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Category: Technology

BIG BROTHER APP is watching you…. and looking out for your job prospects, romantic prospects, and any possible snake-fang-related threats!


Remember when privacy was a thing? No? Oh, ok then.

But people used to have some concern about having their location and whereabouts monitored by companies and governments.

I guess this information was used for evil-doing at least once in history? Whatever, who cares, let’s gather data and make an app!

The issue:

Have you ever been blindsided by an in-retrospect-obvious event, like a firing (or even just a passing-over for a promotion) at work, or a seemingly-sudden breakup?


Using the power of OMNIPRESENT CORPORATE SURVEILLANCE, we can create a new program, which we will call Big Brother 2, that does the following:

  • Reads all your email (like most email provides already do).
  • Reads all your text messages and any transcribed voicemails.
  • Examines your online purchasing habits.
  • Checks your location history and that of your friends.
  • Checks to see if you are associating with any subversive individuals or organizations.
  • Analyzes your photos and categorizes their content.
  • Monitors your mood by reading your posts on social media.

  • Optionally listens in to your conversations, if you are in a place where this is legal.

Big Brother 2 will collect this data from thousands or millions of users, and—using advanced and overhyped machine-learning techniques—it will figure out what kinds of warning signs preceded various life events.

Then it can forewarn you of danger in your own life!


  • Dating (Figure 1): Two people are dating and their messaging steadily becomes less frequent and more negative. Big Brother 2 can extrapolate their breakup date and (optionally) start preemptively saving flattering photos of those users for their upcoming dating profiles.
  • Employment (Figure 2): Someone’s boss mentions “outsourcing” and then communication rapidly drops off. Big Brother 2 can recommend some resume-preparation services for that employee.

Fig. 1: Big Brother 2 can extrapolate from its millions of data points and figure out that, on average, users with a certain text-messaging profile typically experienced a breakup within X months. In this case, the user is being forewarned that they should expect a breakup on or around October 24 (orange line).


Fig. 2: Here, Big Brother 2 suggests that company layoffs will occur on June 28. In this case, the Big Brother 2 algorithm could also incorporate data about the economy / stock market / relevant world news that may impact the user’s job.


Fig. 3: Using sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, Big Brother 2 may even be able to predict things you wouldn’t think were predictable, such as exactly when a serpent is going to slither over and sink its fangs into you (thus, hopefully, allowing you to either prepare yourself for that moment or to take corrective anti-snake action).


Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: hire me to develop this project. Thanks in advance.

PROS: Could reduce the likelihood of snakebite.

CONS: May result in “Logan’s Run”-esque scenarios where the system determines that a person has negative value, and then the user’s phone starts plotting to murder the user (see historical example from Episode #270 of The Simpsons). If this occurs, it is an example of a bad optimization function, and should be fixed in the next update.





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After this bad driver rudely cut you off in traffic, YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE what happened next with a laser that caused them to repent their wicked ways.

The issue:

Sometimes, drivers are terrible (Figure 1).

But there unfortunately does not exist any practical and useful way to accomplish the following:

  1. Let these drivers know that they have committed a traffic infraction
  2. Warn other drivers to watch out for these terrible drivers.

Fig. 1: The blue car in this example is randomly weaving in and out of traffic, and is generally being a terrible driver.


This plan has two parts, shown in Figure 2:

1) Every car must be painted with a special photo-reactive paint, which will (temporarily) change color when exposed to a specific frequency of light.

2) Every car ALSO must have a laser gun mounted on it somewhere (for example, on the roof or on the hood).

Then, whenever you see a bad driver, you simply point the laser at their car, and it fires a beam that changes the target car’s paint color (Figure 3), letting other drivers know that that car displeased you in some way.


Fig. 2: When a bad driver annoys you, you can just pull out your car laser and “paint” their car with bad-driving photon energy.



Fig. 3: After being hit by the bad-driving lasers, the blue car’s paint is now a bright orange, lettering future drivers know to steer clear of this car, and letting the driver (or perhaps their parents, for student drivers) know that they committed some sort of traffic infraction.


This would remove the need for the DMV, traffic enforcement, and traffic signs, thus saving countless dollars every year.

PROS: Saves a ton of money, works well for everyone.

CONS: The laser might cause blindness, which could be remedied by modifying every car to have special window glass that absorbed that laser’s frequency. Additionally, pedestrians could wear sunglasses, so really there is no downside.

