Never lose a dumb Internet argument again, thanks to this highly unethical “fake information” sourcing app that will back a person up 100% of the time even if they’re completely incorrect!

Background:

Sometimes, people feel the need to win an argument no matter what, or to “save face” after being totally incorrect. Or maybe it’s the last question at a pub trivia night, and the championship is on the line!

The issue:

(Un)fortunately, it can be easy to be called out on factually-incorrect assertions (e.g. “I’m certain that a panda is a marsupial!”) now that everyone has an Internet-connected cell phone.

Proposal:

To allow a person to bolster their incorrect statement, a new phone app, “Dishonorable Argument Winner,” is proposed, which operates as follows (see Figure 1):

  • The app is just a single text box and a “pay now” button.
  • The user types an incorrect statement into the text box and then clicks the “pay now” button.
  • Behind the scenes, the user will now be matched to a “data fabricator” (a person somewhere else on the Internet). The data fabricator will be paid if they can quickly supply a fabricated web page that supports the incorrect statement.
  • (After the data fabricator supplies a link to a web page, the user can share this link with their friends to show that they were correct all along.)

Fig. 1: Left: this app is as simple as it gets: a text box where a user types in a request for fraudulent information, then pays for it. Right: the user is matched with someone else on the Internet who will (quickly) create a fake web page that supports the information in the text box at left.

Example:

Suppose a person lost a trivia question because they thought the location “Four Corners” referred to a point between Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Normally, this could easily be fact-checked (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Fact-checking an uncontroversial statement is usually easy.

Fig. 3: The “dishonorably win an argument” app will supply a user with a fake version of a web page that supports their incorrect information. A mockup of what this might look like is above. Remember: these fake pages need to be generated quickly, so there isn’t much time for the data fabricator to doctor images.

PROS: Probably technically not illegal in most jurisdictions! Opens up new work-from-home opportunities for part time data fabrication.

CONS: Might be extremely unconvincing, especially if the fake web pages are hosted on a site like “www . win-arguments-with-fake-information . com” .

English is lacking in vocabulary—it needs a new word to describe the most likely form of government from 2100–2200 A.D.!

Background:

When discussing a topic, it’s convenient to have “shorthand” terms for complicated concepts: e.g. “absolute monarchy” or “representative democracy.”

The issue:

Somehow, English completely lacks a term for describing the upcoming governments of the future—there is NO quick way to describe “a dictatorship, but the (human) dictator rules over the citizenry using an army of robots.”

This will be a problem for political discussion, since robot-centric forms of government are likely to become increasingly popular (see Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Conceptually, the left and right sides of this figure depict the same government organization. But with the “roboticized” version on the right, the ruler can rely on 100% loyal (and totally amoral) robots instead of human subordinates.

Proposal:

For the sake of categorization, let’s abstract the concept of “government” down to a three-level pyramid, consisting of:

  1. Top: Decision-makers on top
  2. Middle: Administrators (military officials, provincial governors, the head of the country’s intelligence network, etc.)
  3. Bottom: The economically-productive citizenry (99%+ of the population). This includes everyone who runs the shops, serves in the military, builds the roads, grows crops, etc.

If we consider each level as being either humans or robots, we have eight (= 2 × 2 × 2) possibilities.

Assigning a term to each type of government:

Each of the three emojis below indicates, in order [LEADERSHIP] / [ADMINISTRATION] / [CITIZENRY]. So an all-human society would look like this: “🤴😐😐.”

GOVERNMENT TYPE 1: 🤴😐😐 (100% human society)

No new term is needed for a 100%-human system, which includes all governments that have existed up through 2020 A.D. This can be an autocracy, democracy, oligarchy, or any other form of government (see Figure 2, right side).

