their current system. A you mentioned, a strength for Athenahealth is its commitment to “letting doctors be doctors.” I was surprised to hear that they receive and digitize their clients faxes. This seems like a simple task, but it removes a source of administrative complexity that could lead to lower quality patient care.
I would love to see if Athenahealth could capitalize on the idea you mentioned at the end of your post. With the tremendous amount of data they collect, I agree that Athenahealth could help identify high-risk patients and take automatic steps to flag them to doctors. Preventative care for high-risk patients offers a great opportunity to lower overall healthcare costs while simultaneously extending life spans and quality of life. I question why they have not already moved into this space.
Great article on Goldman’s move into digital platforms, very informative! Goldman is ahead of other major banks and is taking the right approach to a changing banking environment. While I absolutely agree that this is a response to changing consumer preferences and competition from newer digitally focused fintech companies, I also believe Goldman is responding to increased government regulation. After the Great Recession in 2008/2009 and the increased regulation that have come along with it, big banks like Goldman, Citi and Bank of America have struggled to increase profitability through their traditional business models. These banks may initially have thought (and hoped) that these more stringent regulations would be short lived, but nearly 10 years after Lehman Brother’s went bankrupt, it appears these regulations are here to stay. To increase profits and stay relevant, Goldman and other must adapt their business models and find new revenue streams in areas that are less regulated and competitive. Considering the risks associated with their traditional business model, Goldman may see its investment in digital platforms as a small price to pay for a chance to survive for another 150 years.
The smart grid and active grid are tremendous opportunities to address our two major issues the U.S. faces 1) climate change, and 2) outdated infrastructure. While on paper, these ideas seem like clear wins for utilities and consumers, the massive investment and change required to integrate these into our current electric infrastructure is daunting. First there is the simple issue of internet connectivity. For consumers to use the smart or active grid, they need to an internet connection and wireless within their home. Internet connectivity and wireless networks are common in American homes, but for some, an internet connection would be an additional expense and complexity. Second, American’s may have to make compromises to their exiting lifestyle. Performing energy intensive tasks overnight or delaying other energy intensive tasks may be too high of a price for many to pay.
The author mentions three concerns and next steps 1) secure buy in from energy utility companies 2) Engage federal and local governments, and 3) Create a secure active grid. Of the three, my biggest concern is securing buy in from energy utility companies. They have invested trillions of dollars into the existing system and made steady, government approved profits on these investments. To ask them to invest in technologies that could eventually put them out of business or significantly lower their profits seems like a very large hurdle. Ultimately, it may up to the average citizen to force the system to change.
This is a very interesting look at a difficult global problem. Building out a traditional electricity grid at $2,300 per household is a surprisingly high number and even then, I wonder if that figure includes electricity generation or only the distribution network itself. This issue is somewhat of a “check & egg” problem. Communities living in “energy poverty” would likely be able to increase their incomes if they had access to reliable electricity, but instead, they are stuck in a cycle where they cannot earn enough to build out their own electricity network (or have the government help them do it).
Off Grid Electric’s business model here is very impressive. To a degree, the Company knows that these households have been spending some amount of money on kerosene purely to survive. This in a sense acts like a proxy credit profile. By offering the same, if not more benefits to household’s, Off Grid Electric creates a win-win situation for communities by lowering their electricity costs and providing a clean source of energy. By using mobile payments, the company minimizes processing costs, helps to create a credit profile for households, and allows consumers to hopefully have a more reliable source of energy that will allow them to earn more money. With these benefits, hopefully communities that are able to take advantage of this program can begin to raise themselves out of the energy-poverty cycle. One question I have is whether or not the micro-solar unit has storage capacity that would allow households to have lighting after the sun goes down.
After reading the above post on how (and why) airlines will need to reduce their carbon emissions, I am left with more questions than answers. I acknowledge that encouraging all industries to reduce their carbon emissions is important to achieving meaningful reductions in emissions, but I wonder if arbitrarily sticking to 2020 emissions levels makes sense. For example, are airlines less fuel efficient from an emissions/person cost? I have to imagine that a trip from Boston to LA results in higher emissions should that person drive than if they were to take a plane. Governments should take a holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions and not punish industries that are already more efficient. Instead, emissions that contribute to global warming should be priced appropriately via a carbon tax or similar methodology. This will allow the free market to determine which companies and technologies are best at reducing emissions and will result in a better overall outcome for everyone.
The problem of how the world will feed its growing population is extremely important and concerning. I was particularly struck by the fact that food demand is expected to increase by 59% – 98% through 2050. The implications of not meeting this demand are difficult to fully comprehend. As climate change continues to alter global weather patterns in unpredictable ways, parts of the world will likely experience famines, which could lead to violent conflict and/or large numbers of refugees. Recent events have unfortunately shown that the world is not equipped to deal with regional conflicts or mass refugee situations and the outlook only gets worse as we approach 2050. The post above points to new types of fertilizer to help meet global food demand, but I wonder if a more radical approach is needed. Genetic engineering, urban farming and cultural changes must all be on the table to ensure that global food production can keep up with demand.
This is a great example of how renewable energy can be a win-win for the environment and for the economy. Advanced economies are generally tied to the “old” world of infrastructure reliant on the consumption of fossil fuels. This makes it difficult for companies to transition away from traditional assets that rely on fossil fuels as the economic cost of abandoning these assets is fairly large. For example, it has been politically difficult for states that rely on fossil fuels (think coal in West Virginia) to embrace renewable energy as so much of these state’s revenue is tied to fossil fuels. In developing regions like sub-saharan Africa as mentioned above, skipping over carbon reliant infrastructure can create unique opportunities that will allow these countries to develop economically while minimizing their carbon footprint. Investments like the one mentioned above should be highlighted and encouraged.
This post brings up a very interesting point about how behavior plays into our environmental impact. In creating a beautiful lawn, many Americans may not understand that there are serious local and regional environmental consequences. As mentioned in the post, excessive water consumption is a major source of carbon emissions. Often times, because the emissions are created upstream from the end user (the homeowner in this case), the link between use and a carbon footprint is not made. In Ron Finley’s case, he may be making a more significant impact to the environment than he recognized. For example, instead of driving 45 minutes to find fruit that is free of pesticides, he need only head out to his local garden. Extrapolating these savings across hundreds and thousands of individuals and communities adds up to a sizable reduction in carbon emissions and saves people money. In this case, everyone wins.
The above examination of Cummins’ business model brings up a very important and often overlooked point on the difference between climate change and pollution. When we think about climate, we generally focus on the impact that carbon dioxide and methane emissions will have on global temperatures and weather patterns, but we forget that the combustion of fossil fuels has other negative implications, including air pollution. Companies like Cummins must deal with both sides of this issue and may find it difficult to adapt. I agree with the author’s conclusion that companies like Cummins may ultimately find themselves in the position of not longer being relevant. Utilities that own coal fired power plants know this challenge intimately as they have been forced to lower their NOx emissions over the past few decades while simultaneously reducing their carbon emissions.