Power your house entirely by pedaling a stationary bike connected to a generator! The only catch is that you have to do it for 24 hours per day, and then an additional 26 hours that same day.

Background:

It’s difficult to appreciate the amount of energy that is consumed by a citizen of a modern industrial economy.

If we only consider household electricity, a “reasonable” amount of consumption (ignoring air conditioning or heating) can be more than 5 kilowatt-hours (~200 watts of average usage over a 24-hour period).

A non-bicycling-enthusiast adult can generate ~100 watts for an hour (optimistically) before they get sick of it, for a total of 0.1 kilowatt-hours (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: In this scenario, a person pedals on the stationary bike (left), and this is somehow converted into stored energy in the battery (center). When you need power for the house, your plug the battery into the mains (blue cable) and… let’s just imagine this all works out somehow, I’m no electrician.

The Issue:

The numbers above give us the following totals:

  • Household power usage per day: 5000 watt-hours
  • Plausible amount of electricity generated by a human: 100 watt-hours.

In this particular case, we have a shortfall of 4900 watt-hours. A person would need to generate about 50 times more power than they actually do in order for the house to be fully powered by an exercise bike.

The numbers above aren’t even enough to keep a refrigerator operational!

Proposal:

The goal here isn’t to actually fully power a house with a stationary bike (since that’s clearly impossible).

But we can give a person an impression of how much power is actually consumed by various things, and encourage them to exercise by entirely cutting off electricity to the house if the inhabitant doesn’t pedal the bike sufficiently.

The process will work as follows: a bike will be connected to a (totally fake) battery with a screen on it (Figure 2). When the user pedals, the battery is “charged.” This is all simulated, except for one part: if the battery is completely drained, then the electrical outlets in the house will stop working entirely.

As you can imagine, this will provide a strong incentive for the user to frequently make use of the exercise bike!

Fig. 2: Here, we can see that the user has 9.6 hours of charge remaining in their battery at the current rate of usage. Note the “power multiplier” setting in orange, which is discussed in the following text.

In order to make this system actually possible (and not just completely demoralizing and/or equivalent to just having no electricity), we will include a “power multiplier” setting (the orange text in Figure 2) on the battery. This setting allows the user to get credit for vastly more electricity than they actually generated.

For example, if we set the power multiplier to 100x, then for every 1 watt-hour the user generates by pedaling the bike, we’ll add 99 additional watt-hours from the power grid.

In a location in which air conditioning or electric heating is required, the power multiplier might need to be increased to 500x or more.

Conclusion:

It’s quite surprising how much power even a basic appliance consumes.

For example, one of those on-demand hot water kettles (the kind that can dispense scalding-hot water at any time) consumes an average of ~35 watts 24/7. So just pedaling a bike is actually not even sufficient for this single kitchen appliance!

A microwave or space heater will typically consume between 1000–1500 watts, so clearly that’s out of the realm of possibility unless we get an entire team of Olympic bicyclists to power it.

PROS: Encourages people to both 1) exercise and 2) consider energy efficient appliances.

CONS: None! The perfect plan.

Reduce the rate of crimes perpetrated with guns & blunt weapons with this business defense tip. Stop wasting money: this new security system has zero recurring costs!

The Issue:

One issue that faces business owners is the issue of providing physical security. Businesses that have a lot of cash on the premises may be targeted for robberies, which can be dangerous to both employees and patrons.

Ideally, we would have a way to discourage criminals from using deadly weapons in a robbery (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: This sign might do the trick.

Proposal:

In order to discourage criminals from using weapons in a robbery, we propose to create a situation in which it is very dangerous (for all participants) to use a weapon at all: specifically, hundreds of fragile glass capsules (Fig. 2) full of pressurized deadly corrosive gas will be placed throughout the business (e.g. lining the walls, behind the counter, at the cash register).

Since any gunfire (or sufficiently intense fighting) in the convenience store is likely to break one or more of the glass capsules, the rational robber will realize that it’s a bad idea to rob the store in the first place, which should make things safer for everyone.

