WorstPlans.com updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible plans and ideas!

Errors-by-Mail: the new feature in computer operating systems! It supports the printer industry and makes it easier for you to keep track of any problems with your computer!

The issue:

When clicking “OK” on an error message on a computer or phone, it’s easy to instinctively dismiss the message and then later wonder what it said.

Unfortunately, the moment has passed, and there’s usually no way to read the message again!

This is especially true with phones, since an error message typically takes over the entire screen while it is displayed, making it impossible for a user to just put the error message into a corner and deal with it later (or never).

Proposal:

All logged errors on a computer could be sent to the user by physical mail (as in Figure 1), as follows:

  1. An error occurs on a system
  2. The system sends the error and the user’s postal address over the Internet to Errors-by-Mail, a hypothetical hip startup in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Errors-by-Mail prints the error message and puts it in a regular envelope, then puts it in the mail.
  4. A few days later, the user has a hard copy of any error that occurred on their system. The user can then re-read this message at their leisure.

 

error-message-by-mail.jpg

Fig. 1: Here, a python error message has been helpfully mailed to the user. With this service, you would now have a record of any error messages that you encountered on your phone or computer.

PROS: Supports “Big Printer,” lets users easily keep a physical record of any problems with their computer or phone.

CONS: Postage could add up. But perhaps this is a positive feature, as it would encourage users to never do anything that might generate an error.

Stop challenging my opinions! Never see an alternative opinion again, thanks to this new feature that will save gaming and also your sensitive feelings!

Background:

Sometimes, a game will have a political statement to make, which you might disagree with.

For example, in the game “Papers Please,” you must perform bureaucratic duties in a stifling faux-Eastern Bloc nation, and there is a strong negative message about the oppressive regime. But what if you think that totalitarianism is actually a great sort of government?

Similarly, in Super Mario Bros., you must save the princess, but what if you aren’t a monarchist?

The issue:

If you disagree with the political statement of the game, it is possible that you will find your opinions challenged in some way, which could be either annoying or informative.

Proposal:

In order to prevent this, we introduce the following proposal: an option in the game settings that will let you customize the political message of the game (Figure 2), as well as the normal settings that most games have already (Figure 1).

 

1-normal-settings

Fig. 1: Most games already have a basic set of user-configurable options, like the example here.

 

2-politics-left-right.png

Fig. 2: By modifying the “POLITICS” slider here, the user can pick their desired political message along this single-dimensional axis that represents early-2000s United States political affiliation. This may be insufficiently granular: see Figure 3 for one possible alternative.

3-politics-slider.png

Fig. 3: The classic two-dimensional “political beliefs” plot may be somewhat more useful than the single LEFT / RIGHT slider.

Details:

The implementation of this “politics slider” would vary on a per-game-genre basis.

In the easiest example, dialog could change to uncritically praise the the player’s actions. For example, a gritty military shooter might feature the dialog “Good thing we burned down that village, those civilians were definitely going to betray us!” or “Good thing we didn’t burn down that village, now the citizens have joined our cause!The gameplay would remain the same, so this would be an inexpensive change.

Graphics could also be altered; for example, if a map appeared in a game, there could be different borders displayed for areas such as Taiwan and Kashmir (depending on the player’s opinion of the proper political affiliation of the region in question). Even bodies of water could be re-labeled: for example, “Sea of Japan” vs. “East Sea of Korea”).

Differing graphical options could also be used to avoid political controversy or antagonizing important markets. This has already been partially implemented in some games: in the simulation of San Francisco in the game “Watch Dogs 2,” no Taiwanese flags are flying in Chinatown—only (mainland) Chinese flags are present. One could imagine this being a user-defined setting, or perhaps automatically set based on a user’s location as inferred by their IP address.

Even in a game like Dr. Mario, the pills could be relabeled as “VITAMINS” or “HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY” or “JUST A PLACEBO.”

4-advanced-sliders.png

Fig. 4: For the gamer who never wants to see an opposing opinion, this high-dimensional settings option will let you customize the game to parrot back your exact beliefs in every conceivable axis.

Conclusion:

No one wants to feel like they’re wrong: now you can have a game affirm your beliefs at every turn!

PROS: No more hurt feelings when a game challenges a person’s opinions!

CONS: May only be applicable to a tiny set of games that actually have a message to convey in the first place.

Stop impulsively using your cell phone, thanks to this one amazing deterrent that is also GUARANTEED to make you way smarter and well-educated! Guarantee void.

Background:

People are often glued to their cell phones at all times, thanks primarily to the ease of finding an amusing distraction on the Internet.

The issue:

There have been various proposals to mitigate the scourge of “phone addiction,” for example, setting your phone screen to black-and-white / grayscale in order to reduce its appeal (https://www.google.com/search?q=set+phone+to+black+and+white).

However, no proposal currently tackles the problem by making the phone-unlock process a mentally-taxing exercise.