Don’t get too excited, but it’s YET ANOTHER idea about stop signs! Maybe this blog should be renamed “Worst Traffic Signage Proposals.”



When a driver comes to a stop sign, they don’t intuitively know whether it is a two-way or an all-way stop. The difference is important, because a lot more diligence is required at an intersection where cross traffic does not stop.

The issue:

See Figure 1: if you add a bunch of trees, parked cars, buildings, and other visual obstructions, it can be very difficult to determine whether the other cross streets have stop signs or not.


Fig. 1: In this bleak gray-and-white plain, it’s easy to tell that the cross traffic does not stop, but in reality there will be a number of trees / cars / buildings that obstruct the driver’s view.


Lanes of traffic that specifically do NOT stop could be marked with lines on the ground (see Figure 2), similar to a crosswalk.


Fig. 2: This green arrow (which extends through the intersection, as seen above) is a visual indicator to inform drivers that cross traffic does not stop.

The only downside to this would be that people might start to assume that the lack of lines would mean “cross traffic DOES stop.” In that case, an alternative formulation could be made where the lanes that do stop are specifically marked ini an obvious fashion (see Figure 3). (Although existing intersections do occasionally have a white line and the word “STOP” painted on them, this marking is very inconsistent and is not at all visually obvious).


Fig. 3: A) In order to prevent drivers from relying too much on “lack of any marking = cross traffic DOES stop,” we could invert the scenario and explicitly mark the lanes of traffic that WILL stop (orange dots here). B) The blue arrow is another possible example of a more aggressively obvious pattern to indicate lack of traffic stopping.


You should buy some stock in companies that sell road-suitable paint, and then propose this idea as an amendment to your state’s constitution (assuming that is a possibility).

PROS: May reduce accidents at two-way-stops-misinterpreted-as-four-way-stops, which might be a major cause of residential car crashes (probably someone knows this, but not me).

CONS: Doesn’t work very well when there is snow on the roadway. Additionally, paint requires substantial maintenance to keep visible; roads might need to be repainted a lot more often, for unclear benefit.

Stop being annoyed by three-way light switches that incorrectly both say “OFF,” yet the light is clearly on! Has the entire world gone mad??


A “three-way light switch” (i.e. two switches that control the same light) is useful when there are multiple places that need to control a single light, such as at both the top and the bottom of a staircase.

The issue:

Unfortunately, three-way switches are often out of sync with the actual state of the light (so the switches are both OFF, but the light bulb is on).


Fig. 1: A three-way (two-switch) system is surprisingly straightforward. You can even add more switches, if you want! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching)


Ideally, the ON / OFF position would be correct indicated by the switch itself, instead of Instead of having the switch position indicate when

  • Easy and elegant solution, with one fatal flaw: just make the switch a press-able single button. Internally, the switch would just turn a wheel or something, to generate the required electrical connection.
    • Downside #1: Since it lacks an up/down state, you wouldn’t know whether the circuit were ON or OFF when the bulb is burned out.
    • Downside #2: Probably banned by electrical code for reasons stated in downside #1.
  • Electromagnet-based complicated solution: have each switch’s natural position be the DOWN position, which it will return to due to gravity when there is no electrical current. However, when the circuit is active, an electromagnet causes the switch to be held and/or pulled to the up position.
    • Downside: uses a tiny amount of electricity.
    • Upside: syncs the state of the switches. (If you turn on one switch, the other one will also be pulled up by the built-in electromagnet).


Maybe you should rewire your house with this highly speculative and untested electrical suggestion! Consult an electrician today.

PROS: You will no longer be bedeviled by light switches that do not properly convey the state of the light. (Previously: the switches both say OFF, but the light is on? Ugh!!!)

CONS: May burn down your house.

Achieve enlightenment and 100% vacuum cleaner coverage with this one incredible telescoping furniture leg tip!

The issue:

Both humans and automated vacuum cleaners (e.g. Roombas) find it inconvenient to operate a vacuum cleaner around furniture—specifically, no one wants to move extremely heavy furniture just to vacuum around the legs.


Most furniture is still stable even when not all supporting legs are contacting the ground. So why not have telescoping table legs that can retract to allow a vacuum cleaner to vacuum under them?

