Monthly Archives: October 2015

What’s Next in Education?

It’s no secret that technology and innovation have drastically revolutionized the education model that we know today. Both K-12 and higher education have been disrupted with new interactive boards in the classroom and computers and tablets in the hands of most students and teachers. The learning experience for students now would be unrecognizable to students decades ago. Moving from pen and paper, many students and teachers read textbooks on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices. Similarly, teachers are able to monitor students’ progress in various subjects through the technology. There is no question education has already been affected, but the question is “What’s next?” An article was written called “5 Ways Technology is Disrupting Education.” Technology has already become interactive and personalized to the students wants and needs. If a student is struggling with a particular subject, the teacher can identify the area and work with the student to ensure that they succeed and better understand the material. Additionally, the new impact of this disruption encourages more collaboration among students and teachers.

An interesting point that was also addressed in the article was how students are more social and so is their learning. YouTube and other platforms are where most people gain most of their news or are able to find videos to learn a variety of things. Ted-Ed and Khan Academy are some of the many resources that are available to students to gain a better understanding of topics that they are learning in class or for recreational purposes. Because access to technology is so easy, students can learn where ever they want, when ever they want. An absence does not cause the student to be behind because they will still be connected to the lesson and associated homework.

With technology like this at the tip of their fingers, the learning is continuous and easy to access. IBM’s new effort, Watson, allows students to ask questions and receive information tailored to their needs. This is a new way for students to be connected with what they need.

Moving forward, the question is not only what is next in education, but how will we adapt and capitalize on this new way of learning?

Cord Cutting, the Demise of the Cable Industry

As we have been discussing throughout the blog, the world we live in is being rapidly disrupted, and the TV and cable industry is not immune to this as people are “cutting the cord” and moving away from cable.  There have long been alternatives to cable, but now they are finally becoming practical and affordable to the general public as people are tiring of being bullied by cable companies by being charged obscene prices for, most of the time, bad service.  This has led to the cord cutting generation canceling their cable subscriptions and moving to cheaper alternatives to watch their favorite shows.

Services like Chromecast used to be considered a luxury, but now that they had added more selections and become more affordable, these services are becoming more and more popular.  Adding Chromecast to your home for $35 along with a few other complimentary services that fit your viewing pleasures can still save consumers hundreds of dollars each year, as the average cable bill comes in around $65 per month.

On top of Chromecast, Netflix, and Hulu, Apple TV is in the midst of launching a “cable-killing app.”  Apple is currently negotiating with CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and each of their local affiliated networks to get the rights to each of their live TV streams.  Subscribers to Apple TV will also be able to receive their favorite channels, including ESPN, Discovery, and Disney, just to name a few.  Apple will also have HBO available, allowing them to cover almost every possible platform consumers currently pay the cable companies for.  This is the first time that a “cord free” service will be able to offer live sports, separating Apple TV from the rest of the industry and putting the cable industry in serious jeopardy.  Apple is currently in discussions with the NFL along with Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, to give Apple the rights to broadcast live games on their app.  Currently, Apple TV has the rights to offer NFL Game Pass to subscribers which offers live out-of-market preseason games, as well as all regular season games available the next day, on demand.  If Apple can continue negotiations and get the rights to broadcast live NFL games, similar to Yahoo’s free international broadcast of the Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game in London this past weekend, the cable industry will struggle to survive that blow, as Apple TV subscriptions again fall well under the $65 per month consumers pay for cable.  However, until this happens, cable companies still have a huge advantage when it comes to the sports fan because there is not a cord free service that currently offers every option of live sports that viewers can get through cable.

With 12.3 million households, or 11% of television watchers are using cord free broadcasting, investors are beginning to have shaky confidence in the media industry.  Analysts at Goldman Sachs still believe that currently, cable tv is a sound investment, but is becoming much riskier with the advancement of cord cutting and the emergence of the plethora of alternatives consumers can switch to.  These alternatives can be combined to form affordable, inclusive television packages that can cater to each type of viewer and are still cheaper than cable and can be seen in the video below.


With all of theses alternatives, cable companies need to learn from past disruption, like Blockbuster, to avoid acting once it is too late and all of their customers are gone.  Cable companies need to act quickly to lower their profit margins, so prices can be lowered and services can be improved.  By lowering prices and upgrading their services to provide better quality as well as features similar to Netflix and HBO, the cable companies will be able to keep all of their current customers and avoid the collapse so many other industries and companies have seen because of disruption.