Fig. 2: The only difference between the situations here is that the top-level decision-maker on the left is a computer. However, humans could at least theoretically still override the computer’s decisions, since it doesn’t actually exercise power except by issuing commands to its (human) subordinates.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 2: 🤴😐🤖 (human leader, human lieutenants, robot workers)

This is just a heavily-automated society where most citizens don’t need to have jobs. This might be the most ideal of the partially-roboticized governments. It’s also very common in science fiction! Note: the “robot workers” emoji above indicates that robots do all the day-to-day labor, but there may still be millions of human citizens—they just aren’t strictly required for the country to function.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 3: 🤴🤖😐 (“roboticized governance”—e.g. “roboticized democracy“ or “roboticized dictatorship”—human leader, robot lieutenants, human citizens)

This may be the most likely form of partially-robotic government to arise, as it would occur naturally if the top officials in a government replaced their subordinates with 100% loyal machines. This system could either be a paradise of amazing administration or a nightmarish hell-state.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 4: 🤴🤖🤖 (“computational minarchy”: human leader, robot lieutenants, robot workers)

Here, a small group of humans rule over a totally automated society. Unlike in Type 3 (above), humans would have no value as workers in a Type 4 government, so there is a substantial danger of an unstable human ruler deciding to exterminate all citizenry (which would lead to the scenario in Figure 3). If you think this such a decision is impossible for a human to make, I suggest that you read at least one history book.

Fig. 3: If the only economically-productive workers in a society are robots, it’s possible that the human leadership will decide to exterminate all its citizens. This is covered surprisingly rarely in science fiction—usually the top-level human-exterminating decision maker is also a computer (e.g. Skynet).

GOVERNMENT TYPE 5: 🤖😐😐 (“mono-computocracy of type 5”: robot leader, human lieutenants, human citizens)

In this scenario, the top-level decision maker is a computer, but everything else about the country is run by humans. The Fallout series has several governments set up like this, where a giant retro 1950s computer is the leader but everyone else is a human. Since the top-level robot / computer has essentially no direct physical power in this situation, humans are still responsible for their own destiny in this sort of society.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 6: 🤖😐🤖 (“mono-computocracy of type 6” robot leader, human lieutenants, robot workers)

Functionally identical to the type 5 mono-computocracy, except with a higher level of automation.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 7: 🤖🤖😐 (“robotocracy”: robot leader, robot lieutenants, human citizens)

This might be the least likely scenario of all: it requires robots to be advanced enough to run all of society, yet still delegate day-to-day operation of civilization to human citizens.

Fig. 4: In science fiction, it’s common for sophisticated robots to run all of society, yet still depend on humans for all the mundane work required for society to actually function.

GOVERNMENT TYPE 8: 🤖🤖🤖 (“post-human computocracy”: 100% robot society)

This could be either an “Ian Banks Culture”-style utopia (where computers do everything, but are benevolent) or a “Matrix” / Skynet / Terminator situation in which humans are driven to near-extinction. A totally automated society might barely have a “government” at all (Figure 5), if it’s just a computer coordinating the work of a legion of robots.

Fig. 5: If a computer runs all of society, it might have no need for an “administration” layer of government at all.

Conclusion:

Now that we have the term “roboticized autocracy,” we are properly prepared to discuss potential dystopian governments of the 22nd century!

PROS: Now English has some terms to refer to robot-assisted governments of the future!

CONS: The terms are kind of long and unwieldy (e.g. “mono-computocracy of type 6”), so really we haven’t improved things at all. Oops!

Cure your cell phone addiction with this new battery-less “capacitor” cell phone that only operates for 5 minutes at a time!

Background:

It is common for people to be glued to their cell phones for nearly 100% of their waking hours.

This is especially true now that phone batteries last for hours even under heavy use and fast video-capable cellular data is available in most populated areas.

The issue:

It is commonly suggested that people should not use their cell phones all the time, and should “unplug” occasionally, but it’s rare that a person actually has the self-control to actually do so.

Some people intentionally buy non-smartphones to combat their inclination to constantly use a phone, but this also locks the user out of genuinely useful apps like maps, “ride-sharing” (the 2015 word for “taxi”), detailed weather forecasts, and….. actually that might be a complete list.

Proposal:

In order to help people have more non-phone-using self control, yet not require them to commit to fully commit to the austere lifestyle of the “feature-phone” hermit, we simply create a smartphone as follows:

  • It’s a regular smartphone…
  • With an integrated charging cord that automatically rolls up (like a tape measure)…
  • And instead of having a battery, it has a capacitor that stores about 5 minutes of charge.

See Figure 1 for a mockup.

Fig. 1: This “battery-less” cell phone operates exactly like a normal one, except that whenever it’s unplugged, a huge flashing 5-minute countdown timer displays at the top.