This would allow a robotic vacuum cleaner to achieve 100% vacuuming efficiency in your house, rather than having it be limited by its inability to drag your heavy furniture around.


Fig. 1: These telescoping furniture legs can retract to allow you (or your trusty robotic vacuum) to vacuum underneath it.



Fig. 2: Easy! The sofa leg detects the proximity of the vacuum cleaner and telescopes upward into the furnishing. Perhaps a pressure sensor on the sofa leg could be activated by hitting the vacuum cleaner against it.


If you work at a robotic vacuum cleaner company, you should license this patent from me immediately. Also please file for it on my behalf (thanks in advance).

PROS: Allows 100% vacuum cleaner coverage to finally be achieved. FINALLY.

CONS: With no goals and struggles remaining after this, perhaps existence will seem hollow and unsatisfying.




Are you tired of your computer MYSTERIOUSLY doing things in stony silence? Bring back 1980s retro charm and monitor your computer for malware and spyware with this ONE INSANE AUDIO TRICK! It drove an entire island of monks to madness!


In the past, you could tell what a computer was doing (to some extent) just by listening to it.

  • Disk access would be accompanied by a classic floppy disk sound (or the “click” of a hard drive)
  • The fan would spin up if the CPU was under high load.
  • You could actually listen to network traffic on a modem (or watch the network traffic light blink).
  • Sometimes, different operations would cause a high-pitched noise to emit from some mysterious component of the computer.

However, with solid-state drives and many entirely fanless computational devices (e.g. phones, most tablets), it is no longer possible to have an intuitive sense of what your computing device is up to.


Fig. 1: Historically, computers would make all sorts of sounds when operating. The monitor would emit an annoying high-pitched hum, the disk would click and clack during reads or writes, you could listen to network traffic over a modem, and fan noise would let you know whether the CPU was working hard.


The solution is obvious: the phone must generate artificial sounds so the user can figure out what’s going on.


  • Heavy CPU use could result in the classic beeps of the “Star Trek computer sound“. Or for a subtler approach, a fan-spinning noise could be generated.
  • Disk access could always be accompanied by the audio of a floppy disk reading / writing / seeking to a new location.
  • The screen could cause a buzzing sound to be emitted when it was first turned on, and optionally at any time it was displaying a non-blank screen.
  • Network access could generate a modem noise.

Fig. 2: This phone is totally silent under normal operation, but we can add network noises, CPU fan noise, disk noises, and more.

With this simple change, people will become aware of what their computer is doing.

In particular, they will now easily realize if their computer is using a ton of Internet traffic or is infected with CPU-intensive malware.


Demand this feature in your next phone! Or write and maintain a custom ROM for your phone. Easy!

PROS: Warns people about phone spyware/malware. Makes a phone harder to lose, since it will be constantly emitting annoying sounds!

CONS: None! It’s the perfect idea with no downsides.





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Five tips to amazingly shiny hair, like the hair of a wild and majestic forest beast. Step Number 1: maybe wash it occasionally? Unclear.


Sometimes, if you are groggily taking a shower in the morning without paying much attention, you may forget whether or not you’ve already washed your hair (Figure 1).





Fig. 2: The shampoo bottle is no help; it’s probably going to be look the same whether or not it was recently used, unless you do forensic-level analysis of the number of water droplets on it.

The issue:

You can, of course, always wash your hair again, but then you wasted both time AND shampoo.

What if the bottle itself could indicate (in a simple and electronics-free way) when it was last used?


Here are two possible ways for a shampoo bottle to indicate when it was last used, without requiring any significant user interaction or complex mechanisms (see Figures 3 and 4).


Fig. 3: This bottle has an embossed button-like section that pops out (side view at far left and far right). The default state of the bottle is at left. When you use it, it is natural to hold it in a position that presses in the “button,” resulting in the pressed-in situation (right). Later, the button will pop back out of its own accord.


Fig. 4: Part of the bottle could be made of a plastic that darkens when wet. In this case, the mockup is for a thermometer-sized area of the bottle to be made of this material; the dry material is white (shown in A). When the bottle is turned upside-down, water sweeps along the “thermometer” and darkens it, resulting in the dark gray area in B. Evaporation will eventually dry the “thermometer” and restore its original color.

PROS: Saves time and shampoo.

CONS: May add manufacturing costs and additional product waste.