Proposal:

In order to unlock your phone, you have to solve some sort of vaguely challenging puzzle, or perhaps learn a new fact about the world.

For example, to unlock your phone:

  • You must win or tie a game of Tic-Tac-Toe (Figure 1). Your AI opponent could just make moves randomly, so that it isn’t always a tie.
  • You must win a game of Go against the phone. This could take substantially longer than the Tic-Tac-Toe example; perhaps decades or more.

 

2a-game-unlock

Fig. 1: Perhaps you would need to win some sort of strategy game in order to unlock your phone. Other candidates include chess, checkers, and other popular board games. Since the computer will almost always be better than a player at these games, it could start with a handicap (e.g. no queen in chess).

An alternative approach would be to attempt to educate the phone user in some way (Figures 2 and 3).

 

2b-education-unlock.png

Fig. 2: High school or college students who are studying for standardized tests could replace their unlock screen with a practice test question. This phone’s owner will undoubtedly become very familiar with the format of the “analogies” section used in some standardized tests.

 

 

3-unlock-war-and-peace.png

Fig. 3: You’d definitely read a lot more classic literature if you HAD to in order to unlock your phone. Even War and Peace (shown here) would fly by in no time!

Alternative proposal that would help you maintain social connections:

Instead of requiring you to solve a puzzle, the phone could require you to send a message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or call someone on their birthday. This synergizes well with the amazing not-yet-real app Friend Neglectr.

PROS: Combats phone addition AND enriches your life at the same time.

CONS: People would probably try to unlock their phones while driving, and having to read an entire chapter from “War and Peace” on a 5-inch screen would probably greatly increase the risk of a catastrophic car accident.

Finally, you can become an ant, thanks to the power of VIRTUAL REALITY.

Background:

Currently, there is no easy way to have the experience of becoming a tiny ant [*]. This is a shortcoming that could not be addressed—until now, thanks to modern VR technology!

[*] You could watch the 1989 film Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but that isn’t an interactive experience.

Proposal:

Thanks to virtual reality, you can become an ant in 3 steps:

  1. Get a VR headset.
  2. Create a small remote-controlled car with two cameras on the front.
  3. Set up the R.C. car cameras to transmit to the VR headset.

Figure 1 shows the result of these steps.

Now you can be an ant!

1-vr-ant

Fig. 1: Left: someone wearing a VR headset that receives a pair of video signals from the remote-controlled car (orange) shown in the magnifying-glass inset (right)

 

2-vr-be-an-ant

Fig. 2: The experience of the viewer in VR goggles is shown at right. This is definitely exactly what an ant looks like close-up, as anyone who has seen the “Planet Earth” series can confirm. That’s how you know that this image was drawn with extensive consultation of reference material.

Conclusion:

This “ant VR” system theoretically be used for other purposes as well; maybe the ant-sized drone could check for cracks in hard-to-access parts of bridges or buildings, or an aquatic version could swim through a city’s water system to allow maintenance personnel to both look for leaks AND ALSO pretend to be an eel at the same time. Finally!

PROS: Lets you feel kinship with your insectoid brethren, the ants.

CONS: After spending a while in VR, you might think you actually ARE an ant and become unable to participate in human society.

3-vr-ant-original

Figure 3 (bonus): An extremely detailed technical schematic that will be used for manufacturing.

 

Stop getting run over by those passenger-transport golf carts in airport concourses with this one incredible tip, brought to you by the Big Laser Pointer industry.

Background:

Airport terminals often have small golf-cart-like trams that can be driven around in the passenger concourses. These are often used to help people move around the concourses (for example, one might be used to help a passenger with a leg in a cast who is trying to make it to a connecting flight).

The issue:

These passenger carts can move quickly, and may run over pedestrians in the terminal. To help prevent this, the carts usually emit an incredibly loud and annoying beep (like a truck backing up).

However, it is usually not very obvious where a cart is based only on the annoying beeping sound, especially in a crowded concourse (Figure 1).

 

2a-old-style.png

Fig. 1: The annoying beeping coming from this airport golf cart lets people know that a cart is nearby, but requires pedestrians to 1) find the cart and 2) figure out what path the cart is attempting to take through the airport crowds.

 

Proposal:

Instead of only beeping, the passenger cart could also have a special set of headlights that would project a “danger zone” image in front of them. This would make it extremely obvious as to where pedestrians should not walk.

 

2b-new-style.png

Fig. 2: This updated passenger cart has special headlights that project a “danger zone” region in the path of travel of the cart. These headlights could be repurposed laser pointers with a more spread out pattern (instead of a single dot).

Conclusion:

These new headlights could be an after-market attachment, since most airports will probably not want to replace their existing fleet of golf carts.

The light would only turn on when the shuttle is moving and would only consume as much energy as ~10 handheld laser pointers, so it shouldn’t substantially reduce cart battery life.

