Tag Archives: Disruption

So the Climate Is Changing…Now What?

The impact we have on the environment is not something we can overlook, but it is something we have chosen to ignore. If we are trying to look at the big picture of what climate change is and how it is affecting us, the most obvious thing to point out is global warming. While our group did discuss global warming, we decided to focus more on the smaller aspects of climate change and investigated how global warming affected other aspects of the environment. The clear impact of global warming is the rising temperatures, and we discussed the implications of the warmer weather in many different cities. Through investigation, we also stumbled across the impact our pollution has on animals, how it can stir up dormant diseases, or how it can damage our atmosphere. The real focus of our project, however, was the many ways we can mitigate the effects of climate change.

To generalize the numerous problems that are attached to climate change, it is not untrue to say “the end is near and society is essentially screwed.” Climate change is more than the planet getting a “little” hotter. A difference of a few degrees from the average range of the Earth’s temperature has greatly affected the weather, which in turn effects land, and ultimately where life is sustainable. Climate change has caused a domino effect of problems that is perpetuated by continued creation carbon emissions, as well as lack of addressing carbon emissions already present in the atmosphere. Moreover, there is no single solution to fix climate change. Carbon emission may arguably be what facilitate current and future climate change issues, but cutting back on carbon emissions will do virtually nothing to address the issue. Humans have been pumping carbon into the atmosphere for centuries and carbon takes thousands of year to dissipate. As a result, action, like that set by the Paris Accord, will not do much to solve climate change. Even if emissions were cut to zero, the emissions already created would continue to linger, thus perpetuate the effects of climate change. Instead of searching for a single solution to climate change, we need to address every issue individually before they arise.

One effect of global warming is the rise in sea level. Only concerning sea level rising, the increasing temperature of the Earth causes thermal expansion, melting of the ice caps, and ice loss in areas like Greenland and West Antarctica. Thermal expansion and the melting of the polar and glacial ice caps are direct results of global warming; however, unlike the melting ice caps, thermal expansion is reversible if carbon emissions were severally cut back. The melting ice caps are adding more water into the ocean and there is impossible to take that water back. Similarly, ice loss in Greenland and West Antarctica also means more water is flowing into the ocean. Compounding the issue of more water being added into the ocean and the “expansion” of water, the sea level is rising at an alarming rate.

Moreover, if the ice caps are melting then the ocean must be heating up to some extent. Heating of the ocean affects the weather, namely referring to the progression of tropical storms into hurricanes. Hurricanes form in warmer bodies of water. As areas of water heat up, water vapor rises into the air creating thunderstorms. Wind currents then begin to “push” around the storm, thus giving the storm more energy. At 39 mph winds, the thunderstorm is officially a tropical storm, when wind speeds exceed 75 mph the storm is a deemed a hurricane. It is important to understand how hurricanes form because as the ocean heats up, the rising temperature gives these storms more energy, thus become more dangerous. Climate change may not cause more hurricanes, but it may cause more dangerous hurricanes, such as category 4 and 5 hurricanes, to form more frequently. For example, four of the five costliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. have occurred since 2005; these hurricanes include Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Maria, while it did not hit the U.S., was so strong a new category of hurricanes may be needed to classify it. If more category 4, 5, and possibly 6 hurricanes form, then there could be more damage to coastal areas, infrastructure, and may put more people in danger. For example, Hurricane Maria, arguably a category 6 hurricane, has decimated the electrical grid in Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico may go months without power. It is somewhat bothersome to not have power to watch the news, but to not have power for hospitals is devastating.

The issues of rising sea level and stronger hurricanes combine to make flooding worse and more frequent. As sea level rises, water will consume more land. In addition, if there is an increase in more powerful storms that carry more water and energy, they will leave behind more water further inland. Damage of flooding becomes worse when the infrastructure meant to drain the water overflows, like in Florida. For example, the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey may take months to recede fully- thus having the potential to destroy whole communities. Moreover, the event of the flood receding may cause additional damage. For example, in Puerto Rico after some of the flood receded, it eroded chunks of land beneath houses. Flooding also perpetuates issues of fixing power lines and transportation.

The following is an image of a house after flooding caused by Hurricane Maria receded:

