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!

“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!

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?

A proposal for using large televisions as external monitors will make your laptop life easier and prevent eyestrain! And it’s a software-only solution!

Background:

Extremely large TVs have now become cheap enough to use as gigantic computer monitors. It’s possible to find a 55+” television with high enough resolution and low enough latency to work as an external monitor for even the most discerning computer-ologist.

The issue:

Most desks are not set up to accommodate a 55″ television as a monitor. In particular, the most immediately obvious arrangement—laptop in front of monitor—has the disadvantage of having a large area of the monitor blocked by the laptop (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: In this animation, we can see the red “masked out” region where the laptop screen blocks the view of the TV. This wouldn’t be a problem if the system software knew not to put windows in the red area—but since it doesn’t, the user will have to constantly rearrange their windows to avoid this “dead zone.”

Proposal:

In order to fix this laptop-blocking-screen issue, we turn to a simple software fix: simply split the monitor into three rectangular sub-monitors that are NOT blocked by the laptop screen (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Since the system software already understands how to deal with multiple monitors, we just need to convince it that our TV is actually three separate sub-displays (screens 2, 3, and 4 here).

Fig. 3: We can see an “in-use” mockup of the multi-monitor setup here.

Instead of splitting up a monitor into three rectangular sub-displays, it might also be possible to allow a user to “mask out” an arbitrary region of a monitor as a “dead zone” to be ignored by the system (Figure 4). This would allow the external display to still be treated as a single monitor, rather than 3 separate ones. Although a non-rectangular display may seem odd, there is precedent for it in smartphones: the Apple iPhone X “notch” and the “hole punch displays” introduced in 2019 are common examples.

Fig. 4: The red outline here shows an extreme example of how a non-rectangular external monitor might be used. Perhaps if these irregularly-shaped setups become common, the weird windows of 1990s Winamp “skins” will make a triumphant return as well!

Conclusion:

Is it possible that a far-away television is better for eyestrain than a smaller-but-closer computer monitor? Maybe! Some sort of legitimate eyeball scientist should weigh in on this matter.

PROS: The multi-monitor setup would probably actually work, although irregularly-shaped displays might be a hassle.

CONS: Could have very limited appeal.

With “sponsored auto-correct,” you’ll be able to buy a phone for even cheaper! And it will only be SOMEWHAT infuriating to use!

Background:

When typing on a phone with an on-screen virtual keyboard, the auto-correct feature is essential.

Strangely, this auto-correct / auto-complete feature has never been monetized!

Proposal:

In order to bring great deals to consumers and new advertising opportunities to companies, we describe the following auto-correct enhancement.

Currently, auto-correct is boring and predicable. For example:

  • Typing “I’m going” may suggest the following completions: “to,” “on,” or “out.”
  • Typing: “I like” may suggest “that,” “the,” or “it.”

These are reasonable guesses, but what if we enhanced the autocorrect system to allow for sponsored suggestions (Figure 1).

“I’m going” could suggest:

  • “I’m going to
  • “I’m going on
  • “I’m going—but first, I’m going to drink a refreshing [BRAND NAME] soda, and then

The particular [BRAND NAME] would be determined by whichever company was the highest bidder for the auto-correct ad.

Fig. 1: Left: the traditional autocorrect system suggests “soo__” -> “soon.” Right: the improved ad-sponsored system inserts a valuable promotion into this otherwise-boring text message.

It would also be possible to increase national pride and patriotism by changing the autocorrect to insert mandatory patriotic messages, such as:

“I like” ➡

  • “I like the
  •  “I like our glorious leader-for-life, who will lead our nation to victory over our cowardly foes
  •  “I like to

Or

“I support” ➡

  • “I support the
  • “I support quartering troops in my house—it’s my patriotic duty as a citizen
  • “I support it

Conclusion:

The best part about this system is that each ad implicitly carries the endorsement of the sender: it’s more persuasive to have a friend or trusted colleague text you with “I’ll be at the meeting, let me just finish this Ultra Crunch™ Cereal first” than to just see an impersonal ad demanding that you eat that specific cereal.

There is some prior work in this area: the Amazon Kindle “with special offers” shows ads on its screen while it’s sleeping, in return for being somewhat cheaper.