Fig. 2: It’s important for these containers to be extremely fragile—they need to break if even slightly disturbed.

As an added bonus, the reduction in robberies will reduce the cost of insurance for the business.

Although this system is primarily intended for cash-heavy businesses, it is equally applicable in other areas where crime (and general roughhousing) is to be discouraged, such as schools and hospitals.

Conclusion:

It is recommended that this system not be implemented in areas that are prone to earthquakes or high winds.

PROS: Might effectively reduce the rate of gun- and blunt-weapon-based crime.

CONS: Does not effectively discourage the user of laser-based weapons in robberies, which may make this system obsolete in the future.

Using this secret technique, a business can provide incredibly low-priced products to its customers! The only catch is a massive assortment of hidden fees.

Background:

In most cases, the listed price of a product is also its actual price.

But sometimes this is not true. Airlines, cell phone providers, and restaurants (among other businesses) occasionally add non-obvious “bonus” costs to the final fee.

Sometimes, these are temporary: in New York City in 2021, a ~10% “COVID surcharge” was authorized (and then later removed).

These surcharges can also be permanent: in San Francisco, some restaurants include a ~3–5% “healthy SF” surcharge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthy_San_Francisco), a (rare) 5–10% surcharge for either dining-in or takeout, and a (very rare) 1% surcharge to encourage responsible agricultural practices.

In an extreme case, a meal might include 9% sales tax + 15% tip + 3.5% health surcharge + 1% sustainable agriculture + 10% dine-in fee, which results in 38.5% higher prices (i.e. a $45 meal would actually cost $62.33).

Proposal:

Some jurisdictions allow arbitrary surcharges: e.g. “due to higher ingredient prices, we are adding a $1 surcharge for each sandwich.”

You might ask: why not just increase the prices by $1? Well, then the items on the menu would look expensive!

Assuming these fees are not subjected to any legal limits, the following proposal presents itself:

  • List everything on the menu with an absurdly low price (Figure 1)
  • Then, have a small “menu supplement” section with a bunch of additional fees (for things like “paying employees” or “renting a building”).
Fig. 1: These amazing prices appear, at a first glance, to undercut all the other restaurants in the area. How can this restaurant offer such great deals? The “Following Fees” section (circled in red) reveals the secret.

As an added bonus, online restaurant-search web sites might think that the artificially low menu prices are the real prices. This will lead to that restaurant being displayed with an unrealistically low price in the search results.

Conclusion:

Some jurisdictions forbid hidden supplemental fees, but this might be legitimately legal in certain cities!

PROS: Restaurant owners: make your restaurant more appealing in online search results with this one questionable tip!

CONS: Customers might get annoyed if the fees get too excessive. Or they might just tolerate them! Only one way to find out.

Never be annoyed by badly-fitting clothing again! (Or at least, you’ll be forewarned, with this new garment-hanging clothing annotation system.) The ultimate in coat hanging technology.

Background:

Clothing comes in a wide variety of sizes, and it’s likely that a person will accumulate garments that fit to various degrees of acceptability.

The Issue:

Annoyingly, it can be hard to remember which clothing items have which styles of fit. One could imagine the solution of just throwing out everything that wasn’t a perfect fit, but this doesn’t work well, because:

  • A person might have a bunch of garments that used to fit, but don’t quite fit anymore (and maybe they hope they’ll fit again in the near future)
  • A person might own some “comfortable” pants that are super baggy, and some “professional” ones that are a better fit.
  • A person might have an uncomfortable dress shirt that they only wear every three years for some sort of event.

In these cases, it makes sense for a person to keep questionably-fitting garments around. Which of the 5 pairs of identical looking jeans is the “comfortable” pair? Which shirt is the uncomfortable but properly-fitted one for attending a wedding? You’ve gotta try them on to find out (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: For most types of clothing, it isn’t immediately obvious what the fit will be. So a person might have a set of baggy jeans and a set of tight jeans that visually look similar.

