The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Month: November, 2014

Never pay for a climbing gym again with this one micro-transaction trick (which is also weird)

Background:

In this plan, we will discuss a sub-category of indoor climbing: bouldering. Bouldering involves climbing up a surface that is studded with various hand- and foot-holds, and it generally involves no safety equipment beyond a padded mat.

The Issue:

Bouldering / rock climbing has gained significant mainstream popularity since 2010. However, one thing that has not changed is the price; most climbing gyms cost approximately the same amount as a regular gym, about 5% of the total take-home income of a person earning minimum wage.

Although this is not a huge amount, it is enough to discourage many individuals.

It is likely that many additional people would go to indoor climbing gyms if they were initially free.

Here, we take inspiration from the “phone app” market, where software is now generally free with in-app purchases, rather than being (say) $5 up-front.)

Proposals:

In order to encourage people to try climbing and (potentially) increase gym profits, there are two sub-proposals here, the “evil” one and the “non-evil” one. Let’s do the “evil” one first:

EVIL proposal:

  • The climbing part of the gym becomes totally free to use. (Equipment rental—shoes in this case—would still cost money.)
  • Instead of having normal climbing routes, the routes are changed such that it is possible, or in fact encouraged, for the user to be able to climb the routes in a safe fashion, but will likely end up “stuck” at the top in a way that it is very difficult to get back down safely.
  • Possibly the route ends on a safe ledge, but the only obvious descent is over a crocodile pit.

crocodile
Fig 1: Crocodiles will work for less than minimum wage and are philosophically opposed to unionization, making them ideal employees.

  • Overhangs, in particular, are frequently much easier to climb up than down, and could be employed to this end.
  • Here is where the microtransactions come in: at the top of the route, there would be a vending machine that would sell access to a single-use rope / elevator, allowing the climber to purchase safe descent to the bottom (instead of risking life and limb trying to climb down the route over the crocodile pit).

NON-EVIL proposal:

  • Each route could have a fee associated with starting it (“$3 to start this climb”), but a climber is refunded that fee if they make it to the top on their first try.
  • Possibly microtransactions could also be applied here, e.g. “for an additional $1, we will light up the holds that are intended to be used for this route.”
  • Or, if the climbing wall was suitably futuristic and could be reconfigured by a computer, this could even be made into a sort of gambling game, as follows:
    • A climber would pay an “entry fee” for a yet-unknown route of a given difficulty.
    • Then a route would be randomly generated (or selected from a database of thousands of options), and the computer would reconfigure the climbing wall.
    • For every climber who FAILED to make it to the top on their first try, a fraction of their entry fee would be put into a prize pool.
    • That prize pool would then be claimed by the first climber to made it to the top on their first try.

PROS: Could broaden interest and allow people with few financial resources to start bouldering.

CONS: BIG GOVERNMENT would probably put a stop to the crocodile idea (it might not be an OSHA-approved workplace, among other potential violations). Possibly it could still be implemented in international waters.

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Never be annoyed by jury duty again—use prisoners as jurors

Background:

Many citizens in countries with jury duty find it to be a somewhat burdensome obligation. Jurors are either unpaid, or paid only a nominal amount (on the order of a couple hours of minimum wage for an 8-hour day).

(Note that the jury system is by no means a requirement for a trial. In most countries, trial outcomes are determined exclusively by professional judges.)

The Issue:

Since trials can commonly last for weeks or months, and there is no provision for a person to be able to do their day job while they are on a jury, it can become very difficult for a juror to go about their life while the trial is in progress.

jury-duty-1

Fig 1: A hypothetical jury, randomly chosen from the local population. These 12 people probably would rather be somewhere else, but they’re doing their civic duty.

Proposal:

It might be possible to select from a group of individuals who are still more-or-less representative of the population as a whole, but whose lives would not be negatively disrupted by a lengthy trial. Specifically, the jury could be selected from the ranks of convicted criminals.

Since these individuals are already serving a prison sentence, they don’t have a job that would be interfered with, and there would be no need to ever “sequester” a jury made up of prisoners, since they are already sequestered by definition.

There is precedent for previous obligations being made optional, at least in the United States:

  • Church attendance (mandatory in the 1600s, now optional)
  • Military service (mandatory if drafted, now optional)

If the jury trial is to be retained, perhaps it too should be made optional for non-incarcerated individuals.

jury-duty-prisoners

Fig 2: A hypothetical jury of only prisoners (in anachronistic garb).

PROS: Saves time and money spent mailing out jury summonses, saves lost wages and productivity of the individuals on the jury. Gives the incarcerated individuals something productive to do that is probably more interesting than being in prison.

CONS: None!

You won’t believe how easy it is to prevent people from going into a taped-off “danger” area with this one bizarre trick!

 

The issue:

The classic yellow-and-white “danger!” tape is visually apparent and can be quite useful for indicating that an area is hazardous or off-limits. However! There are two problems:

danger-tape
Fig 1: The classic “danger” tape. But you might not know it if you couldn’t read English!

First, the “danger” text is specific to one language.

Second, the colors of the tape are culturally specific; maybe in some far-off island, yellow-and-white tape is used to indicate “here is a delicious free chocolate rabbit for the annual chocolate festival.”

 

The proposal:

We can create a language- and culture-neutral design for the tape—something that will indicate “danger!” to all humans, without requiring explanation.

Specifically, the tape will be designed to have an infinitely extended row of deadly pointed teeth, which are a relatively universal sign to indicate that a possible hazard exists within. Additionally, the tape could have periodic sections of “angry eyebrows” and glaring eyes to really drive home the point. (Admittedly, despite the universality of human facial expressions, “cartoon angry eyebrows” are probably not a symbol that is understood across all human societies.)

 

teeth-tape
Fig 2: The “monster teeth” danger tape. Note the blood-stained shark teeth and angry eyebrows.

example-animal

Fig 3: Artist’s rendition of the muppet-like monster face whose presence is evoked by the design of the tape. May be insufficiently menacing in current form.

PROS: Would be especially useful in countries with many official languages, saving the trouble of translating the text into each language.

CONS: May be culturally insensitive to shark-toothed monsters.

 

 

How to destroy a programming language (or natural language?) that you don’t like in one easy step with three difficult sub-steps

The issue:

Sometimes, you don’t like a programming language (like Perl or Python), or a natural language (like English or Spanish).

You might have your reasons, or maybe not—maybe you just want to destroy it completely for no reason at all!

 

Proposal: Here’s a simple way to go about wreaking destruction on the language in question while leaving no one the wiser:

  1. Propose a “new and improved” version of the language. Example: “Perl 6 will be so much better than Perl 5!” Or: “Esperanto: it’s like English, but the spelling is much more regular!”
    1. Make sure it’s very similar at first glance, but annoyingly incompatible in key regards.
    2. Next, make sure there are a few bonus features, but not enough to actually justify the switching cost.
  2. For programming languages, start creating software in this language. For natural languages, start creating novels, newspapers, and works of art in this language.
  3. Make sure there is a HUGE delay in switching; “everyone should learn English 2.0, but it isn’t ready quite yet… so in the meantime, English 1.0 is deprecated.”
  4. Finally, you just have to wait! Instead of switching to the “upgraded” language, people will probably switch to an entirely different one.

 

Great examples in history:

  • Successful destruction: Perl 5 –> Perl 6
  • To be determined: Python 2 –> Python 3
  • Failure: English –> Esperanto

PROS: Lets you surreptitiously destroy the language that has drawn your wrath.

CONS: None!