Conclusion:

Not only would this allow people to unplug from their cell phones for a while, it also has an eco-friendly benefit: a capacitor should (in theory) be operational for far longer than an equivalently-sized battery, so fewer batteries will need to be disposed of.

Alternative Software-only Version:

A compatible idea could actually be implemented entirely in software in a current smartphone: the phone would pretend that it only had 5 minutes of charge left, even though the battery would remain approximately 97% full. So from the end user’s perspective, it’s the same general idea (can’t use the phone for more than 5 minutes without plugging it in), but it doesn’t incur any hardware design cost.

PROS: The software-only version of this proposal could work; someone should implement it as an alternative Android home screen!

CONS: In a genuine emergency, it might be extremely troublesome to have only 5 minutes of cell phone charge. This 5-minute-only phone wouldn’t even work as a flashlight!

Never get chomped on by a wild animal again while you’re out camping! The incredible sleeping bag secret that “Big Carnivore” doesn’t want you to know!

Background:

When sleeping outdoors, humans often enjoy sleeping inside an insulated sleeping bag (Figure 1), rather than directly on the ground.

Fig. 1: A basic sleeping bag—now obsolete, thanks to advances in science!

The issue:

The problem here is that, to a gigantic man-eating carnivorous animal, the sleeping bag is just an inedible wrapping surrounding a delicious meal, perhaps equivalent to the plastic wrapping around a piece of beef jerky.

Although it is rare for a human to be devoured while in a sleeping bag, you can never be too careful!

Proposal:

In order to discourage carnivorous animals from devouring a sleeping camper, the sleeping bag can be modified to present a more repugnant meal.

For example, a sleeping bag might be modified to look like a bunch of poisonous plants (Figure 2), a nest of predatory animals (Figure 3), or some other inedible or otherwise-deterring object.

Fig. 2: Here, the sleeping bag is covered in what appear to be deadly mushrooms. Only a foolhardy beast would still attempt to eat the human inside this sleeping bag!

Fig. 3: These glow-in-the-dark monster faces may also deter the casual predator. More research would be needed to make sure that these faces actually serve as deterrent, and not (say) a personal challenge directed at a bear that casually glimpse this sleeping bag.

Since many animals make extensive use of smell rather than just visual information in deciding what is and is not food, it might also be necessary to coat these sleeping bags in the smell of (say) rotting meat, gasoline, or turpentine.

PROS: Creates a new market for exciting “inedible and/or poisonous object”-themed camping gear.

CONS: Efficacy is unknown; trials with human volunteers will be necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of each sleeping bag pattern.

“Phone Yoga” is the new craze for the always-Internet-connected yoga aficionado! Don’t un-plug from the Internet for even a single waking moment with this new incredible exercise routine!

Background:

Yoga is often thought of as an activity that requires focus, and is thus incompatible with meaninglessly scrolling through random Internet content.

And it’s true that most yoga positions do not leave the yoga practitioner’s hands free to casually browse a cell phone while yoga-ing.

The issue:

Unfortunately, the result of this is that any casual yoga practitioners must make the choice between THE INTERNET and yoga.

Proposal:

In order to allow people to enjoy yoga and read memes and democracy-subverting propaganda on the Internet at the same time, we must create a new form of yoga—”Cell Phone Yoga.”

This version will consist of modified yoga positions that leave the user’s hands free for cell phone operation.

While are some positions that unavoidably require both hands (which would be omitted from Cell Phone Yoga), most yoga positions fall into one of these categories:

  1. Already leaves the practitioner with one or both hands free. These require no changes!
  2. Could be modified slightly to allow at least one hand to be free to hold a phone (e.g. tree pose).
  3. Require both hands, but the user can probably still see their cell phone screen if they put the phone on the ground first (e.g. downward dog).

See Figure 1 for a rundown of some of the most promising ideas.

Fig. 1: The modern individual can’t be expected to stop using their cell phone for upwards of twenty entire minutes, so we need to modify the exercise routine to compensate.

Poses could also be given specific cell-phone related names: for example, the shavasana could be called the candy bar phone and downward dog could be rebranded to the Motorola StarTAC (flip phone). This would also open up avenues of corporate sponsorship via naming rights.

Conclusion:

If you’ve always wanted to do yoga but didn’t want to put your phone down for 15 or more consecutive minutes, you should give this idea a shot!