Legal Issues of the 3D printing of Organs

The main legal issues that I focused on are over the ownership of the artificially created organs as well as the implications that 3D printing has on the black market sale of organs. The main conclusions that I found were that there is a possibility that the data file of a person’s organ could have split ownership between the subject is came from and the doctors/scientists that transformed it into a data file. The other conclusion that I found pertained to the possible effect that it would have on the black market for organs. The unlimited replication potential will help cause the supply to increase of organs, which will lower the incentive for people to head to the black market in the first place to get an organ. Currently, people wait on donation lists- but some people decided that the black market sale and transplant is more worth their time. The increased supply of organs would alleviate some of demand on the black market because people will be less desperate, but there still remains an issue of getting the organ transplanted by a professional doctor.


How Will Tissue Engineering Affect Our Future?

In my previous vlog post I discussed what exactly tissue engineering was and to recap it is the recreation of organs through cultured tissue. This new technology in the health care industry is a huge advancement and will eventually save millions of people’s lives. This post is going to discuss an overview of the social implications of tissue engineering.
Let’s say that we eventually bring tissue engineering into a part of everyday medical practices, this will then result in an aging society. But is a society that could potentially “live forever” harming the natural flow of the Earth? Or are the practices of tissue engineering going to become extremely expensive which would result in only a small percent of people receiving the gift of endless life. Now think of it one of your parents suffers a major heart attack and are put on life support until they are next in line for a heart transplant. Organ transplants have long lists of names that make the waiting process seem to take forever. You wait and wait for a call saying that someone died and they are organ donors with no trauma to their heart. With tissue engineering this scenario becomes extinct because now doctors can recreate organs with our own tissue cells in a Petri-dish and then use these organs to replace our existing ones. No more waiting for an organ transplant like I stated in my previous vlog.
In the article Legal, Ethical Limits to Bioengineering Debated that was posted in the Harvard News Law school dean Kagan states that “biotechnology raises hopes for dramatic improvements but, on the other hand biotechnology raises fears of a Brave New World.” What would life be like in this “new world?” One question that comes up is if biotechnology is going to be used only to cure people that are suffering from illness or to actually “enhance people.” She states that “there is a fine line between the two.” As of now tissue engineering’s goal is to eliminate the need for a random organ donors and instead to be able to create organs from that persons own tissue. But what if one day people start to use tissue engineering for their own personal benefit for example how plastic surgery is used today than society is going to in for a wild ride. These new enhancements will allow people to ultimately live forever, and with forever creates the first of many social implications.

What type of liability is IBM Watson?

Our lives are run by algorithms. Algorithms that are combined together can make a very powerful machine, even a machine that can think for itself. IBM has invented a product known as Watson, a supercomputer that understands both unstructured data and sophisticated data which is used to formulate solutions unique to the individual that is using it. Although Watson has a variety of uses within different sectors such as education and law, for our purposes we will be discussing Watson in a medical sense. Currently Watson is being used by fourteen various hospitals and clinics throughout the country, pairing deathly ill patients with experimental treatment clinics. The fourteen hospitals are hyperlinked here. Read the hyperlinked article if interested in learning more about how each medical center utilizes the cloud based computing system IBM Watson has become a master in.

In the last video we discussed three very different pieces of disruptive technologies within the healthcare-sciences industry. We discussed IBM Watson, Metabolomx, and Wize Mirror. The video above discusses IBM Watson rather than the other two, due to Watson being a sophisticated API (application programming interface) giving Watson the ability to learn new things and develop a different strategies in helping to treat severely ill people.

Watson operates on a give and take system meaning people input their information into it and Watson stores information from news articles, tweets, medical journals, experimental treatments, patient logs, etc. to provide the best possible solution based on an individual need. The video discusses 4 different types of liability: strict liability, negligence, vicarious liability, and joint and several liabilities. The video poses the question on who should be held responsible when a piece of technology makes an error? Is it the programmer who coded the software to make the device perform a specific action that should be held responsible? When technology malfunctions, is the operator or owner held responsible if the technology causes harm to society?

NOTE: The video above shows a clip from IBM’s original work on YouTube called “How It Works, IBM Watson Health.” The link to the IBM’s video is here. The video above only covers about a minute of IBM’s original video, therefore I highly encourage everyone to watch IBM’s 5 minute video.

