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Month: November, 2020

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


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.


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).


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!


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!”


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!


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.

Stop wasting all that time maintaining your long hair—this sartorial secret will save you hours every week!

The issue:

It’s time-consuming—and potentially expensive—to maintain long hair to the exacting standards demanded by society (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: As a result of his unkempt beard, this dubious character is judged harshly by his fellow citizens.

If one could somehow distract and/or obscure the true status of one’s hair, the tyranny of personal hygiene would be escaped!

But is this an impossible dream?


No, it is possible! Specifically, through the means of a “long hair camouflage” shirt made of material that mimics the hair color of the wearer (Figure 2).

The casual observer will be unsure where the long hair / unkempt beard ends and the shirt begins, and will be forced to conclude that the shirt’s wearer is a dapper individual of fine grooming.

Fig. 2: The same raggedy beard from Figure 1 now blends into the hair shirt in Figure 2, indistinguishable to the untrained observer. Success!


This is the next fashion trend—get ahead of it by reserving your personal hair-colored shirts now!

PROS: Increases self-esteem of wearers, reduces time spent on hair maintenance, thus saving thousands of hours that can be applied toward new Linux screensavers and Python web-scraping libraries.

CONS: None!

Get tricked into voting by the world’s dumbest ballot questions! The incredible secret that may save democracy.

The issue:

Voters frequently are uninterested in the details of government: frequently, elections have low turnout even when critical issues are at stake.


Paradoxically, people can be more excited less important issues that are easier to understand (this is also referred to as “bikeshedding”).

Thus, this proposal aims to “trick” voters into being interested in an election by having a totally meaningless (yet superficially appealing) “ultra-easy” question on every ballot.

This sort of question would need to be incredibly easy to understand (Fig. 1) and require no civics knowledge.

Fig. 1: Here, the ultra-easy question is “which additional flag should the city zoo fly?” Text of the ballot proposition: “Proposition Z1 amends the constitution to require the zoo add a flag for Wally the Walrus (left). This is mutually exclusive with ballot measure Z2, which mandates the flying of the Eddie the Eel gold-fringe admiralty flag (right).”

These ballot proposals should ideally also make people extremely angry so they’ll fight each other online about it, thus increasing voter engagement. One might think of the “what color is the dress” question from 2015.

The non-cynical goal of this voting plan is to get voters interested in these easy-to-understand ballot measures as a “gateway” to investigating the more important issues.

Fig. 2: The voting measure could even be more abstract. For example: “Proposition B: The color BLUE is affirmed as being superior to the color PURPLE.” This has the advantage of requiring no action (or cost) on the part of the government.

PROS: May increase civic engagement!

CONS: Or it could just bring totally apathetic voters in to vote un-informedly on the actually-important issues on the ballot! Also, if you have to trick citizens into voting, maybe something more fundamental is wrong?

P.S.: See the previous idea of disqualifying ballots that contain a “wrong” answer:  https://worstplans.com/tag/divination-of-slithering-is-a-thing-now/