The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

The horrifying secret that APPLE, GOOGLE, and MICROSOFT don’t want you to know about laptop longevity! Stop being part of the “laptop rat race” with this new insane beverage-related tip. Tip number 5 will shock you!

Background:

Millions of laptops are destroyed every year by spilled drinks (Figure 1). Unfortunately, this is a difficult problem to address, because laptops and beverages are frequently in close proximity.

normal-laptop-and-water

spill

Fig. 1a (top) and 1b (bottom): You have probably either experienced this situation first-hand or observed it happen to someone else. If only there had been some warning ahead of time about the peril the laptop was in!

Proposal:

If the glass-full-of-liquid danger were more immediately obvious, many laptops could be saved from a thirst-quenching death—the laptop user would simply need to place the drink slightly farther away from the laptop than they normally would.

By adding a ring of laser emitters to the beverage container, the spill danger can be made obvious: the lasers will project a circular “spill danger zone” on the table, informing you of any imperiled electronics (Figure 2).

danger-zone

Fig. 2: The laser emitters on the top of the glass (shown as red triangles) project a “spill danger zone” region around the glass. You should move any sensitive electronics outside of this area.

An advanced model of this idea could also have an integrated camera: this would allow it to only project the “danger zone” markings if it actually detected an object in the spill area, instead of all the time (which might get annoying).

PROS: Saves your laptop from destruction!

CONS: The lasers might melt people’s eyeballs when you raise the glass to drink from it.

 

Become a sophisticated cinephile AND appreciate the finest movies that cinema has to offer in only ONE-NINTH the expected time, thanks to this bizarre invention! You will be the envy of your friends and countrymen.

Background:

There are hundreds of famous and excellent movies, but almost no one has seen them all!

It’s possible to laboriously go through the extensive backlog of classic movies, but with the current volume of media, this would be a major endeavor.

Proposal:

By splitting a screen into N segments (for this example, let’s say 9 segments), different sections of a single movie can be played simultaneously.

Audio would probably need to either be turned off or limited to a single screen at a time. Subtitles would be a requirement.

movie-nine-times

Fig 1: All nine sections of the movie will play at once, allowing the dedicated viewer to see every scene from a movie in a fraction of the expected time. Depicted: the 1977 Woody Allen movie “Annie Hall.”

So if a movie is 100 minutes long, the top-left screen (#1) would start at time 0:00, the next screen would start at 10:00, …, and the bottom-right screen (#9) would start at 80:00. Then the 90 minute movie could be viewed in its entirety in only 10 minutes!

movie-speedup

Fig 2: Look how much time you’ll save! You’ll be able to watch the entire director’s cut of Das Boot (3 hours and 29 minutes) in just over 23 minutes! That frees up 3 hours and 6 minutes in your day, which you can use to post arguments about the film online.

VERTIGO 1_modified_2_small_numbered.jpeg

Fig 3: This proof of concept shows what the simultaneous-watching system would look like for the famous 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.”

Additional option:

Since movies invariably have scenes of both high and low intensity, it might be possible to adaptively set the screen timing so that only one dialog-heavy section was on screen at once. For example, one screen would show a complicated and plot-crucial scene that required viewer attention, while another showed a long establishing shot that could be mostly ignored in comparison.

PROS: Cinephiles will love it. You will appreciate movies in RECORD time now.

CONS: Probably would not work for certain types of movies with intricate or non-straightforward plots; for example, The Departed (2006) or Memento (2000).

Five underrated facts about dystopian totalitarian surveillance regimes! You’ll never believe fact #2!

Background:

The optimal tradeoff between privacy and security is a topic that is endlessly debated.

In the past, omnipresent surveillance was not feasible—but technology is now at the point where implementation of a 1984-esque surveillance state is actually possible.

On the one hand, it would be theoretically convenient to have immediate response to crimes and/or injuries, and perhaps take action to prevent some crimes before they even occur.

On the other hand, you might be sent to a faraway gulag because you opposed the interests of a politically-connected individual.

Proposal:

The problem here, of course, is the human element (see Figure 1).

monitor-computer-guy

Fig. 1: This guy (right) can monitor every aspect of your life on the video screens (left). This works fine until you become successful and he blackmails you!

But if an all-seeing computer system (like Skynet in the Terminator series) were in charge of things, we could could theoretically know that the surveillance system could not be misused, and would only be used for the programmed-in purposes (e.g., catching kidnappers and insane murderers).

Humans would write the rules for the system, but the raw data would (somehow) be inaccessible except to the analysis computer (Fig. 2).