While there is no universal solution to issues of rising sea level, hurricanes, and flooding, potential solutions do have the characteristic of flexibility in common. For example, past and present solutions to hurricanes and rising sea level are mainly hard defenses. Hard defense are generally man made constructs, such as bulkheads, coastal barrages, and rock walls, used to as a “shield” to stop storms. However, such defenses erode over time, and there is no way of knowing if they will work until the storm arrives. Therefore once it is apparent a hard defense has failed, it is too late to take additional protective measures. On the other hand, soft defenses, such as marshes, and coral reefs, absorb the energy of storms, and move with storms and rising sea level. In addition, soft defenses grow over time and protect against land erosion. For example, marshes have protected the northern coastline of Florida for years. The downsides of soft defenses include the amount of time they take to grow and their inability to be effective on a large scale; marshes would have to extend mile off the coastline of NYC to be effective. However, instead of relying on only hard defenses or only soft defenses, an optimal solution is to use both together. Relying on one or the other is repeating the same mistake of waiting until existing defenses fail and not being able to take additional protective measures. Moreover, we cannot only rely on hard defenses and soft defenses to stop invading sea level and hurricanes because the issue of flooding if they were to fail still holds true. Like hard defenses, there are fixed systems to help mitigate flooding. For example, Tokyo, Japan has a massive canal system that diverts water from Tokyo called the G-Cans Project. The G-Cans Project is a series of underground tunnels that total 3.7 miles long, and vertical shafts that measure 580 feet long, 59 feet high, and 256 feet wide. This network is capable of channeling 12,500,000 L of water per minute. However, for cities like New York City where a major portion of underground real estate is used up, the scale of the G-Cans Project may not be possible. Nevertheless, the format of the system may still be useful because, similar to soft defenses, there is infrastructure that moves with flooding. For example, the POP-UP parking garage moves up and down with water from sewers, thus combing a parking garage and water reservoir. The technology used in the POP-UP garage can also be applied to other architecture that follows the Archimedes Principle. For example, vertical farms, extensive “tower” farms that raises and grows various foods in a controlled environment, using this technology would also be able to move with floods, thus protecting our food sources. However, “POP-UP technology” is still fixed to some extent. Carrying the ideas of flexibility further, Floating City App created floating schools using refurbished shipping containers. These floating schools are solar powered, and include a classroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. On the other end of the floating infrastructure spectrum, even floating airports have been created. In 2000, Mega Float created a floating airport in Tokyo Bay, Japan that measured 1000 meters long. The airport was so long that it rode multiple wave cycles at once that canceled each other out, and allowed the airport to remain stable. Since the airport was not viewed as necessary, it was dismantled in 2003. However, floating airports are not the limit of floating infrastructure- whole cities could be manufactured to float. Floating cities have the potential to solve the issue of rising sea level and flooding because there would no longer be a worry of losing land, the land would move with the storm.

The following describes the possibility of floating cities:

Stepping back from issues of rising sea level, hurricanes, and flooding, the cause of them is the increase in the temperature, which, alone, is also a threat. By 2100, the Persian Gulf could experience temperatures exceeding 170 degrees Fahrenheit causing the area to become uninhabitable. Areas within the Persian Gulf, such as Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Bander Abbas, some of the richest cities in the world, would have to be abandoned. By 2100, 3 out of 4 people could face deadly heatwaves. Rising temperature will be especially prevalent in cities as a result of the urban heating affect. The urban heating effect states that because of the large amount of human activity within in cities, cities become hotter than the surrounding rural areas. Moreover, the pavement used in cities and human activity does not allow urban areas to properly release the heat absorbed throughout the day at night, thus retaining a high temperature. Immediate solutions to impending dangerous heatwaves include green areas and cooling pavement, in addition to currently implemented cooling centers. Cooling centers are public areas, such as a public library, that offer A/C to the public; however, cooling centers only cool the one building and not necessarily a part of the city. Green areas, by using foliage, create more shade, and thus mitigate pavement heat absorption and lower the overall temperature of an area. An extreme version of green areas are forest cities. Forest cities make plant life an integral part of architecture by covering whole buildings in foliage. By implementing a “jungle,” cities are able to combat the urban heating effect. However, heatwaves are not a problem limited to urban areas. Rural areas, specifically farms, will have to deal with drought because of rising temperatures. In 2012 farmers in the West and Midwest, because of a drought, lost billions of dollars in crops. Additionally, as temperatures increase, vital amounts of food may be lost. If water becomes constrained, it will need to be used efficiently; “spongy” soil is a potential solution. “Spongy” soil retains more water and reduces run off, and therefore gets the most use out of water during drought and collects water during storms. The soil could also be used to cultivate the green areas in the urban areas discussed earlier. Moreover, the soil would complement the use of vertical farms by optimizing the use of water. The rise of global temperature will affect the entire world. People can move to escape rising sea level and floods, but there is no “escaping” rising temperature.

We examined the impact of rising temperatures in developed cities, but they also have an effect on animals in areas without a large human populace and our National Parks. The animals rely on the resources their environment is able to provide them. However, with the increased ocean temperatures and the melting of the ice caps, their ecosystems are being severely disrupted. For example, marine animals, like penguins, in the northern hemisphere are attuned to arctic temperatures and an abundance of krill in the water. The krill are also accustomed to the colder water, but when the temperature of the water rises, they elect to move to where there is cold water. The penguins in that region with a krill-based diet now need to alter their diet to something else. There are many dangers like the lack of nutrients in other shellfish or the potential risk of it being poisonous or otherwise detrimental to their health. Animals are innocent bystanders in our path to destroying the natural resources and we need to take the necessary measures to cut our impact in their environments. One way, albeit extreme, is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It has many environmental benefits and cuts back on the suffering animals face. We can also take larger steps to cut back on emissions that are a leading factor of the temperature rise. The rise in temperature is also affects Glacier National Park, for the reasons stated in the paragraph above. Another park that is being affected is Grand Canyon National Park. The Colorado River flows through the whole park, but over the years, it is clear to see the decline of the water level. Some of this is due to the erosion, but a majority is the rising temperature causing evaporation. The water is disappearing before our eyes and we are turning a blind eye. What will happen when the water dries up and the ecosystems throughout the canyon are left to scramble for a new water source? We need to take action before we lose these national treasures.