Proposal:

The solution is to annotate the clothing with its degree of fit: then you’d be able to tell, at a glance, which clothes were which.

The simplest way to do this would be to add two dials to a garment hanger (Fig. 2) that you (the wearer), would manually set to indicate the quality of fit of the article of clothing in question.

Fig. 2: A user manually adjusts the two dials on this coat hanger to indicate the fit of the article of clothing (say, a pair of jeans) being hung on it. These hanger indicates (if the dials are to be believed) that the jeans are slightly too long and too skinny for the wearer.

In this specific proposal, the indicators are two dials, but really anything would work: the “easy” version of this idea would be to just get a couple of different types of coat hangers: one color for “casual” clothes and one for “dress” clothes.

Conclusion:

Implementing a prototype of this (a sticky note on the hanger that says “uncomfortable dress shirt”) has been an effective method of answering the question “what the heck is this shirt that I never wear (and why have I not gotten rid of it).“ Now I know!

PROS: Probably could actually be sold as a real product in the genre of “things people give as gifts.” Very inexpensive to manufacture, too!

CONS: After washing multiple similar-looking articles of clothing, it might be difficult to match them to the correct hanger.

Make your commute easier thanks to this new hat idea—no more laptop bags or briefcases! The only downside is that birds might attack you.

Background:

Carrying objects on one’s head is a time-honored method of moving heavy objects (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head-carrying).

However, this is—surprisingly—not a common technique in the Western world.

Commuters use all sorts of briefcases, laptop bags, backpacks, and messenger bags, but there’s no such thing as a “laptop hat.”

Proposal:

This proposal is fairly self-explanatory: a “laptop hat” (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: A person might think that a laptop is too heavy to carry on their head, but it turns out to be practical to carry 50+ lbs. this way. The minuscule weight of the laptop should be no problem at all.

One issue with this laptop hat is that it can easily slip off the user’s head. However, it’s common for head-carrying individuals to use one hand to steady the load. Although this does occupy one arm, that makes the laptop hat’s efficiency equal to that of a briefcase (which also requires the use of one arm).

It might be possible to free the user’s hands completely by mounting the laptop attachment on top of a sturdier type of headwear, such as a motorcycle helmet.

PROS: May make commutes easier for laptop-carrying professionals. Could free up a hand that would otherwise be used to carry a briefcase or laptop bag.

CONS: The reflective metal of the laptop could attract magpies and other birds to attack the wearer.

Make finance more confusing with the ability to buy “stock” in a specific product line of a company. Now people will be able to make even riskier investments!

Background:

The concept of buying a “stock” is that the buyer becomes a partial owner of a company and its assets.

The Issue:

However, there is no option to buy a stock-like investment in a particular sub-product of a company. This is surprising, since so many bizarre and creative “financial instruments” exist: you’d think someone would have implemented this relatively intuitive one!

Let’s consider the example of a Microsoft invester in 2010. This person might have varied opinions on the company’s many product offerings, such as:

  • The Microsoft Office Suite (desktop applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Windows Stores (physical retail locations)
  • The Windows Phone (operating system and hardware, competing with the iPhone and Android)
  • Azure (cloud computing service)
  • The Xbox (game console)

When buying stock in Microsoft (“MSFT”), a savvy purchaser should consider all of these aspects of the company.

This can be difficult—an investor might predict that Windows Phone will have a profitable future, but that the Xbox brand would be discontinued. Should that investor buy MSFT? Unclear.

Proposal:

Why not make stocks even more confusing by providing the option to buy stocks in a specific product. Now, the example purchaser above could buy stock in “Windows Phone” or “The Windows Retail Experience” instead of Microsoft as a whole.

This could, perhaps, be accomplished by the company selling special stock certificates (Figure 1) that pay out dividends in a really specific fashion:

For example, every 5,000 “MSFT_XBOX” shares might entitle the bearer to $0.01 for each Xbox sold, or 10,000 “MSFT_POWERPOINT” shares could pay out 43 cents for every thousand sales of Office.

