The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Month: May, 2016

Prevent fat cats in Washington from running the government, using an anonymous election system that could theoretically elect a literal fat cat!

Background:

Corruption is a problem that seems inescapable in every form of governance—even in the best-run governments, there’s always going to be at least some incentive for certain individuals to use bribery, threats, and blackmail to advance their own agenda.

This can be difficult to address with traditional forms of government.

The proposal:

It would be difficult to bribe or threaten a ruler if the identity of this individual was unknown. Previously, this was not feasible (perhaps all senators could wear masks and long flowing robes to conceal their identities, but realistically this is not a practical solution).

But with modern technology, it is now possible for all legislative meetings to be conducted remotely over the Internet, either by text or by audio (with an anonymizing voice-modulating filter applied to the audio stream).

Each legislator could possess an encryption key that would verify that they were in fact the individual in question (or at least that they were someone who had stolen the key).

With the identities of members of government now a secret, it would not be possible for them to be influenced by bribery or threats. (This has been done in the past for juries in particularly dangerous situations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innominate_jury )

anon-table.png

Fig 1: In this anonymously-run government, there is no possibility of legislators being pressured by threats, blackmail, or bribery.

In a representative government, elections could still occur as before, except with candidates being replaced by an anonymous silhouette and a written up statement of the candidate’s political platform. This would also even the playing field in elections, as the physical appearance of the candidate would no longer be a factor in the election.

An alternative option would be to randomly fill offices with willing citizens (sort of like a voluntary version of jury duty). This is called “Sortition” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition) and would avoid the problem of having to conduct elections in an anonymous fashion.

There would probably also have to be some system in place to discourage people from just selling their position to the highest bidder, which would otherwise be extremely easy (and nearly undetectable).

Conclusion:

Democracy has been slow to adopt the new technologies of the Information Age. Next time this idea is on a local or national referendum, you should vote for it and see what happens!

PROS: Reduces sex / race / appearance / class / income bias in government. Could make it easier for legislators to make necessary but politically unpopular decisions.

CONS: A legislator who lost their encryption key would be locked out of the government for the remainder of their term.

 

 

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Appreciate a movie as it was meant to be seen, or maybe you can just watch an amateurishly cut version tailored to your specific preferences!

Background:

With the introduction of DVDs, it first became possible for a movie to contain user-selectable arrangements of scenes. This was a rarely used feature, but it did have a few interesting applications, such as a feature on the Memento DVD that allowed the movie to be watched in reverse order from normal (i.e., in normal chronological order).

Although this feature has not been widely used, nor has it made it to any common streaming video service, it demonstrates that the functionality for swapping out sections of film while watching does exist.

It would be ideal to take advantage of this in a way that would enhance the viewer’s experience.

Proposal:

A video streaming site could provide an on-screen dial to allow the user to select a number of movie parameters.

Among the most basic are:

  • Cut (“Theatrical” vs “Director’s”)
  • Rating (“PG13” vs “R” vs “Unrated”)

But with the ability to arbitrarily swap out scenes, we have more elaborate options as well.

For example, the genre of a film could be changed by judiciously switching out crucial scenes. Although this may sound ridiculous, has happened at least once: the 1977 Woody Allen movie Annie Hall was changed from a murder mystery to a romantic comedy entirely in post-production (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Hall : “It was originally a drama centered on a murder mystery with a comic and romantic subplot. […] Although they decided to drop the murder plot…”).

Fig 1: Two example genre dials: these labels might be common options. Annie Hall (1977) would perhaps have a dial labeled “Romantic Comedy / Murder Mystery.”

genre_dialFig 2: A more comprehensive genre dial that would handle the selection of various combinations of scenes / outtakes.

length_dial

Fig 3: Movie length can also be controlled by a dial. We can choose a length ranging from an ultra-long 5 hour extended edition (like the uncut 293-minute version of “Das Boot”), to a theatrical edition, all the way to a trailer-length / recap version of the film in five minutes.

rating_dial

Fig 4: Movie ratings dial. A rudimentary version of this already exists—some movies are available in “unrated” form, which may be accessible from the same disc as the “rated” version. However, this dial would allow more granular control over rating, and would enable the movie to be stripped down all the way to a G rating (perhaps all that would be left would be the title card and a cut to the credits).