PROS: Would make it much easier to avoid being run over by an airport carts.

CONS: Probably… none? Is this a legitimately good idea?

 

3-airport-shuttle.png

Fig. 3 (bonus): Illustration for a hypothetical patent application.

Improve print quality and generate an impressive high-contrast résumé with this amazing mirror-image two-sided printing plan.

Background:

When printing non-color text on paper, you generally want to print the text as dark as possible, for maximum contrast.

Proposal:

With this new “two-sided mirror printing” idea, text can be printed darker than is normally possible, with this one trick: the printer automatically prints a mirror image of your text on the opposite side of the page.

This mirror-image text contributes (very slightly) to darkening the overall text on the side that is intended to be read (Figure 1).

print-both-sides-for-darker-text

Fig. 1: This sheet of paper has a “2” printed on both sides (mirror-imaged on the back), but the other text is printed only on one side. Note that the 2 is slightly darker than the other text.

This process has been empirically tested: it actually does work, but is only really noticeable if you hold the paper up to a light. See Figures 2 and 3 for experimental evidence.

both-1

Fig. 2: A piece of paper that has been printed with overlapping black rectangles on both sides: here, we see only one side (a normal view of the sheet of paper without any backlighting).

 

both-2

Fig. 3: Here, the same piece of paper from Figure 2 was held in front of a light. The overlapping printed regions (center) are dramatically darker than the regions that were printed on one side only (left and right areas). The numbers indicated are the pixel values as measured in extremely unscientific fashion (0% would be the JPEG’s lowest black value, and 100% would be the JPEG’s brightest white value).

Conclusion:

Although this method uses twice as much ink (and potentially twice as much paper), it produces text that is subtly higher contrast under very specific lighting conditions.

The brightness measuring technique shown in Figure 3 is methodologically questionable; I don’t recommend plagiarizing it in your Methods section if you are attempting to publish a research paper.

PROS: Increases text contrast, helps support the struggling printer supply industry, which has been hit hard by the diabolical “Paperless Office.”

CONS: May increase unsustainable usage of natural resources, hastening the transformation of the Earth into a barren and windswept wasteland, devoid of all life and completely silent except for the sound of printers attempting to automatically clear a paper jam.

Help fund and preserve the arts by extending copyright FOREVER! Additionally, auction off all old historical works to be re-copyrighted by the highest bidder. It’s good for the economy, too!

Background:

Copyright laws are generally over 100 years from the creation of a work. For example, a book written in 2020 will not be part of the public domain until after the year 2120.

The issue:

But if extending copyright so long is good, why is it that we allow it to expire at all?

In fact, why not “re-copyright” old works and take them out of the public domain? This will supply the financial incentive to preserve these works so that they will be preserved for future generations.

Proposal:

  1. Copyright will no longer expire ever.
  2. All currently-existing creative works will be auctioned off, internationally, to the highest bidder.

So if you ever wanted to own the exclusive rights to publish The Canterbury Tales, Dante’s Inferno, the plays of Shakespeare, or any classic mythology, now’s your chance! Previously, you did not have the freedom to exclusively own a work of history and culture, but now you do!

(You could also buy the copyright and then just sit on it, preventing anyone else from enjoying the work you now own, if you were so inclined.)

The money raised from this auction could be divvied up by the countries with the most copyright enforcement and/or largest militaries. Or it could be split “equitably” by GDP or population.

For example, if Dante’s Inferno raised a total of 10 million dollars for the copyright, then the money could be divided by total population as follows:

  • Italy (0.8% of world population) –> $80,000
  • Indonesia (3.5% of world population):  $350,000
  • Monaco (0.00051% of world population): $51
  • (And more to other countries)

 

copyright.png

Fig. 1: The new “infinite copyright” term (black, at right) is even longer than the previous terms. The bars indicate how long a copyright would last for a work created at a specific year under American copyright law.

 

Of course, this copyright extension would also include visual art and sculptures (e.g. the Mona Lisa, the Easter Island Moai, ancient cave paintings), historical music (e.g. Beethoven, Bach), and even architecture (the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids of Giza, etc.).

So if you wanted to play “Ode To Joy” on a piano, you’d need to buy an official licensed set of sheet music and performance rights from whoever the top bidder was.

It would, naturally, be illegal to take a picture of a famous building or sculpture without paying a licensing fee. This is already partially implemented in today’s laws: for example, if you want to film a scene of a movie with the Chicago “Reflective Giant Bean” sculpture in the background, you may have to cough up hundreds or thousands of dollars (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Gate).

Conclusion:

Don’t let copyright expire, and don’t let it only apply to current works! It needs to be retroactively applied to all historical cultural artifacts and works of art.

PROS: Provide a financial incentive for the copyright holders to continue preserving and updating the works in question, thus ensuring their continuation for future generations. Keeps lowlifes and degenerates from cheapening art or music by appreciating it without paying for it.

CONS: None!