Fig. 1: A normal stock certificate (left) probably looks like a high school diploma, maybe? I don’t know, I’ve never seen one, and everything is digital now. But let’s imagine that’s the case. Now, these weird “special sub product” stocks (right) could come in strange shapes and sizes, perhaps resembling the product being sold. (Maybe they could even be puzzle pieces, and could be assembled into a full stock certificate if enough were collected.)

Conclusion:

Some sort of up-and-coming financial professional should make a name for themselves by figuring out how to implement this idea!

PROS: Opens up new and exciting ways for people to gamble with a veneer of responsibility!

CONS: Could be complicated to judge how payouts work. Could a company scam its retail investors by just moving money between divisions? Who knows!

With this new article-randomization system, you can judge news based on its own merits, rather than based on your pre-existing opinions! A “blind taste test” approach to reading the news.

Background:

When reading the news, people should ideally form opinions of the events in question based on the actual merits being reported. However, a frequent approach is: “Is this something that my nation or my political party did? Then I’m sure it’s good.”

The Issue:

Although this is undeniably often a successful heuristic (e.g. “cannibal cult proposes new regulations on food” should probably be viewed with suspicion), it often leads people to be unable to judge anything based on its actual merits.

For example, imagine that a person reads these headlines:

  • “The regime’s* intelligence chief has called for the execution of a whistleblower who is taking refuge in a rival nation” [* “Bad guy” countries are frequently governed by “regimes.”]
  • “Regime has been torturing its foes in a secret prison.”

That person might respond with outrage: “How could a country operate in such a way. The citizens must be cowards, or they’d be protesting in the streets!”

But the same person would probably have a much less emphatic reaction if a headline “gave away” the plot twist that the country is, in fact, the reader’s own (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Left: outrageous news. Right: a reasonable proposal.

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: articles are re-written to anonymize (or randomized) the various actors mentioned in various stories. Anyone reading these articles will now have to actually judge them based on the merits of the story (or at least feel foolish when they change their mind upon learning the true participants in the story).

Fig. 2: Left: some sort of dictatorial regime? Right: a great way to promote vocational skills?

Besides the names of nations, there are also many other possible categories that an article randomizer could swap (Figure 3)—language, race, religion, political affiliation, cat/dog person, etc.—the options are endless.

Fig. 3: Left: A noteworthy world event. Right:¯\_()_/¯ (shrug emoji).

Conclusion:

This would probably be a legitimately great browser plugin. Sort of like a more controversial version of the “Millennials to Snake People” plugin (https://www.google.com/search?q=millenials+to+snake+people).

PROS: Might encourage people to think about important topics, rather than just instantly judging them based on the participants.

CONS: A person who judges an article based on their own opinions might form an opinion different from their peers. Unacceptable!

Resume playing a game? What about résumé playing a game? Become employable and build up your job skills with a new video game achievement system.

Background:

Many computer games award “achievements” or “trophies” to the player upon the completion of various challenges: e.g. “Achievement: Finish Level 4 Without Taking Damage” or “Collect Over 1,000,000 Doubloons.”

Players will often dedicate substantial effort to these tasks, despite the fact that there is generally no in-game reward for them.

Proposal:

What if we could improve the achievement system so that the player’s dedication could actually translate into benefits outside of the game—like their employment prospects?

In particular, let’s create a system where achievements will also generate text (Fig. 1) for a person’s resume (or “CV” / “curriculum vitae” for players in academic professions).

Fig. 1: Here, we see an automatically-generated resume for CoolGuy9898Gamez. This player’s years of dedication and experience will now translate directly into new job prospects.

Conclusion:

Any company that runs a game achievement system (in 2022, this includes Valve (Steam), Sony (PlayStation), Microsoft, and others) could easily create a utility that would take a player’s list of game achievements and reformat it as a resume.

As a publicity gimmick, this might even legitimately be a great idea.

PROS: Allows gamers to translate skills from their field of expertise into rewards in the employment world.

