The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Month: July, 2016

The true secret of DOGS—never need to walk your dog again! Tip number five will HORRIFY you.

Background:

Dogs! You sometimes need to walk them, but maybe you don’t want to.

Sure, you could walk your dog on a treadmill or giant hamster wheel inside the house (Fig 1), but maybe you still want to give your dog the authentic outdoor-walk experience. Currently: not possible.

turnspit-dog-ancient-times

Fig 1: Ancient people knew that a “turnspit dog” could be an all-natural eco-friendly power source for charging a cell phone. Image is from a historical woodcut.

Proposal:

A human on a dog walk typically provide two things: 1) navigation guidance and 2) the ability to pull on a dog’s leash if necessary.

As described below, we can easily replicate these two factors without requiring a human to go on the walk (Figs. 2a, 2b):

dog-harness

Fig 2: The dog will wear a  sweater-like harness (blue) with an attachment point at the top. This harness should also include a GPS tracker.

dog-leash

Fig 3: This attachment point will have an articulated set of powered joints coming out of it, which will support a false hand (green) that holds the leash (yellow). The hand can be remotely controlled to pull the leash in various directions. (The harness provides the support / counter-force to allow the hand to pull on the leash.)

Once the harness is properly attached, and the leash is affixed to the artificial hand, the dog is ready for a walk!

dog-backwarddog-forward

Fig 4: By extending the hand backward or forward, the dog will feel as if it is being pulled in that direction (although the harness/hand combination is not capable of pulling the entire dog in any direction at all).

We have two options for actually controlling the hand:

  1. The walk could be handled automatically by a computer (using the GPS data to control the hand
  2. Or a human operator could manually direct the leash-holding hand, as shown in figure 5.

dog-cam

Fig 5: A camera attachment will allow the dog operator to see where they are going. For the ultimate experience, a 360° camera could be attached to allow for immersive telepresence operation via VR goggles.

PROS: Now you can walk your dog while in the safety and comfort of your own house!

CONS: May cause the powerful dog-walking industry to collapse, so there will be lots of opposition from “Big Dog-Walking.”

dog-walks-itself

Supplementary Figure A: Artist’s original rendition of the dog-walking system. Captions are hand-lettered in ink.

sketch-dog-1

Supplementary Figure B: Material for a future patent filing.

sketch-dog-2

Supplementary Figure C: Additional material for a future patent filing. Original idea, do not steal.

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Lawyers hate it! Linguists love it! Never be confused by contradictory and confusing laws again, now that you have a fully logical legal annotation language, or “legal markup language.”

Background:

Misunderstandings of meaning are often encountered due to ambiguities in human language.

This causes problems in several ways, particularly in:

  1. Translation between languages
  2. Interpretation of laws

1) In regards to translation:

For any non-trivial translation between two languages, a human is still required in order to figure out the meaning of it and a sentence and translate it accordingly—despite the fact that the meaning is all (theoretically) already present in the text.

2) In regards to interpretation of laws:

Ambiguity in laws can cause much consternation. One famous example is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The significance (or, alternatively, the lack thereof) of “a well regulated militia” continues to be debated. This confusion could all have been avoided by wording official documents in an unambiguous language.

Proposal:

We will create a new, exceedingly detailed form of annotation that will related human concepts in an unambiguously logical fashion.

This annotation will be more like an HTML-style markup language than a standard human language.

(A theoretically unambiguous language called “Lojban” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban) already exists, but it requires learning an entirely new language, whereas the proposal here is an extension of one’s existing language.)


Example #1: The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Original text: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

…and now a version in unambiguous annotated format:

  • Statement:
    • Forbid:
      • bail (noun, a specific payment for those awaiting trial, unspecified quantity)
        • only_present_if:
          • is also excessive (large in quantity)
      • fines (noun, payment required from an individual, 2+):
        • type: required / mandatory
          • required by: the government
        • only_present_if:
          • is also excessive (large in quantity)
      • infliction / imposition:
        • thing to be inflicted: punishments (plural, 2+)
        • only_present_if:
          • all_conditions_true:
            • is cruel (adj., see also merciless, evil)
            • is_not:
              • usual / common / standard / as expected

And when translated back to English:

The following 3 things are forbidden: 1) bail, only if excessive or too large in quantity, 2) fines, only if excessive or too large in quantity, and 3) infliction of punishment, only if both of the following conditions are met: the punishment is cruel or merciless, and also the punishment is also unusual or nonstandard.