PROS: Allows movies to be tailored more specifically to the viewer’s preferences.

CONS: Would require substantial work to annotate and dice up scenes in a fashion suitable for swapping in and out at the viewer’s whims. Directors would probably be unhappy about the loss of creative control.

Even the tiniest portion of food will feel satisfying when it looks like a huge meal! The one weird trick that cost-cutting dining establishments don’t want you to know!

TITLE: Even the tiniest portion of food will feel satisfying when it looks like a huge meal! The one weird trick that cost-cutting dining establishments don’t want you to know!

Background:

Food is delicious! Consequently, it’s too easy to eat too much of it.

If only there was some way to make a meal seem larger and more filling than it actually is…

Proposal:

The first part of the solution to this issue is straightforward, and has been with us since the days of Sherlock Holmes—use a magnifying lens (ideally placed in a fixed location on the table, in front of the individual who is dining) to make the food appear larger.

As unscientific speculation, this could:

  1. …encourage dining individuals to eat food in smaller bites…
  2. …which would reduce the speed of eating…
  3. …which would lead to the diner eventually feeling full and stopping eating after a reasonable portion has been consumed (rather than just wolfing down a meal before the stomach has time to react).

food-magnify

Fig 1: By magnifying this tiny hamburger (seen here with a U.S. quarter for scale), the hamburger-eating individual’s brain may be deceived into thinking the meal is much more filling than it actually is.

The key brain-deceiving component of this plan is the special utensils. If the user merely sees a magnified hamburger, but interacts with it with their normal-sized hands, they will immediately realize that it is actually a tiny hamburger.

But if the fork and knife are also tiny, they will appear normal-sized through the magnifying lens. Then the user must only take care not to observe the food as they move it outside of the magnified region (perhaps by being distracted by watching TV at the same time), and the illusion of normal-sized food is preserved.

food-magnify-utensils

Fig 2: Although the utensils (here: fork and knife) have normal-sized handles, the end of the utensil is 1/8 the size of normal, so it will appear the “correct” size through the magnifying lens.

Conclusion:

This is a great idea which will soon be seen in the fanciest restaurants as both a cost-cutting and health-promoting measure.

PROS: Allows food to be prepared more cheaply, since there will be less of it.

CONS: May lead to starvation if used injudiciously.

Become vexed that you are unable to find a red-headed emoji face!

Background: An emoji overview:

hair

Fig 1: Current Apple emoji skin tones. Available tones vary by emoji font designer (e.g., Google, Microsoft).

Emoji people were originally only available with a light skin tone. Recently, more skin tone options have been added (Fig 1).

However, they are just a recoloring of the original emoji, and thus may not have realistic hair options. For example, the only women’s emoji hair option (as seen above) is “long and straight” and the only men’s hair option is “short and generally indistinct.”

Below, we will propose a method for easily allowing custom colors by using a phone camera, but first let us examine the present emoji situation.

The current state of the art:

family

Fig 2: Emoji families (or possibly “emoji movie theater with low seats, and two children in a row in front of two adults”) currently only exist in this one shade.

santa

Fig 3: unlike an emoji family, Emoji Santa Claus may have varying skin tone.

catFig 4: emoji cats can have multiple facial expressions. The emoji cat is unique among non-human animals in having a wide range of facial expressions.

snakeFig 5: Unlike the cat, the emoji snake has no ability to express emotion. Font limitations may make infinite combinations of facial expressions / skin (or scale) colors impractical, so less popular options (“coral snake that is crying while listening to music on 70s headphones”) are not currently available.

fish

Fig 6: The emoji fish exists in six variants—pufferfish, yellow fish, blue fish, dolphin, lungfish (cartoon), and lungfish (realistic).