According to the legal dictionary, strict liability is “the legal responsibility for damages even if the person found strictly liable was not at fault or negligent.” In other words, even if a situation arises where it is not your fault, your employer can be held strictly responsible for the liabilities that arise from the situation. Previously in the law there have been employers who are strictly liable for what their employees do. In that regard is Watson considered an employee of IBM? Or is it considered a piece of technology that is developed by IBM employees and then distributed to the public? Who is responsible when Watson makes a mistake?

With defectively manufactured products the issue of negligence arises. Cornell University Law School cites negligence as “the failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstance.” In other words, there is a missing action that someone failed to complete which caused harm to another party. In Watson’s case, what if the system failed to provide a proper recommendation to a doctor treating a patient with a heart condition and that person was given the wrong medication. The wrong medication caused harm to the patient resulting in a lawsuit. Who is responsible? One could argue that the doctor and patient who logged the information into Watson, failed to include an important piece of information and therefore should be held responsible for what happened to the patient. However, one could argue differently by saying that since Watson was wrong in the recommendation and guaranteed the doctor a high success rate, Watson should be held responsible for damages caused to the patient.

Relating to negligence is vicarious liability in which one party is held accountable for the actions of another. Let’s take the same example from above. A patient has a heart condition and Watson provides the wrong recommendation to the doctor due to improperly logging in a patient’s medical history. In vicarious liability the doctor, the hospital or center the doctor practices medicine in, and IBM Watson can all be held responsible. Providing that Watson is considered an employee of IBM, there are three parties that may have caused harm in this case: IBM Watson (employee 1), IBM programmers (employee 2), and the doctor who utilized Watson to treat his/her patient. Who in this sense would be responsible? IBM Watson can be that one party that can be held accountable for the actions made by the doctor, after faulty recommendations were provided.

Separate from vicarious liability are joint and several liabilities. This type of liability is where “two or more parties are jointly responsible for an event or act that results in damages to another party.” In the event of our heart patient, would you argue that IBM Watson and the doctor is responsible for harm to the patient?

The issue of liabilities is an important one and the reason I bring it up is to not point fingers at one party or another, but to begin thinking about who is accountable when a mistake happens in the medical field involving a computer. Taken what has been said in the video and what is written above who do you think is responsible when our heart patient is prescribed the wrong medication? Is it the doctor, Watson who assisted the doctor, or IBM itself? You decide based on the 4 different types of liability discussed above.

The link to the Youtube video seen above is shown here:

The link to IBM’s 5 Minute Video on how IBM operates is here:

Finding the IP balance

The different groups in our Disruption Technology Law course have been looking at the transformation of various industries as a result of disruptive technologies. Although we have discussed some of the interconnectivity between industries, I would argue that the trade industry is inherently interconnected with every other industry being examined by our class. One area in which this is especially apparent is intellectual property (IP) rights under trade law. A countless number of industries are dependent on intellectual property. Patent law is crucial for industries in aerospace, automotive, computers, consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors. Industries in software, data processing, motion pictures, publishing, and recording are likewise reliant on copyright. So why do we care? These industries contribute to the overall US trade balance through royalties and licensing fees. But to take a more direct look on how this affects the US economy, Tufts conducted a study and found that the estimated cost for developing a new drug is $800 million, taking an average of 10-15 years to create. In turn, these drugs are then relatively easy to counterfeit abroad, resulting in huge losses for American pharmaceutical companies. In fact, between 10-30% of drugs in developing nations are now counterfeit. On another note, the motion picture industry lost $6.1 billion to piracy in 2005.

So why not just expand intellectual property laws to protect more American companies? Internationally, it’s not that simple. To understand why, we have to take a closer look at current US and international trade law. Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, is the principle US statute for identifying foreign trade barriers due to inadequate IP protection. By the 30th of April of each year, the Office of the US Trade Representative must identify countries that do not offer “adequate and effective protection of IP” or “fair and equitable market access to US persons that rely upon IP rights.” Those labeled “Priority Foreign Countries” with very egregious policies will go through an investigation and possibly be subject to sanctions by the United States. But this process is lengthy and not always soundproof in analyzing both the scope and level of infringement. It is also much more expansive than current international agreements on trade law and therefore elicits higher standards than some developing countries are able to meet.