As an added bonus, each ad reaches TWO people (the sender and the recipient)!

PROS: Helps people afford more extravagant cell phones by subsidizing their purchases in return for ads infecting the auto-correct system.

CONS: None!

Video chat’s next major feature: physical positioning of participants (“mingle at a party” options) to allow a huge chat to be split into manageable groups!

Background:

With the 2020 COVID plague, work-related video chats have become increasingly full of a large number of participants (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Video chat software (e.g. Zoom, FaceTime, Hangouts, Meet, Duo, Skype, and more) typically only allows participants to appear in a randomly-ordered grid. All participants are part of the same (single) discussion: there is no easy way to have a “side discussion” and then rejoin the main conversation.

The issue:

Video chats have a problem that in-person office work does not: there is no convenient way for participants of an unreasonably-large video chat group to split off into subgroups.

Instead, every discussion must take place in a SINGLE mega-discussion with all participants, or people need to leave the mega-discussion and start their own exclusive video chat groups. People often get around this by having side discussions over text, but that’s not really a great solution either.

Proposal:

In a physical workspace, it’s easy to have a small discussion: simply PHYSICALLY relocate the individuals in the conversation to an empty lunchroom table or meeting room.

To improve video chat, we simply implement the same feature: instead of each video participant just being a randomly-placed square in a grid, now each participant can also specify their location on a virtual floor plan (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Left: the old-fashioned style of video chat. Right: the updated video chat, where you can only hear and see participants who are in close physical proximity. In this case, the chat has split into groups A, B, and C (shown here from the perspective of a person in Group B). Everyone in Group B has a normal video chat, but can only faintly hear low-audio-volume chats going on in groups A and C.

Importantly, it’s still possible to see and hear people who are somewhat nearby on the floor plan, but at a very low volume. So you can know that a conversation is going on, and join in if necessary, but it won’t drown out your primary discussion.

Previous Examples:

Some video games implement a system like this (“proximity audio”), in which you can hear voice chat only from nearby players. However, as far as I am aware, this has never been a feature in any office-focused collaboration software.

PROS: This seems like it should actually exist! Maybe it hasn’t been developed before due to the lack of compelling business case for having large numbers of people on video calls.

CONS: Might lead to a tyrannically oppressive workplace in which work-from-home employees are mandated to always be available on video chat and present on a virtual floor plan.

“Vertical farming” in skyscrapers might be the next trend in locally-grown food, but wait until you hear about HORIZONTAL farming!

Background:

Recently, there has been discussion around the futuristic concept of “vertical farming”: growing crops in skyscraper-style greenhouses in city centers.

The issue:

Although there are many conceptual advantages to such a farm, there is at least one major difficulty: light. Obviously, only the topmost layer of a vertical farm would be practical to light with sunlight (Figure 1): lower layers would need to be lit with high-efficiency narrow-spectral-band LED lighting.

Fig. 1: This vertical farm (right) has a major downside: there’s really only one “floor” worth of sunlight, so it’s impractical to use sunlight for crop growth. Although LED lights can be extremely efficient, the power requirements of a large-scale vertical farm would be substantial.

Proposal:

The “horizontal farm” is the best of both worlds: a structure that can fit in the footprint of a single office building, yet is capable of harnessing sunlight from dozens of adjacent city blocks.

The horizontal farm building is designed as follows: it consists of a vertical stack of floors, just like a traditional skyscraper. However, the floors are not directly connected to each other: instead, they hang from two vertical rails that can pivot to a horizontal orientation.

When the rails begin rotating to the horizontal position (Figure 2), each “farm floor” pivots in the opposite direction, thus maintaining a horizontal orientation at all times.


Fig. 2: Each floor on this vertical farm is mounted on an enormous central pivot point. The building can be slowly turned from a vertical to a horizontal orientation. Now the plants can directly use the sun, cutting out the LED lighting middle-man!

Conclusion:

This bold new architectural design could be the future of locally-grown food!

PROS: Allows farming to harness the power of the sun directly, with no intermediate energy conversion (to LED lighting) required! Also has the advantage of providing valuable shade to city-dwellers who might otherwise get sunburns.

CONS: None!