Some example rules that might be applied:

  • If a car was used in a felony, check traffic cameras for its license plate number.
  • If a person has purchased explosive-manufacture-related chemicals, check their records for unusual activity and potentially flag them for further investigation by actual humans.
  • If a person declared no taxable income, but drives around in an 80,000 dollar car, check them for tax fraud.

Since these rules could be set by the legislature, they could be transparent and subject to review by the voters.

One downside: many countries operate on implicit rules like:

  • If a person supports an opposing political party, make sure to harass and imprison them.
  • If a person is a member of a disfavored ethnic or religious group, make sure to hold them to the strictest letter of the law.
  • Otherwise, don’t enforce any rules at all.

These informal enforcement rules might be less likely to survive if they had to be explicitly coded up and put on the official registry of surveillance rules. Or perhaps they would remain, and just be enforced with horrific robotic precision!

robot-wheel

Fig 2: This robot is totally trustworthy with your personal data, and has no ulterior motives or desires of its own (unlike a human).

seeing-eye

Fig 3: This unblinking “panopticon” eye will be a useful symbol to let you know you are in a safe and trustworthy robot-surveilled region! Stick one of these in your bedroom and bathroom to remind you that a robot is watching you at all times.

Conclusion:

When you lobby for omnipresent surveillance, make sure to imagine the predicable scenario where some irrationally angry neighbor or ambitious business rival now has a recording of every stupid thing you (and your friends/family) have ever done!

PROS: Would probably reduce many types of crime.

CONS: Terminator and/or 1984.

 

 

 

Travel almost for FREE with this one weird tip! One insane way to reduce your spending on airline tickets now.

The issue:

Travel to exotic locales can be expensive, inconvenient, and perhaps even dangerous or impossible.

Proposal:

Using the same technology that companies like Google use to get street view images (now available in 40-lb backpack format as well: https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&sa=1&q=google+street+view+camera ), we can set up a scenario where you can conduct tourism by proxy using a VR headset.

This would work as follows:

  • You submit a request online, like “I’d like to see the pyramids of Giza.”
  • Someone who is already in the vicinity accepts your request. You pay them and they put on a panoramic street view camera.
  • You then call them up and perform the VR equivalent of a Skype / FaceTime / Hangouts call.
  • The tour guide will either walk around on their own, or perhaps take requests from the remote viewer.

proxy_guy

Fig. 1: This fashionable individual in a VR headset is standing comfortably at home while getting a VR tour of Egyptian pyramids, which is directed by the person in Figure 2.

desert

Fig. 2: This “VR tour guide” is carrying the cameras and microphones so that the individual in Figure 1 can get an immersive real-time VR tour of the pyramids.

scuba_water

Fig. 3: In addition to enabling extremely lazy travelers, VR tours could be used to experience otherwise difficult or impossible environments.

Eco-friendly final point:

This technology would also reduce the amount of energy expended on travel (particularly via airplane), which both saves fuel and also reduces the number of greenhouse gasses generated.

PROS: Saves time, money, and the environment.

CONS: Might negatively impact revenue at certain difficult-to-access tourist destinations like Machu Picchu.

Vanquish loneliness and existential dread with this one weird app that doesn’t exist (yet)

The issue:

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep in touch with your friends and family, especially if you live in different cities and time zones.

Proposal:

The solution is quite simple—an app that keeps track of when you last met up with, texted, called, or otherwise contacted your friends and family.

In fact, it could even be integrated directly into your messaging app and phone GPS, so the phone could automatically keep track of which relationships were being maintained. (Both your national government and companies like Google have more than enough information to do this already, but it’s unlikely to be a crowd-pleasing feature, so don’t expect it to show up on your phone any time soon. Fortunately, this still leaves the door open for an enterprising startup to create this program.)

The example program below (Figures 1 and 2) is called “FriendNeglectr” (if that gets trademarked, “Neglectly” and “FriendNeglect.io” are other popular startup-sounding names that could be employed).

friendneglectr-icon

Fig 1: The proposed FriendNeglectr icon.

friendneglectr-emphasis

Fig 2: Here, we see a list of several of your friends in FriendNeglectr, ordered by the time you last saw them. For example, you last met Dave (top) for coffee 4 months ago. But you haven’t seen Alfonso (bottom) in 1.5 years, so the bar is highlighted in red. 

Conclusion:

You should stay in contact with your friend Alfonso, even though the last time you saw him was in court (Fig. 2). Also, since this app doesn’t exist yet, you should develop it.

PROS: Helps you maintain important relationships that might otherwise be neglected due to time and distance.