The rise in temperature is also causing something that seems straight out of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie- zombie diseases. These are diseases that have been hidden in ice for years, encased in permafrost. We are not equipped or ready to deal with anthrax, small pox, or even a variation of the plague. It is not all that surprising that miners want to push aside the dangers of these diseases to access mineral and petroleum deposits. However, we need to acknowledge the dangers these diseases present and how they could affect our world. A recent outbreak of anthrax in Serbia illustrated the peril of allowing this issue to go unsolved. Many died because a deer encapsulated in ice thawed and, with it, a strain of anthrax. It contaminated the soil and the water, which led to poisoned crops. We also face the issue of refugees carrying local diseases, like dengue fever or malaria, into other countries where citizens’ immune systems are not accustomed to these new diseases. The warmer temperatures are the force behind some refugees leaving their homes, but it can also allow the diseases like Lyme disease and rat lungworm to survive in places they never could before. Therefore, any disease that can thrive in warmer temperature may soon have increased outbreaks- not just the ones already listed. If multiple outbreaks occurred at the same time, we would not be equipped to handle the aftermath.

Global warming is not the only causation we face. Another driving motion of climate change is pollution. While it is expected that we discuss the pollution of the ocean or streets, those types of pollutions are not destroying our atmosphere- space junk is. Space junk refers to the remains of objects that have entered space, and became trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Because of the increasing temperature in the lower atmosphere, the temperature of the upper atmosphere decreases, causing a contraction of that layer. When the atmosphere contracts, air is removed and less friction is in the upper atmosphere. Therefore, the space junk would not be able to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up, so they remain on the outer layer of our atmosphere. If this junk remains in the atmosphere, it can hit other satellites and create more debris, which can then hit another satellite and make more debris and so on. There is no long-term solution for the dealing with space junk, but there is a satellite created by CleanSpace One that can grab debris and bring it back down to Earth, so it can burn upon re-entry. The downside to using this satellite is that the satellite can only be used once, as it burns upon re-entry as well. Another, more lasting solution, would be the use of materials that break apart gradually after they are exposed to ultra-violet rays. Other satellites that are helping us combat climate change are cube satellites. These satellites were created to scan the Earth’s surface and collect data about which areas are more prone to hurricanes, how hurricanes form, and they are significantly cheaper than normal satellites. These satellites have a shorter shelf-life, which means we will have to replace them more often. However, that also means we can update the software regularly and modify design whenever necessary. If we used the data from these satellites to fuel a flood-predicting AI, it would be able to learn better with the extra information. Other types of AI can also be used to discover new and more efficient ways to combat climate change.

We are currently in an administration that refuses to acknowledge or believe in the scientific fact that climate change is occurring. Despite most of the country (and even world) knowing and accepting the truth that Earth’s climate is changing, Trump and many of his top appointees refuse to acknowledge it. This proves unpleasant and profound implications for the United States too, as not only do we risk physical damage like many of our coastal cities or even Puerto Rico with the numerous hurricanes we have had, our economy and leadership is also shaken, as our nation’s leader refuses to believe something so matter-of-fact as climate change. Earlier this month, at the Paris Accord, the agreement in which nations stand to acknowledge and deal with climate change, had even Syria sign, leaving the United States as the only country in the world that has not sign it, and will not sign it so long as Trump sticks by his ideals (or stays in office). The previous administration set several acts in motion in efforts of reducing greenhouse gases and our effect on the climate, all of which have been contested by Trump, in efforts to repeal those laws, to no avail as of yet. His idea that climate change is a “hoax” is baffling as his energy secretary Rick Perry, even notes that the “science is still out on whether or not human activity is the primary driver of climate change” (japantimes.co.jp). The EPA under Trump is rolling back on the climate change initiatives like noted earlier, including the Clean Power Plan or Clean Air Act, set forth by Obama and his administration. Scientists and federal agencies part of the National Climate Assessment in the US Global Change Research Program have published extensive research on the subject matter and are considered the most comprehensive and authoritative statements on climate science by the US Government. Even the US military is very cognizant of the existence of climate change and its potential to cause havoc to the world and also cost several hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with if something is not done to prevent or minimize the effects. It is embarrassing for a country so advanced and aware of world problems, to refuse to accept the existence of climate change, something that has extensive research on to prove.

The Future of Digital Transformation

Over the past two months, I have researched the disruptive impacts of digital transformation and how they affect our society and the future. To me, I think the most important hypothesis that I discovered throughout my research is that most businesses and jobs that exist today are doomed in the future. Technology companies, specifically Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, have become necessities to our daily lives and while in the process of becoming so important to us, other businesses have fallen off the radar.

There is really only one reason why this is happening and that is digital transformation. Really, only a few companies are leading in digital transformation and other than those leaders, other companies are only transforming in reaction to others transforming. Typical scenarios include technology companies creating software and platforms for other companies to use (Amazon Web Services, Facebook Pages, Square).

(For example, many restaurants in South Orange utilize online ordering, but back where I am from, that transformation has yet to be made. I assume in South Orange, once one small business took on the challenge, many others were forced to compete. The level of competition has not yet increased where I live, so for now, many businesses still use the phone to take orders until one business discovers the trend).

There is a lack of awareness when it comes to this issue, which may be a reason why there has not been more and/or faster transformation. However, digital transformation is not easy, which may be why it has taken companies awhile to get the ball rolling on this pressing issue. MITSloan lists three critical elements to digital transformation, including, transforming customer experiences, operational processes, and business models. In short, it looks like a complete business remodel, which most executives do not wish to undergo due to time and risk.

On the other hand, if companies do not wish to digitally transform, they will risk their own success. If companies wish to be successful, making processes more efficient is the answer, even if that means making harder decisions along the way. As result of these technologies, lots of business operations will become autonomous, and jobs will be lost along the way. Digital transformation not only affects companies, but their workers, since much of the new technology will overtake human tasks. Companies are being forced to choose between technology and human, and the better choice is clearly technology.