The existing international protection for IP infringement is the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). TRIPS was created under the World Trade Organization during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. This agreement sets minimum standards for all members of the WTO, such as, copyright terms must extend at least 50 years after the death of the author. TRIPS was the first incorporation of IP rights into the multilateral trading system and requires both national treatment and most-favored nation treatment. Yet, it has been argued that these standards place too great a burden on developing nations. For this reason, certain nations (including post-Soviet nations) were given an extra four years to reform their intellectual property standards. The Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health also allowed for delayed implementation of patent system provisions for pharmaceutical products in least developed countries. Compulsory licensing is even permitted for some of these nations with waived domestic market provisions for certain diseases. This leniency is due to the fact that IP expansion can be an obstacle to growth for developing nations. Higher fees for licenses can stint innovation. It is also much more difficult for developing nations to properly implement such great reforms. On the other hand, higher standards might bring developing nations up to speed and make them more attractive to foreign trading partners.

One method of addressing this problem for developing nations has been through Free Trade Agreements. Bilateral, and some multilateral, FTAs have the ability to personalize IP standards to individual nations. With TRIPS as the minimum standards for IP protection, FTAs can then strengthen the regime even further. NAFTA is an example of an FTA with relatively stringent IP standards. On the other hand, FTAs between the United States and Colombia, Panama and Peru include much more relaxed IP requirements. A top concern in creating these three particular agreements was finding the balance between preserving owners’ IP rights while promoting access to life-saving medicines. Although copyright standards were heightened across the board, the US found a moral issue with preventing these countries’ access to life necessities and thus made exceptions for patent laws. But if standards remain relaxed, American pharmaceutical companies will continue to experience significant losses in profit. How do we move forward with intellectual property protection to better secure owners’ rights while catering to developing nations? Is there a way to successfully increase these countries’ standards through FTAs or on an entirely new platform?


For more information, see the following CRS report:

Apple Had a Great Year

On their fourth quarter earnings call yesterday afternoon, Apple showed that they are still dominant when it comes to technology and music in 2015. Apple has been a leader and innovator in music and technology for years by creating new products, perfecting others, and even joining new markets (streaming). This year, though, has been a record setting year for the company.

According to, revenue was reported at $51.5 billion and net profit was $11.1 billion. This fiscal year for Apple saw revenue growth by 28 percent to 234 billion. Annual net income increased by 35.1 percent to $53.4 billion. Although Apple is not the largest company in the world, the numbers show that they are a powerful entity and are only growing as time goes on. Fortune named the company number 1 on their “Top 10 Most Profitable Companies of the Fortune 50” list this past June.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also briefly talked about Apple Music during the call. He spoke about Apple Music and the number of subscribers using the service, now at 15 million individual and family accounts. In addition to this, there are 6.5 million paying customers. This is about a third of the number who pay for the market leader in streaming, Spotify.

One fact that was not surprising, but definitely worrisome, was that the iPhone accounted for 63% share of revenue. This is obviously a large portion of the company’s revenue. As previously mentioned, Apple does a great job at innovating and adapting to a changing environment. Just five months ago, Apple removed the iPod off their homepage menu bar, a product that sat on the bar for 13 years. iPod sales have been declining for years, and Apple adapted by removing the product from the homepage and replacing it with a Music button. How will Apple adapt to their iPhone taking 63% share?

What will Apple do going forward? How will they adapt? A classic line is, “Once you’re at the top, there is nowhere to go but down.” We’ll see what happens.


The Impact of Original Programming

With the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, consumers have been exposed to new, innovative programming from these providers. These original programs are created exclusively to air on that platform and be viewed by its subscribers. This breaks from the traditional model of shows airing on broadcast or cable television, and later being put on the streaming service after each season has aired. Programs like Orange is the New Black and Transparent have not only captured large audiences, but have also been nominated and award several awards traditionally reserved for traditional television programs. Just this past year, Orange is the New Black was nominated for three Golden Globes awards and for three Primetime Emmys. Uzo Aduba, a supporting actress in the series, won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Transparent, an Amazon Original, won two Golden Globes, five Primetime Emmys, and was nominated for an additional six Primetime Emmys. Between Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, the two took home a total of 46 nominations for Primetime Emmys. This demonstrates how original programming on streaming services are starting to contend with traditional television shows airing on broadcast and cable networks. Within just a few years of introducing original programming, streaming services have gained major traction with their shows.