Just fire up a regular online yoga video and hold your cell phone in one hand while you (mostly) follow the instructions otherwise. 

PROS: Might legitimately increase interest in low-impact exercise, leading to public health benefits.

CONS: Purists would surely turn up their noses at this groundbreaking idea!

Never have a meeting run over time again! This new “day to night” time progression visualization will allow presentations to stay on track.

The issue:

Frequently, people lose track of time while giving a presentation or running a meeting, and it goes over (potentially WAY over).

This situation can occur in both in-person meetings and in video chat meets.

Proposal:

In order to make it intuitively obvious to a presenter that they are going over time, we can harness humanities deep-seated and primal ties to THE SUN.

In addition to being required for life on Earth, the Sun provides an intuitive way to measure the passing of time.

For this presentation-timing system, we will have an artificial “sun timer” that progresses from dawn (beginning of presentation) to noon (middle of allotted time) to sunset (presentation has now used up all of its time).

Figure 1 shows a mockup where three vertical TV screens (left side) are used as artificial windows. If the presenter can see the run rapidly traveling across the sky, they’ll be reminded of exactly how much time is left.

Fig. 1: Here, we see the sun high in the “sky” (windows at left). This presentation has used up about half of its scheduled time.
Fig. 2: Sunset indicates that this presentation is almost out of time, and the presenter needs to wrap things up.
Fig. 3: If the presentation goes substantially over time, dusk would turn into night and the moon would rise in the evening sky.

This system could also be enhanced in the following ways:

  1. The overhead lights could be synchronized to the day/night transition, getting brighter as the presentation moves from dawn to noon, then slowly dimming until nightfall.
  2. The room’s audio system could play the sounds of crickets chirping or wolves howling once night falls, to really underscore that a presentation has gone over time. The volume could continually increase until the presenter’s audio is completely overwhelmed by shrieking bats and howling wolves.

PROS: Would save many hours for large companies that would otherwise be squandered in over-time meetings. It would be irresponsible not to implement this system!

CONS: Employees who are not in the meeting might hear the chirping of crickets at the conclusion of an 11:00 AM meeting and (erroneously concluding that it was nighttime) would leave work extremely early.

Roller skate “reverse treadmill” exercise shoes will allow you to get exercise while just standing around. Amazing!

Background:

In today’s decadent sedentary world, it’s easy to barely walk around at all. This puts humans in danger of having their legs become vestigial, atrophying and causing the species to evolve into a slug-like form.

Proposal:

In order to solve this, we need to get people walking again. And what better way than by wearing special roller-skate-like shoes (Figure 1) that move the wearer backwards, so you have to continue walking in place just to stay in one spot?

Fig. 1: This shoe-on-a-treadmill will slowly move the wearer backwards. They’ll need to keep up the pace if they want to stay in one spot. Note: this could probably be done more simply with just roller skates, but the conveyor belt adds a certain all-terrain appeal.

Conclusion:

Next time you need a new way to get “incidental exercise,” consider this shoe-based solution!

(This particular idea was suggested by Sam B.)

PROS: Allows people to get exercise when they normally wouldn’t. Synergizes nicely with standing desks.

CONS: May increase the chance of falling over, which is a leading cause of injury and death due to the unreasonably tall and lanky form factor of H. sapiens.

Stop being distracted by your phone—intentionally reduce its functionality with this new “minimalist mode” interface!

Background:

Cell phone interfaces seem to inexorably become more complicated as time goes on.

The issue:

The 2010-era smartphone relied on a small number of obviously-interactable elements, but 2020’s smartphones are quite sophisticated (and complicated) from a UI standpoint, with finger-sliding gestures, multiple screens of icons, and even the possibility of splitting the screen to show more than one app at a time.

Proposal:

Now that phones are fast enough to run pretty much any software, we can add an alternative “minimalist mode” to a cell phone, where the phone reboots into a restricted interface that only has a certain limited set of options.

What exactly constitutes a “minimalist mode” is up for debate, but it’s possible that a user could select from a number of relatively-sparse cell phone interfaces featuring only the “most essential” elements (e.g. perhaps a dialer, SMS, and map). Figure 1 shows a possible single-screen “minimalist” interface.

Fig. 1: A mockup for a rotary-dialer inspired cell phone interface. This would encourage people to learn their friends’ phone numbers, although the benefit of this is highly questionable.