In the end, digital transformation will force us to choose between ourselves and the potential of technology, and it is likely that technology will be chosen. So what does that mean for the rest of us not running the few companies that dominate our everyday lives? If people want to survive in a digitally transformed world, people must not only learn new technologies, but more specifically how to be F.A.I.R. Being able to be F.A.I.R. maximizes the potential of becoming successful because in the world we enter, it is not all about being skillful, rather being able to change directions at a moments notice. Moving into the future, the only way to survive digital transformation is by embracing it in whatever way possible.

Climate Change: Breeding Ground of Disease

Climate change has the potential to create an unprecedented refugee crisis by making areas of the world uninhabitable. Obviously, but is still should be mentioned, climate change affects the entire world. Whether it is extreme drought in Somalia, heatwaves in the Persian Gulf, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, or extreme snowfall across the East coast of the U.S., climate change is capable of uprooting where people may live, and in some cases has the potential to change where people are capable of living. As people relocate, they not only bring their belongings with them, but also any diseases they may be caring. Exposing a geographical area of people to a disease that they are not familiar with could be extremely dangerous. In some cases, exposure to a “new” disease may cause extreme discomfort, but in other cases may be fatal.

The most rapid spreading disease in the world is dengue fever. Dengue fever is often referred to as a “traveler’s disease” because many people contract it while visiting places with a tropical climate. Symptoms of the fever include fever, headache vomiting, skin rash, and muscle and joint pain. The skin rash, and muscle and joint pains often cause contortions, which earned the disease the nickname “break bone” fever. Usually the fever last up to a week, but has been fatal in come cases. Dengue fever is contracted by being bitten by mosquitos that carry the disease. Moreover, a mosquito can carry the disease by sucking the blood a previously infected person. With this mind, dengue fever is prevalent in Puerto Rico, which, due to Hurricane Maria, may have up to 3.4 million displaced persons. Regardless, if those persons were to seek refuge in the U.S. or anywhere else, some people will most likely carry dengue fever with them. It is important to note, it is not simply dengue fever that benefits from climate change, but all diseases that thrive in warmer temperatures. For example, diseases like malaria, “black fever,” and rat lungworm, and Lyme disease can survive in more areas as global temperature increases. Moreover, these diseases have the potential to infect more people because the carries are surviving for longer periods. Insect and parasites like mosquitos and ticks thrive in warmer temperatures, so as temperature increase they are able to survive for longer seasons and infect larger geographical areas.

Moreover, the issue of disease spreading due to climate change is heightened due to diseases hidden in ice. These diseases can come from a number of different time frames from as recent as 75 years ago to as ancient as 30 thousand years ago. The most dangerous diseases that are returning because of the melting ice caps are anthrax and zombie diseases. These diseases were once locked under something known as permafrost, which is ice that has not melted in at least two years. However, since the rate at which the ice caps are melting is faster than the rate at which they freeze, these diseases are released into the world when the older layers are re-exposed.

Anthrax is a very dangerous pathogen that derives from livestock and has not had a serious outbreak since 1941. However, when that last outbreak occurred, thousands of reindeer were infected with a specific strain of anthrax. When the reindeer died, the indigenous people buried them deep below the ice and worry of an anthrax outbreak was no longer needed. What the indigenous people did not know was that the bacteria was not destroyed and was preserved by the layer of ice that formed over the carcasses. Last year, the ice over those reindeer melted because of a heatwave over the summer, and the bacteria was able to transfer to the soil, the water, and other animals. Ultimately, this led to an anthrax breakout in Siberia. Anthrax cannot be cured with man-made medicines, so if an outbreak were to occur globally, scientists would need to find a natural solution similar to penicillin. This may also cause people to leave Siberia and if they come from the region where the anthrax is reemerging, they could potentially spread the virus to other regions.

The following is a video that further discusses climate change is helping disease spread:

The other diseases released are actually more dangerous than anthrax. Zombie diseases are diseases from thousands of years ago that we have yet to experience. These viruses are more durable and are much larger than the viruses around today. Currently, the permafrost with the human viruses is still buried beneath many layers, but scientists are extracting amoeba viruses from nearby layers and industrialists will soon mine below these layers for mineral and petroleum deposits that sit beneath many layers of permafrost. One disease in particular that biologists predict is within these layers is smallpox. Humanity has believed smallpox has already been eradicated, but it is highly possible that it is one of the many diseases lurking beneath the surface. As the permafrost continues to melt and expose older viruses and bacteria to us, we will need to adapt to these prehistoric diseases and the effects they will have on local agriculture and livestock.

Why Technology Companies Lead Digital Transformation

In prior blog posts, I have discussed how the growth of technology companies have disrupted companies in almost every field. Existing companies are now forced to improve their products and compete with the innovative products/services of technology companies.

Platform companies all started out simple, Amazon wanted to sell books on the web, Google was just a search engine, but instead they expanded way beyond what they started out as and integrated themselves into everything we do in our daily lives. Now of days, technology is almost always necessary in everything we do, we use it for a number of reasons including: to check in on our health, view our mail, and retrieve information.