See Fig. 1 for an example of the annotation format in flowchart form.


Unambiguous text - 8th amendment flowchart

Fig 1: The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, rendered as a “diagrammed sentence”-style graph of logical concepts.


Example #2: Shakespeare, a famous soliloquy by Hamlet:

HAMLET: To be, or not to be—that is the question: 

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them.


…and now a version in unambiguous annotated format:

  •  Pose_Question:
    • type: posed abstractly
      • posed_to: abstract audience of indefinite nature (informal)
      • posed_by: Hamlet (male, singular, nobility, age_of_majority, informal)
    • option: Continued existence
    • option: Annihilation
    • requirement: select 1 option
    • evaluation criterion: none
  • var MY_ENDURE =
    • subject (noun): enduring / persisting:
      • the one who endures: a human (abstract, no number or gender specified)
      • the thing to be endured: injury (abstract)
        • a.k.a.: new var TROUBLE1
          • caused_by: projectiles (plural, 2+):
            • projectile_1: causative agent (plural, 2+): a sling
            • projectile_2: causative agent (plural, 2+): arrows
            • source (of projectiles): abstract_entity:
              • fortune / luck
  • var MY_RAISE_ARMS_CAUSE_END =
    • var RA1 = verb / action: raise arms / raise weapons / struggle
      • struggle against what: troubles / problems (plural, many)
        • a.k.a.: new var TROUBLE1
        • assert that: TROUBLE1 is identical to TROUBLE1 in MY_ENDURE
      • var RA2 = noun
        • end / cessation of TROUBLE1
      • action:
        • RA1 leads to RA2 (RA1 -> RA2)
        • frequency of action causing result: always
  • Pose_Question:
    • type: posed abstractly
      • posed_to: abstract audience of indefinite nature (informal)
      • posed_by: Hamlet (male, singular, nobility, age_of_majority, informal)
    • option: Continued existence
    • option: Annihilation
    • requirement: select 1 option
    • evaluation criterion: “is nobler” (is superior, is more admirable)
    • item to evaluate #1: MY_RAISE_ARMS_CAUSE_END
    • item to evaluate #2: MY_ENDURE

And when translated back to English:

HAMLET: I pose the following abstract question: Is continued existence preferred, or is the non-continuance of existence preferred?

HAMLET: I pose the additional abstract question: Is it preferable for an unspecified individual to endure troubles, specifically multiple injuries caused by abstract fortune / luck, where these injuries are inflicted by one or more arrows, and one or more unspecified projectiles sent by means of a sling, or is it preferable for that individual to by means of arming oneself or applying weapons, struggle against against the same troubles referred to earlier in this question, where this struggle also results in the end of the specified troubles.

 

Conclusion:

For laws, its interesting to see how verbose and incomprehensible even a single sentence can be in “unambiguous” format. As for Hamlet, it may lack the elegance of the original, but now it can be translated between languages by machine without loss of information!

This would probably actually work for very limited types of input: e.g. cookbook recipes, scientific methods / protocols, product warranties, instruction manuals, etc…

PROS: Machine translation will finally work right!

CONS: The “unambiguous” format is basically impossible to read.


 

Below are the above examples in image format, with color-coded sections to indicated corresponding text.

Unambiguous text - Hamlet

Fig 2: An excerpt from Hamlet: original -> unambiguous annotation -> back to English, in an image. See above for this information presented as selectable text. Note that the colors are supposed to match up regions of (mostly) identical information content.

 

Unambiguous text - 8th amendment text

Fig 3: The Eighth Amendment: original -> unambiguous annotation -> back to English, in an image. See above for this information presented as selectable text.


 

Do you hate jerks who intrude on your personal space on public transit or airplanes? Now YOU can be even more of a jerk with this one amazing fashion tip!

Background:

Everyone has at some point had their personal space intruded upon by a discourteous and/or humongous individual on a bus, train, plane, or movie theater.

If only there were some way to reclaim your personal space!