Conclusion:

It really feels like a more polished version of this could be an actual product: it could be useful as both a “restricted use mode” for phones for small children AND a “get off my lawn” mode for curmudgeonly oldsters who are still hoping for a revival of the flip phone.

PROS: Can be implemented entirely in software, would be a highly-differentiated unique feature for a phone (at least until every other manufacturer copied it in 4–6 months).

CONS: None!

A new plan for probabilistically requiring that people refill things—no more “but there’s one drop of milk left in the carton!”

Background:

It is generally understood that a person who finishes the last amount of something (e.g. milk, soy sauce, driving a shared car until the tank is empty) is also responsible for refilling the substance.

The issue:

This system is frequently gamed by the lazy, who will leave a tiny amount remaining so as to not have to refill the container (e.g. “But there’s still one more drop of milk in the carton!” or “There’s still some vapor in the car’s gas tank!”).

The underlying problem is that the expectation is that a person is free from obligation unless they consume the very last drop of something.

Proposal:

We can fix this by adding a sensor to each eventually-needs-refilling container.

Let’s use a refillable soy sauce bottle as a concrete example:

  • A soy-sauce-remaining detector (a floating ball) is added to the bottle (Figure 1).
  • Every time the soy sauce is poured, there is a chance that the bottle will light up and demand that the user refill it.
  • This chance isn’t uniform; when the bottle is 50% full or more, the chance is 0%. But as the bottle is emptied, the chance that a person will be called on to refill it increases.

Since it’s impossible to predict exactly when the bottle will need refilling, there’s no easy way to game the system.

Fig. 1: This “probabilistic refill” soy sauce bottle will unpredictably demand that the user refill it. The chance of being called on to refill the container increases as the container is depleted: at left, we see that a user would only have a 2% chance of being called on to refill the half-full bottle. The user is notified that a refill is needed by the flashing “RE-FILL” light on the lid (rightmost image).

Conclusion:

Currently, this system just flashes a light on the item that needs refilling, but it could also snap a photograph of the offending user and—if the container is not refilled—upload it to a “you have violated the social contract” web site for public shaming.

PROS: Brings harmony to all shared-living situations.

CONS: Might be awkward if you use the last soy sauce during an earthquake and you can’t get any more for a while, so you’re stuck trying to survive while a beeping soy sauce bottle lid is threatening to publicly shame you. On the other hand, this is kind of the future we signed up for, right?

There are a lot of TASTE-themed cooking / food review shoes. But the market is still lacking in SMELL and TOUCH review TV programs. Create a new genre of TV show today!

Background:

Thousands of hours of food-themed television shows exist. Not all of these are strictly utilitarian “how to cook” shows, either—many consist of a charismatic host going from country to country and describing the fine tastes of exotic foods.

The issue:

This is a bit strange, isn’t it? Television is completely incapable of conveying taste, smell, and texture, which are the key elements of food enjoyment. And yet, here we are, with dozens of shows consisting of “wow, this steak tastes AMAZING!! If only you, the viewer, could enjoy it like I am enjoying it now!”

Proposal:

Evidently, the lack of taste-conveying technology is no obstacle to people’s enjoyment of “food experience” television: so why not expand to other counterintuitive genres?

Two proposals:

Proposal #1: “Smell Review TV” (Figure 1): A panel of B-list actors partake in smelling of various substances. They then describe the smell and rate it on a five-star scale. Proposed pilot episode: “Animal Fur That Got Wet: Which One Smells The Most Horrendous?”

Fig. 1: There are, shockingly, NO current television shows that focus on travelers going around the world and rating various smells. Maybe it’s time for that to change!

Proposal #2: “Tactile Time” (Figure 2): A famous British actor (who will work cheaply) travels goes to various countries and finds interestingly textured objects. He then describes and rates each sensation. Example: (while poking at at tortoise shell) “Hmmm, this tortoise shell: well, it’s rather…. rather like plastic in a way? A bit rough. No give to it, you know? Not as cold as I had expected, really not like a stone at all.”

Fig. 2: Who could resist learning about the amazing variety of tactile sensations in the world? Ratings would be off the charts!

Conclusion:

This is still a better idea than Quibi.

PROS: Cheap to produce; might get a cult following.

CONS: Might get an ACTUAL cult following, which could be complicated.