These technology companies did not all plan to be so successful, but there are a number of factors that have led them to this point. One reason why these companies are so successful is because they are leaders in Artificial Intelligence Technologies. Notably, these technology companies are large spenders in AI, and globally, existing companies have followed their trend as well (as shown in the chart below).

global ai commerce financing trend

Overtime, humans have become much more attracted to AI technologies. More often, these technologies make experiences for the customer simpler, so customers continue using their technologies. For example, tech companies have a great lead in voice recognition technologies and is now becoming a technology that is commonly used. In the chart below, it is evident that overtime more and more people will be accustomed to voice recognition technologies.

bii consumer usage and interest in VAs global 2017 accenture

Even incorporating voice recognition technology into customer support calls can make companies much more efficient. Voice recognition technologies are a beneficial technology to incorporate into a digital company, it serves as a useful tool to customers.

However, the problem for many existing companies is that they did not start out as technology companies so making this shift is more complex than traditional. It requires ‘exponential‘ thinking for a shift as such; thinking outside the box. If companies want to succeed in transforming their businesses digitally, they must come up with new ideas in order to grow. Following the same routine over and over will not change results, companies must learn to adapt to their markets.

Babe Ruth once said “It’s hard to beat a person that never gives up”, and the technology companies do not give up. Existing companies have not changed their agendas for years and technology companies have given them a wake up call. Technology companies are successful because of their drive to bring new and creative products/services to the market. In order for a company to be successful in the 21st century, they must adapt to changing markets.

How Climate Change is Affecting Animals

Animals are more reliant on the Earth’s survival and are merely victims of the destruction humans have wrought on the environment. They do not contribute to global warming, but it is their homes being burnt or, in the case of the polar bear above, melted.  Because of global warming, this polar bear does not have the appropriate environment it needs to survive. The icebergs are not freezing until much later in the season and are melting much earlier in the spring. Humans are too worried about their homes to even think of helping or protecting defenseless animals and their ecosystems. Other animals threatened by climate change include orange-spotted file fish, a fish that lives in and depends on their coral reef habitats. The warmer temperature caused by global warming is causing the coral reefs to dry out and even bleach. This means the orange-spotted file fish, and many other marine animals, are not able to get their necessary nutrients from the coral and algae. This fish has gone extinct before as a result of warmer ocean temperatures in Japan in the late 1980’s. Another animal affected by the icebergs melting is the Adélie penguin. The krill the penguin is accustomed to eating only lives on the under side of icebergs near the algae it normally eats. However, since the icebergs are not forming as quickly or in the same areas, the krill are not where they should be. Thus, the penguins must spend more energy foraging for food instead of breeding or raising their young. This results in a decrease of Adélie penguins in the long-run. If something drastic is not done about climate change, these species could die off forever with no chance of coming back.

The animals stated above are not the only ones affected either; among others, sea turtles, moose, and even koalas are feeling the brunt of human mistreatment. The nesting site where sea turtles lay eggs are more vulnerable to flooding because of the rise in sea-level. The eggs laid could be swept away by the tide, by an especially crazy storm, or they could fry under the newly intense heat. Without a safe place to lay eggs, these sea turtles can one day become extinct. Furthermore, Australian koalas are feeling the effects of the rise in temperature. The video below highlights the struggles the koalas are going through because global warming that we caused is drying out their only source of hydration.

They are being forced to act out of character, like being awake in the day, which can expose them to predators, and it can have serious repercussions on their systems if they do not know what time they should be active. We have been too worried about what will happen to us if the world burns, that we have not even given a second thought to what may happen to these defenseless animals. If we cared half as much about saving them as we did ourselves, they may actually have a fighting chance.

Banks are no Longer ‘Unstoppable’

The innovation of online banking truly changed the way we handle money, but did the banks ever think this invention could fall out of their own hands? Everyday, I can check my bank account from the tips of my fingers, but things were not always like this. Fifty years ago, you would have to walk into a bank to do what you can now do simply on your phone. And this applies to a variety of services: you can deposit checks, make appointments, and even handle disputes over the phone.

Without a doubt, this technology has made the world much more efficient, but it has led to a few unintended consequences. The increase of banking technologies meant there was less need for in-person banking, and as result this hurt that aspect of their business. There is almost no communication between the depositor and the bank anymore since everything is done over the phone or at an ATM. For the average person, there is no need for a bank, just a lot of ATM’s and internet connection. Minus a regular checking account, the other services of a bank are becoming accessible elsewhere too. Not only do banks provide loans and compile information for companies, but Amazon is starting to do these things too. Who’s to say the frightful 5 cannot do what the banks are already doing now?

remittance volume

The key difference between banks and a company like Amazon is customer satisfaction. They have both evolved to offer similar interactive experiences on the web (lots of AI), but companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook interact with their users much more, and offer a more pleasurable experience. As shown below, the disruptive improvements made by technology companies heavily influence the bank’s return on investments.

Screen Shot 2017 10 24 at 1.20.46 PM

(Note: If digital disruption stays on pace, it is likely we could experience another depression by 2025 because the banks would perform so poorly it would affect many other businesses and their finances ran through the bank).

This screams nightmare for the banks. The bank is becoming small competition to these technology companies, and already they offer many of the same services in their bank-like accounts. Even I am considering an Amazon Prime Visa Card, prime benefits could be more applicable to me than the typical benefits of a credit card.

Going into the future, banks need to develop better relationships with their customers in order to compete. Likewise, many other companies must adapt and form databases of their customers in order to develop long-lasting relationships. The more digitally ahead a company is, the more likely they are to survive in the future. Now is the time to transform with the customers awaiting change.

