athena kan
lover of scooters, efficient government, and ice cream

Interesting Questions

1 January 2019

Inspired by Will Robbins’s list of questions, I’ve included some questions that I’ve been recently fascinated by. Let me know what you think are the answers.

  • How might we improve government procurement? Government purchasing is slow, complex, and expensive for government and government contractors. As such, it’s difficult for small and innovative players to win contracts. At the same time, big players such as Deloitte and Oracle are rent-seeking and delivering products that harm residents dependent on them. What procurement changes are effective and how do we increase their adoption? Higher p-card purchasing limits, smaller contracts, better evaluation of vendors, reducing the barriers for vendors to enter the market?
  • How might we attract better talent into government? Like any other industry, government employs many workers who are paid more than their ROI. Government, however, lacks macroeconomic forces and ability to easily change employee compensation in response to changing labor conditions. For instance, software engineers can be paid 5x more in industry as government; as such, government has difficulty retaining and attracting high-quality talent to work on pressing problems that affect our entire country.
  • How might we eliminate traffic? There are four main ways to eliminate traffic: (1) increase throughput efficiency of roads, (2) increase usage of alternative modes of transit, (3) reduce number of passengers on roads, and (4) expand the number of “roads” including VTOL, tunnels, highway expansion, etc. I’m most excited about the former two—we can increase efficiency of roads by eliminating parking minimums and adding dynamic parking pricing, congestion pricing, and a gas tax. Alternative modes of transit I’m excited about include scooters, e-bikes, and mass transit.
  • How will scooters change the future of mobility? What will make a company win in the long-run? Will regulatory actions help or hinder the biggest players? Will the scooter industry end up like e-bikes in China—so hyper-competitive that only players with deep pockets can compete? What does the next-gen scooter look like?
  • How might we make housing more affordable? My mom immigrated to the US with nothing, but because she moved to a city, she could work 3 jobs and save money by walking to work every day. Economic mobility is out of reach for many simply because they can’t afford to move into cities where the jobs, connections, and opportunities are. Supporting access to opportunity means making housing more affordable.
  • How might we redesign primary care to best treat those with chronic conditions? Primary care is obviously failing those with chronic conditions, as they cycle between the emergency room, PCPs, and specialists. Especially since chronic disease patients account for a disproproportionate amount of health care costs and PCPs interact with them early on, we should spend more time reimagining the primary care experience. I imagine specialization is the answer here—a better division of health care professional labor between acute and chronic cases or perhaps specialty chronic disease centers.
  • What can we learn from parallels between health care and education? And what best practices can we share across each, particularly for high-risk students and patients? Can we take the patient-centered medical home model and apply it to education? Accountable care organization, reimbursements, and risk-sharing? Optimal teacher to student ratios, student engagement strategies, and homework?
  • How might we redesign K-12 education to improve achievement of the bottom quartile of students? And how does evidence translate to appropriate policy, bearing in mind budget costs? Should we fund schools through state taxes rather than local property taxes so that poor communities have more funding for schools? Are charter school caps good? What makes a charter school succeed? If we give students and parents school choice, how do we help them make the right choice? How does less job stability but higher pay affect teacher quality, retention, and labor markets?
  • How might we redesign K-12 and secondary education to increase labor outcomes? The return to bachelor’s degrees has declined over the past few years. At the same time, students feel like they aren’t learning practical skills at school while their main reason for attending school is to get a job. How can and should government and schools respond to this need? Should government fund schools based on student labor outcomes? What are alternatives to doing so?
  • What does an effective tax structure look like? Where the wealthy will always be able to hire the best accountants and lawyers, will the non-wealthy bear a disproportionate tax burden? How might we be able to democratize access to techniques that accountants use?
  • To what extent should society support those able but unwilling to work?
  • How can we improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, particularly in emerging and lucrative industries?
  • What does the next era of growth marketing look like?
  • What can companies learn from creative and ruthless securities trades and structuring?
  • How can pools of individuals be used creatively to hedge risk beyond insurance risk pools?
  • How can we best determine the veracity of nonfiction texts written by experts?
  • How much did interventionism in Latin American countries in the 70s affect American foreign policy today?