Traditionally television networks and their programs have been guided by ratings of its shows. Nielsen data is used track the number of households watching a particular program, and this information is used in accessing not only how successful a show is, but how to price the advertising space in that program. Since there are only a limited number of primetime spots in each network’s lineup, there is high pressure to have high-rating shows in an effort to maximize advertising revenue. This has led to an extremely fragmented industry with new networks popping up in an effort to achieve a piece of the success. TV critics have begun to call this era the “Golden Age of Television” due to the amount of new, original programming that came out this year. Broadcast and Cable networks aired just over 300 original programs this year, compared to 24 from the streaming services. With the influx of new programs and competing channels, the ratings for individual shows continue to drop each year. This has also made it extremely common for new programming to fail within the first season due to lack of sufficient ratings. Viewers are overwhelmed with choices, and the decreased ratings show that. Along with decreased ratings comes less advertising revenue for the networks as well.

The advantage streaming services such as Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix have is that they are able to create content that appeals to viewers, rather than advertisers. There is no longer the constant worry of having to achieve sufficient ratings for a show since the providers aren’t reliant on advertising revenue to sustain themselves. Instead, the streaming services are able to produce shows that consumers are interested in. Netflix uses user data to not only help to serve customers, but to also find out what customers are interested in and produce original content that appeals to them. This has led to Netflix having an extremely high success rate in their original programming. Having consumer centered content has also turned into an integral way for Netflix to retain current customers. Ultimately, Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are focused on gaining and maintain subscriptions. The popularity of their shows does not matter as much to them as does the engagement of the viewers. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, has declared that “Netflix company isn’t interested in the ratings of its original – or licensed – content.” This model allows streaming services to provide content that caters exclusively to the viewers desires. Traditional networks do not have the flexibility to change their model and keep up. Networks are still reliant on ratings and held responsible by advertisers.

Of course, where there is success, other players tend to come into effect as well. The latest rumored company to enter the field is Apple. While there is not much information out yet, there have been reports of Apple meeting with Hollywood executives to discuss creating original content.

Original programming from streaming services could be the incentive that consumers are looking for to finally cut the cord of their cable subscription. With consumer tailored content, and not being reliant on advertising revenue, Netflix, Amazon, and soon Apple are poised to exploit the cord-cutting market.


In the next post, we will discuss “cord-cutting.”

A Better Understanding of CRISPR/Cas9

Who created the tool of genetic editing? Meet Jennifer Doudna, one of the co creates of the tool CRISPR/Cas9 the genome editing tool that is already in full effect. Before we begin on the details of this amazing breakthrough lets recap our last discussion. In the previous video, we went over the basic element of genetic modification and I laid out the foundational use of CRISPR/Cas9 which we have explained allows certain genes to be cut and other genes to be inserted into that spot. The basics for this use to to combat different diseases and issues that we would want to combat. However, Dr. Doudna explains how this is not the end of the possibility of this device. We could make a person taller, bones stronger, change their hair or skin color, by adjusting the genes when the child is still an embryo.

This sounds pretty neat right? But when will this technology be able to make those adjustments to humans? Well the problem as Dr. Doudna explains in the video above that we have the tool but do not necessarily know the instructions or the full range of the tool. The scenario we are currently at is like putting together a pieces of a puzzle with a blindfold on. While the task may seem impossible at first the more we become familiar with the pieces (genes) then we start to understand how each piece interacts with one another.

Dr. Doudna explains that we have been able to learn alot from CRISPR/Cas9 but we have a long way to go. But her final point is what we will be covering in the next post. What are some of the social and ethical implication? What unintended consequences are coming from the use of this device? What can we do now to ensure society can be safe from itself?


Mobile Apps: Impacting Shopping Habits

Just a few years ago, shopping was completely different. The streamlined use of mobile applications and web based shopping was not as popular, although little did we know it would gain traction and become one of the largest sectors of the retail industry.

The tagline, “there is an app for that” has become a driving disruptive force that has taken over the retail industry, and in short has completely altered the way that we as consumers engage in the act of shopping. The growing nature of the application based shopping experience has grown with the millennial population, to a point where soon the children of tomorrow will have no recollection of the way it once was. Going to the store and viewing sales via circulars will soon be obsolete.

Some of these unique mobile applications include:

  • RedLaser, a scanning software that takes the concept of showrooming to a whole other level.
  • Pounce, which allows users to take a picture of an item in a print ad, and in just a few clicks-purchase the item through the retailer.
  • Mallzee, which is a personal shopper that recommends fashions to its users.

Follow along with the Retail Team as we try out some of these disruptive applications!!