Gene Therapy Update: How it Works and Why it’s Risky

Gene therapy has the potential to be the most innovative and disruptive medical procedure in the modern world, but it is still in its earliest stages of development. Technology moves faster than any other industry on the planet, but when paired with science and medicine, the pace may be so fast that it becomes detrimental. Gene therapy is equal parts technology and medicine and there will be an eternal struggle between the two. From a technological standpoint, it’s full steam ahead for companies like CRISPR. For those focused on the medical side however, there is a long road ahead. It is important to remember that the success of gene therapy depends first on the development of the technology, but without testing and a safe implementation in the medical field, no lives will be saved. It is much different than Silicon Valley pushing Face ID or a new app because in both of those instances, the faster the technology is available to consumers the better, or so they have us believe. When Apple pushes new tech like Face ID, they know that they can usually work out the bugs with a software update, but things aren’t that simple when the technology involves pumping new genes into people’s bodies.

The science behind gene therapy is just as amazing as the technology behind deciding which specific genes need attention. In order for a patient to receive the treatment, the new genes must be introduced into the body via a number of possible procedures. The most common of which include specifically placed injections or IV treatments, depending on the disease the treatment is aimed to fight and where the problem is within the body. Once inside the body however, the procedure is essentially the same. The new or modified genes are brought to their desired locations using a vector. The most common vectors are bacteria, viruses, and plasmids. They are the most common because while they are completely different, they all share the essential characteristic of being able to multiply quickly once in a cell. Under normal circumstances, their hyperactivity is a bad thing because it is the very reason that diseases are able to spread so quickly. In gene therapy however, this trait makes them the perfect candidates to transport genes. The video below provides a visual demonstration of this process during a treatment of a retinal disease.

The use of vectors is relatively consistent across all forms of gene therapy, however, there are several different methods used to treat different diseases. On the most basic level, there are two forms of gene therapy, somatic and germline. Somatic treatments are targeted at cells that do not produce eggs or sperm, therefore the treatment will not be passed down to subsequent generations. Conversely, germline treatments target cells that do produce sperm or eggs, which means that any alterations made to cells in the patient’s body will be passed down. Germline treatments are arguably more dangerous because if something goes wrong during the procedure or if the new genes are incorrect, the faulty DNA will be passed down until it is corrected by another procedure.

Under the umbrella of somatic and germline treatments are three main forms of therapies that vary depending on the problem. The therapies include gene augmentation, gene inhibition, and targeted cell attacks. Gene augmentation is used when a cell has faulty DNA that needs to be corrected. In this case, the new genes are attached to a vector that will reproduce in the desired cells, and will replace the existing DNA in the hopes of delivering the correct directions. Gene inhibition does the opposite, as gene inhibition treatments are designed to stop cells from behaving a certain way instead of correcting an undesired behavior. This form of gene therapy is useful for treating cancer patients because the goal is to slow down the reproduction of cancerous cells. This is achieved by attaching genes to a vector that will tell the cancerous cells to stop reproducing. Doctors also have the ability to target a cluster of cells that they wish to eliminate altogether. This is achieved by either injecting vectors that will kills the cells directly, or by using vectors that will trigger an immune system response which will in turn kill the desired cells. This is slightly less effective because the vectors are used to trick the body into fighting a disease that it did not otherwise recognize. Regardless of the objective of the various forms of gene therapy, vectors are the most effective vehicles to deliver new genes to cells.

While the vectors are very useful for delivering the new genes to their desired targets, there are many risks involved with the procedure. Success of the treatment aside, there are risks associated with the injection alone. It is a high-risk procedure because while it can be extremely effective, it can just as easily catalyze a series of detrimental reactions within the body. If the new DNA is delivered to the wrong cells, it can disrupt necessary functionality completely unrelated to the disease it was aimed to fight. If the vectors used in the procedure trigger an unexpected immune system response, the treatment can be rejected altogether or in some cases even cause organs to fail.

Jesse Gelsinger’s story serves as a grim reminder of the unintended consequences of gene therapy. Jesse suffered from a rare metabolic disorder called ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, which made him an ideal candidate for a gene therapy experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. The vector that was used in the procedure was a weakened cold virus which was delivered via injections. The doctors at Penn had tested their vector on mice, baboons, monkeys, and one other human patient, so they were confident that Jesse had a real chance of improving. What the doctors did not predict, was the overwhelming inflammatory response that started a chain reaction in Jesse’s body. A mere 24 hours after the injection, there was 11 times the normal amount of ammonia in Jesse’s blood, he was hyperventilating, his ears had swollen shut, he had developed a blood clotting disorder called jaundice, his kidneys were starting to fail along with his lungs, and his brain had started to shut down. Shortly after the doctors thought they had things under control, Jesse died. His death marked the first documented casualty resulting from gene therapy and left the doctors in shock.

Jesse’s premature death exemplifies the uncertainty involved with gene therapy, and there will undoubtedly be others. The technology is so new that is impossible to predict the outcome of the treatments with any degree of certainty. On paper, Jesse’s treatment should have worked but all of the years of testing and analysis that took place before the procedure were flipped upside down when his body started to reject the treatment. The best doctors in the world cannot explain what caused Jesse’s body to react the way it did which speaks to the unpredictable nature of the technology. Gene therapy is an amazing advancement for both technology and medicine, but it is still wildly imperfect and will require many more brave patients like Jesse before it becomes a dependable procedure.