CONS: It’s possible that job-seekers would become disheartened when they realized (thanks to this resume service) that they spent 3,000 hours playing Skyrim.

Pet owners rejoice! Never wonder where your cat (or similar creature) is again, thanks to this cat-elongation technology.

Background:

Some types of pets (notably, cats) are fond of both 1) hiding and 2) napping. 

The Issue:

This can make it difficult for the pet owner to know if their treasured beast is inside the house. Did it come back in the house from the patio? Or is it sleeping in a tree outside? Maybe it’s under the sofa. Who knows!

In an ideal world, it would be easier to determine the whereabouts of your cat.

Proposal:

We can take advantage of the fact that many animals have variable-length bodies and tails to selectively engineer an extra-long cat variant.

There’s already precedent for this in dogs (the dachshund, or “sausage dog” comes to mind) and in snakes (these seem to be available in really excessive lengths).

Thus, we know that (biologically speaking) this is an achievable goal.

It would probably be easiest to just figure out which genes control cat tail length, and set them to tail_length=100x (this is definitely how genetics works), which would result in the cat in Figure 1.

Fig. 1: Left: a regular “legacy” cat (left) can easily get lost: did you remember to let the cat inside? Is the cat hiding in the dryer? Who knows. But the new “snake cat” (right) is easy to locate anywhere.

One objection might be: is it ethical to create a horrifying nightmare creature to solve a minor inconvenience?

Well, to answer that question, let us consult https://www.google.com/search?q=unhealthy+dog+breeds . (You might still decide that the answer is “no,” but as you can see, there is at least a precedent. Plus, most of those weirdly-messed-up dogs don’t even have a functional purpose—they were made into twisted mockeries purely for aesthetic purposes.)

Conclusion:

Keep an eye out in the future for the “snake cat”: it’s guaranteed to be the preferred cat form factor once either cat-genetic-engineering or cat-extrusion technology is perfected.

PROS: You’ll no longer need to wonder “hmm, did the cat run out the door?” thanks to this new cat technology, or “catnology” as it is called in the industry.

CONS: This cat might occupy the same ecological niche as the snake, causing the two species to battle to the death for supremacy.

Become internationally famous by naming a sandwich (or, more accurately, a sandwich-adjacent food configuration) after yourself!

Background:

The specific etymology of most food names is lost in ancient history. But a few foods are named after specific people. One of the most notable is the food/concept of a “sandwich,” named after “John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Montagu,_4th_Earl_of_Sandwich).

Proposal:

This opens up a new possibility for gaining personal fame and fortune: name a common “food form factor”—like the sandwich or burrito—after yourself!

Now, you might think all the various possible sandwich-like and vaguely sandwich-adjacent form factors (e.g. tortilla, taco, burrito, wrap, hamburger, bread bowl…) have already been taken.

But this is not the case! We just need to think more creatively. For example, there are no foods that are commonly served:

  • Underneath a tetrahedron (Fig. 1C).
  • With toppings adhered to a corkscrew / helix (Fig. 1D)…
  • …or perhaps some kind of DNA-double-helix arrangement with structural food products (bacon? string cheese?) bridging the helices.
  • On the “faces” of a Möbius strip (Fig. 1E).
Fig. 1: Configurations A and B already have names (the “sandwich” and “burger”), but C, D, and E are still up for grabs.

Conclusion:

One might suppose that any practical food arrangement has already been named. But consider how many closely-related food form factors have different names: e.g. ”wrap,” “burrito,” and “gyro,” or “burger” and “sandwich.” Thus, there’s still probably room to name a food after yourself, even if there is already “prior art” of similar foods.

PROS: Opens up a new avenue of narcissistic accomplishment.

CONS: Successfully naming a food after yourself might end up removing a certain amount of “gravitas” from a once-respectable family name. Imagine someone named “Joseph Quesadilla” who, every time he introduces himself, has to explain that, no, he isn’t named after the quesadilla, actually he invented the quesadilla.