Proposal:

Instead of selecting from a list, a user could set an emoji skin / fur / scale tone using the built-in camera in their phone (Fig 7).

emoji_photo

Fig 7: With the cameraphone in their left hand, this tomato-colored user is taking a picture of their right hand for use in the auto-emoji-coloring algorithm. Now the emoji people on this phone will have a tomato option.

emoji_color_animals

Fig 8: Now that we’ve decoupled eye color, hairstyle, hair color, and skin color, it is possible to make any combination of features. These new features can be applied to all animal emoji as well.If you want your cat emoji to be colored the same as your actual cat, you could take a picture of your cat instead of your hand. Perhaps you could even make the “car emoji” the same make and model of your actual car!

Conclusion:

It was apparently possible to add the flags of every country in the world, plus Antarctica (ant), so clearly space is not extremely limited. Perhaps Blue Emoji Cat With Red Whiskers really will be added in a future Unicode update.

PROS: Opens up a new world of hilariously colored animal emoji. Increases employment for font designers and font-related programmers.

CONS: Opens up a new world of font-related bugs. Assumes you’re willing to have a 250 megabyte font of “all combinations of human and animal skin / scale / fur / feather tones, hairstyles, hair colors, and eye colors” in memory on your phone at all times.

Exercise self-control and never wantonly snack again with this amazing new home design tip! Your kitchen will thank you.

Background:

When a fully-stocked kitchen is just one room away from you, it’s really easy to constantly snack at non-officially-sanctioned mealtimes.

The issue:

But the tyranny of prescribed mealtimes must be obeyed if one is to avoid eventually becoming completely spherical (due to being completely full of delicious snacks).

cake

Fig 1: A delicious snack in your kitchen. Devour it like a wild beast!!!!!!!

In ancient times, our ancestors had no trouble avoiding constantly eating delicious snacks, because 1) snacks did not exist and 2) they would have to kill a woolly mammoth or something if they wanted to eat mammoth jerky. That isn’t something you can just go one room over and do (unless you’re an unusually successful stone age tribal chieftain.)

But how to we keep from constant snacking in the modern era?

Proposal:

By simply making it more difficult to access the kitchen, we can prevent casual snacking at minimal cost. For less than the cost of a hundred cakes, a custom door can be fitted to one’s kitchen door.

Here, we will run through the options:

door-blank

Fig 2a: A very heavy kitchen door with an auto-closing mechanism (not pictured). This is the “base model” door with no bells or whistles. Since it is slightly annoying to open (and it closes automatically), it may discourage extremely casual snacking. But it can be improved upon, as seen in Fig 2b.

door-rotary

Fig 2b: This door has a nautical-style rotary opening mechanism, with a twist—in order to open the kitchen door, the kitchen-accessing individual must turn the handle one hundred times. This will give the person a good forearm workout and discourage unnecessary trips to the kitchen.

door-pull-up-bar

Fig 2c: As an alternative to the rotary opener, this pull-up bar door requires the user to perform at least 10 pull-ups before they can go into the kitchen. A door could also include both the rotary mechanism and the pull-up bar.

door-puzzle-from-the-witness

Fig 2d: Finally, this door features a complicated maze puzzle that the user must solve before it opens. Although this does not improve physical fitness, it still creates a mentally taxing obstacle to the delicious foods that reside in the kitchen. (This specific style of puzzle is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witness_(2016_video_game) )

Conclusion:

This is a low-cost method of encouraging healthy eating habits. Talk to your architect and/or interior designer about it today!

PROS: Improves physical fitness / mental acuity with minimal effort on the user’s part.

CONS: Since it is so difficult to access the fridge, an individual might take out a bunch of food at once, leave it unrefrigerated for a while, and then eat the spoiled food (which otherwise, in absence of this door, would have been properly refrigerated).