 

Climate Change: Moving with a Flood

Weather occurrences such as extreme rainstorms, hurricanes, and tsunamis are viewed as destructive forces which is true given how land, and infrastructure are used. Whether it is the skyscrapers in cities, neighborhoods in suburbs, or farmland in rural areas, none are capable of adapting in the middle of an extreme flood or storm. However, these various elements of society have to be preserved. Various defenses such as storm water drains, and bulwarks have been used to protect these areas, but these methods often fail. The issue is not that these areas are not properly protected, but the structures in these areas need a lot of protection to not be destroyed. The structures we build are rigid, and are not designed to adapted to drastic changed. In short, as a result of how land is used, and structures are built, society must fight against rising sea level. While sea level rising is currently a destructive force to current society, rising of sea level has the potential to be a tool for society.

Instead of creating defenses against flooding another solution is to control the water. A basic solution to controlling flooding is to utilize permeable pavement. Permeable pavement allows water to pass through it into the ground. In addition to helping water return to the water cycle, the pavement would lessen the chance of overflowing storm water systems and; therefore, cut down on flooding. This pavement has the potential to lessen the amount of rainfall going into sewage systems by 80%. A limitation of this technology is it may not be able to pass water into the ground quickly during anything like a hurricane. With this said, infrastructure like eco-boulevards could compensate for the limitations of permeable pavement by controlling flooding. Eco-boulevards work to control where floods take place within a city. Yangming Archipelago designed a city within the larger city of Changde, China so that floodwater would fall into the middle of the city. As a result, the eco-boulevards creates a temporary lake within a city and turns parts of a city into mini islands. Floods do not have to be seen as an invading body, but something that is part of society.

Some places simply cannot be flooded, and therefore would benefit from the technology used in POP-UP, a parking garage, designed by THIRD NATURE, that “floats” on water. The POP-UP garage moves up and down depending on the amount of overflow from sewers in the water reservoir underneath the garage. As the reservoir fills and releases water, the garage moves up and down accordingly. This technology works well in urban environments because it combines a parking garage with a water reservoir, thus creating more free space for other purposes. However, this technology is not limited to making floating parking garage, but could be applied to any architecture that follows the Archimedes Principle. For example, vertical farms could use this as additional safety. A vertical farm takes the mold of an expensive farm and makes it into a tower. At different levels of this tower, different foods and fish can be raised year round. A vertical farm would help protect farms from flooding, but the technology used in POP-UP would make the farm flexible to move with water, thus preserving the structure. The rise of sea level would not be as devastating if infrastructure did not resist various degrees of change.

The following is an image of how POP-UP works:

If flooding is going to be treated as a useful force then it has to be treated as a tool, not something to get rid of as soon as possible. For example, flooding has the potential to be real-estate, rather than a threat that destroys real-estate with the use of floating infrastructure. Floating infrastructure is not limited by issues such as space or continuing sea level rising, and thus works on a spectrum of facilities. For example, Floating City App has created a solar powered floating school by giving shipping containers an extreme make over. These floating schools come with a classroom, kitchen, bathroom, and solar powered battery pack. Given the compact nature of these schools that are easy to put into use. On the opposite end of the spectrum of floating infrastructure are plans like floating airports. In 2000, Mega Float created a floating airport in Tokyo Bay, Japan that measured 1000 meters long. The airport was so long that it rode multiple wave cycles at once that canceled each other out, and allowed the airport to remain stable. Since the airport was not viewed as necessary, it was dismantled in 2003. However, in the UK there have been proposals of creating a floating airport due to the growing population. Between population growth, the scarcity of real-estate, and rise of sea level, floating airports may become a reality again. With this said, there is not a reason to stop at airports as the extent of floating infrastructure, whole floating cities could be built. Floating cities change the issue of losing to rising sea leveling to a need to construct more space.

The following video discusses the future of floating airports:

The rise of sea level of force of flooding does not have to be a destructive force, but a force that requires change. Rising sea level is a current issue, and will persist for thousands of years. Fighting against rising sea level may only slow down the process, while making use of the floods and open water offer a more sustaining solution.

Rising Sea Levels Will Soon Flood Our Coastal Cities

Our coastal cities and islands are under threat from the rising sea levels caused by climate change. By 2050, it is predicted that New York City will be flooded by six feet of water and some pacific islands, like Nuatambu, were swallowed by the rising sea level. There is no clear way to prevent the impacts a raised sea level will have on these cities or how to prepare for the consequences to come. However, there are some solutions scientists are trying to implement to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels. One of the methods they are hoping will help is the living shoreline. A living shoreline is a shore-protecting technique that utilizes mostly natural materials. There are different types of living shorelines to accommodate different types of coasts and an important quality of the living shoreline is that they are not too disruptive of the existing ecosystem.

The different types of living shorelines can be seen here:

However, issues do arise with this solution. Many large cities will not be able to build these types of shorelines into their existing infrastructure. For example, New York City could build a bulkhead around lower Manhattan, but they run the risk that the waves will either erode the wall and cause it to crumble or the sea level will rise over the wall, rendering it useless. Similarly, Florida already has marshes covering a majority of their northern coasts, but they are still at risk from flooding. Another issue that arises is islands would not benefit from a living shoreline. They simply do not have enough land to implement the living shoreline so another solution would have to be used. Living shorelines are not a long-term solution, but they will be able to protect our coastal cities until we are able to either halt or at least slow down the rise in sea level.