CONS: Reminds you of the ubiquitous and inescapable surveillance of modern society, filling you with a chilling dread of a future “Orwell’s 1984”-esque world.

Read this before you give your child a HYPHENATED last name! The horrifying secret that the reptilian ruling class royal families don’t want you to know!

Background:

Here’s a problem we’ve all faced: you are a member of a noble family, and so is your spouse: clearly, your child must inherit both of your venerable royal surnames, but how?

One solution is to combine both names into a new hyphenated name.

But this really just kicks the problem down the road—it’s not feasible to double the length of a surname with every generation.

If you do that, you’ll end up with a name like these (real) people:

In fact, if hyphenation is rigorously followed, then after 10 generations a single last name would take over an hour to write out by hand.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution!

Proposal:

This solution has a natural inspiration: in mammalian biology, even though a child inherits genetic information from each parent, the size of the genome does not double with each generation. Instead, the chromosomes are mixed together (“recombined”), and each parent only contributes 50% of the theoretically-maximum amount of hereditary information (Figure 1).

recombine-chrom.png

Fig, 1: The parents (yellow + orange for one parent, and green + blue for the other parent) contribute shuffled-up versions of the four chromosomes shown at left. The child inherits a total of two “recombined” chromosomes, as seen at far right.

We can do exactly the same thing for last names!

We’ll split up each name by phoneme (or by syllable, but usually a syllable is too “large” a unit), and then mix the names together.

For example, for parents “SMITH” and “KOBAYASHI,” we would write out the names phonetically….

S M IH TH         (Parent #1's last name)

K O B A YA SH EE  (Parent #2's last name)

…then arrange the two different-length names so that they match up in length (the shorter name will have some extra blank spaces in it)…

S _ M _ IH __ TH

K O B A YA SH EE

…and finally pick randomly from each parent as we read along from left to right. In this case, the chosen phonemes are highlighted in red:

  S _ M _ IH __ TH

  K O B A YA SH EE
  S   B A YA    TH

Giving the name “S’bayath,” perhaps also written as “Sbayath” or “Sibayath” (3 syllables: S•ba•yath)

See figures 2 and 3 for an in-depth illustration of this method to existing hyphenated names.

recombination-overview-no-final-name.png

Fig. 2: If we have two parents with hyphenated names (“Smith-Walton” and “Kobayashi-Jones”), then the phoneme-based name recombination will work as follows. The original names are at left, the gray highlighting in the middle shows which phonemes were (randomly) chosen to contribute to the child’s name, and the name at the right is the recombined name, each of which will be one half of the child’s new surname.

final-name.png

Fig. 3: In this case, the final name is “Salton-Jobashines,” but there are hundreds of other possible surnames that could have arisen. For example, if the name recombination were flipped (so that the gray-highlighted regions were discarded instead of selected), the final name would have been W’mith–Koya, perhaps also written as as “Wuhmith-Koya.”

Conclusion:

Next time you’re about to inflict an 8-part hyphenated surname upon your royal heir, think of the plight of Mr. Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg described above, and consider this approach instead!

PROS: Inspired by nature, which means that it’s inherently good and true.

CONS: There is a very small chance that your child could end up with an unpronounceable last name with no vowels, or a name like “Aaaaaaa.”

Never fall for a clickbait title again with this one INSANE museum tip! Your art appreciation teacher would hate it.

Background:

Museums are often large and weirdly laid out, and it’s frequently impossible to see the high points of culture without major hassle.

In contrast, amusement park rides are laid out with extreme care to provide an engaging experience the whole way through.

Specifically relevant to this proposal are “narrative” rides where a user gets into a vehicle and experiences a story of some kind. Examples:

  • “Haunted house” rides
  • Disney rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” or “It’s a Small World.”

Proposal:

We will combine the amusement park “narrative ride” with the contents of a museum (Fig. 1).

Advantages of experiencing the contents of a museum as a linear ride instead of an open “wander about freely” space:

  • Dawdlers are prevented from hogging the best Greek urn viewing locations.
  • The viewing experience is linear, and can thus be more easily crafted by the museum curator.
  • An audio guide can be synced up with the ride, so no separate “press this number” audio guide is required. Instead, the audio guide can come out of speakers in the vehicle or in the exhibition hall.

museum-amusement-park-ride.png

Fig 1: This “Pirates of the Caribbean”-style museum ride is both engaging and educational.

Conclusion:

You must demand that any future museums that you attend be presented in the format of a theme park ride.

PROS: Greatly increases cultural and educational opportunities.

CONS: People may fall into the river if they become too enamored of a specific piece of work and try to remain near it while the ride moves on.