Proposal:

But there is!

The answer is an inflatable pufferfish-inspired jacket (Figure 1).

jacket-puff

Fig 1: In normal situations, the jacket is similar to a standard raincoat (left). But should the need arise, the coat can inflate to protect your personal space (right)!

This new fashion accessory is of particular use on public transit (Figure 2).

take-up-seats-on-transit

Fig 2: Normally, the jacket-wearer in this figure would have to worry about a discourteous individual sitting next to them. But no more, now that the entire row of seats is protected by rows of deadly spines!

Conclusion:

Head over to your nearest department store and put a pre-order on this new trend-setting jacket!

PROS: Prevents the wearer from being eaten by some types of deadly predator.

CONS: May fail to deploy properly in situations of boa-constrictor-related peril.

Never enjoy driving again with this one weird taxi meter tip!

Background:

It’s often hard to assess the total cost of renting vs buying.

For example:

  • Renting a house (plus renters’ insurance) versus owning a house (plus homeowner’s insurance, property tax, and maintenance, and possibly offset by property value appreciation)
  • Owning a timeshare versus renting a vacation house once a year
  • Taking a taxi / using a ride-sharing app versus owning a car (and paying for insurance, gas, and vehicle registration)

The proposal:

In the pre-ride-sharing era, a taxi would have a taxi meter running at all times, showing the total costs of the trip.

A privately-owned vehicle could also a total-costs meter in the dashboard.

Vehicle ownership costs involve:

  • Gas
  • Insurance premiums (monthly or annual)
  • Vehicle registration (annual)
  • Car payment minus depreciation (if applicable)

blank

Fig 1: A blank “total cost” meter for your car that would tell you how much you’ve paid in car costs.

Setting up the details for this meter would be easy. Each parameter can be easily input and then calculated by the meter itself from that point onward, with no further user input:

  • The car knows how much gas has been put into it (and can accurately estimate the local gas price to within 5-10% by querying the Internet, assuming that this meter pairs with your phone somehow)
  • Car payment details only need to be input by the user once
  • Likewise, annual insurance premiums and vehicle registration costs rarely change, and would only need to be input one time.

totalcost

Fig 2: When filled in with real data, the carefree days of car ownership are over, and you now must stress out about every tiny trip you make!

The Math for a car that is only used for commuting, with no passengers:

A ride-sharing-app ride from a close-but-not-downtown area of a major city to downtown, assuming light traffic, is frequently around $10. Let’s assume this is a work commute that happens twice a day, and that this is ALL the car is ever used for.

Annual cost: 50 work weeks per year * 5 days per week * 2 rides per day = 500 rides per year

  • 500 rides per year * $10 / ride = $5000 annually with a ride-sharing app

Let’s compare this to car ownership, assuming a $20,000 car, financed at 0% over 5 years, and worth $7500 at the end of 5 years (depreciation = $20,000 – $7500 = $12500).

Total cost of car ownership:

  • Car payment: –$333 / month / mo
  • Car equity obtained (with price at end of 5-year period): +$125 / mo
  • Insurance, assuming $1000 per year: –$83 / mo
  • Gas price, assuming your commute is a short 5 miles each way and you get 25 miles per gallon, so that’s 10 miles per day, or 0.4 gallons per day. 0.4 gallons * 30 days = 12 gallons per month * (current gas price), which we will assume as $3.00 per gallon = –$36 / mo.
  • Car registration, assumed to be $150 / year:  –$12 / mo
  • Assume that downtown parking is $100 / month: –$100 / mo.
  • Average maintenance cost per year, figuring a $500 maintenance cost every 2 years (includes tires, oil, etc.): –$21 / mo

Total:

  • -333 + 125 – 83 – 36 – 12 – 100 – 21 = $–460 / month
  • Total = $5520 per year to own a car

So in this scenario, you would theoretically save $520 per year by not owning a car at all, although in this particular case, you would also not have a car for any other method of transportation.

So if your numbers look like the ones above, you should probably actually buy a car!

Conclusion:

Uber and Lyft should promote this app for people living in major cities! Most of them probably don’t realize how much their car actually costs.

PROS: Good for ride-sharing companies!

CONS: Bad for car manufacturers!