Another way cities and scientists are trying to protect coasts from rising sea level is by building canals throughout the city. This way, water would move throughout the city rather than being pushed up against a solid wall like a bulkhead. In Boston after Hurricane Sandy, a proposal was brought to the city to build canals throughout the city. The canals would move the water into low-lying back alleys and drain them throughout the city instead of letting it impact one place- more like a controlled flood. However, that kind of project comes with many questions like how they would build such a project, how deep the canals would need to be, and how effective this would all be if the canals proved to be too shallow in fifty or so years. A lot of the “solutions” people are coming up with are only going to temporarily fix the issue. While this is not effective for the long-term, it gives scientists more time to try to test out new ideas that could be more lasting.

The final and longstanding solution is artificial islands.

Artificial islands are man-made islands built to withstand waves, currents, high winds and can be built relatively easily. They are the best solution to rising sea levels because they are not affected by rising sea levels after they are finished. It solves the issue of where to put people displaced by hurricanes and flooding. They would include solar panels and wind farms to power them and make them completely self-sustainable. Some risks and issues that come with artificial islands are the risks of hurricanes, whether they can only be built in warmer climates and how they would manage waste. Nevertheless, these floating islands seem to be the best bet in the face of rising sea level.

The rise in sea levels is the effect of three primary causes: thermal expansion, melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica. Thermal expansion is direct result of global warming and the only way to combat it would be to lower the emissions we currently put out. The melting of glaciers and polar ice caps are also a direct result of global warming, but there is no way to reverse the effect. We will need to adjust our lives to the rising sea level and lower the temperature of the water to cut risk. The final cause is ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica which means the water from those two poles is streaming into the ocean at a faster rate than normal. Coupled with thermal expansion and the extra water from the glaciers means the sea level has risen substantially in the last decade. Additionally, we really need to think about what we are going to do about the rising sea levels and what would happen if we did not change a thing. Another issue is the many islands that do not have the means of mitigating the effects rising sea level brings.

Preparing Our Cities for the Next Flood

There is minimal protection for coastal cities when it comes to combating tropical storms. Tropical storms can cause massive damage due to wind speed, impact from landfall, and remnants of floods. Whether one agrees climate change affects the frequency and power of hurricanes is irrelevant, these storms are occurring, and could hit a city such as New York City. The end of the 2017 hurricane season was devastating to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, each experiencing record breaking storms. These storms left communities demolished. In the case of Puerto Rico, the entire island may not have power for months. Puerto Rico has the potential to have 3.4 million displaced persons. If New York were hit by a strong enough storm there is a potential of over 8 million displaced persons. Generally, cities have minimal protection from such incidences. “Soft” defenses would be too extensive on their own to protect a city. The “hard” defenses cities do have offer little protection. In addition, it is difficult to know if a “hard” defense will be useful during a storm until the actual storm arrives. While building defenses for coastal cities is important to protect the areas, it is paramount to have systems that can act during the storm rather than invest in defenses that may fail.

Infrastructure from the underground storm drains to sky scrapers must be adapted to combat the strongest storms in order to minimize damage. It is 2017 there are cities, such as New York City, that continue to rely on bayous, rivers, and land to drain water in the event of a flood. One of the main tools used to combat flooding is storm drains, but as apparent in Texas, these storm drains can easily overflow from a strong storm. The frequency of flooding will continue to increase as the sea level continues to rise. If an area with a dense population, such as New York City, were hit by a major storm, waiting for the water to recede would not be an option. With this said, major cities on the coastline could benefit from the flooding system used in Japan to protect Tokyo known as the G-Cans Project. The G-Cans Project is a series of underground tunnels that total 3.7 miles long, and vertical shafts that measure 580 feet long, 59 feet high, and 256 feet wide. This network is capable of channeling 12,500,000 L of water per minute. However, if a city’s major portion of underground real-estate is used by subway stations, such as New York City, the scale of the G-Cans Project may not be possible, but the system may still be useful especially when used in combination with other flood prevention plans. If the water from a storm cannot be stopped it can at least be rerouted before more damage can be caused.

The following gives a brief look inside the G-Cans Project’s tunnels and tanks:

Storms are more than heavy rain fall, they are also extremely powerful winds, and the taller the building the more exposure to stronger winds it has to endure. Winds can make buildings sway. While winds may not always cause huge junks buildings to go flying, the swaying motion may distort the structure. Generally, swaying is not good for buildings. However, instead of fighting against wind, a possible solution is to go with the wind as evident by the architecture of the Sky Tree in Japan. The Sky Tree, the second tallest structure in the world, allows the movement from earthquakes to push it around. The Sky Tree is composed of a core column and an outer flexible region, the two sections are connected by oil dampers. As one part of the tower sways one way, the other sways another way which allows it remain stable. Granted this architecture was designed for earthquakes, but the uses for the design can also be applied for high-speed wind situations. Instead of fighting the wind, buildings could sway with it. If buildings had the flexible design of the Sky Tree getting through heavy storms turns from combating the storm to literally flowing with it until it passes.

The following is an image of the structure of the Sky Tree:

There is insufficient time to create a method that would prevent all damage to cities from storms, as the affects of climate change are a current threat and precautions need to be taken. However, cities need to take prepare themselves now because the weather patterns as exemplified in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico will persist, if not get worse, for thousands of years. Even if carbon emissions were completely stopped, it would take thousands of years for the Earth to recover. Once cities take preliminary action for the coming weather problems, then they can begin to take preventive measures to prevent all damage.