The names of the months in English aren’t in alphabetical order. Until now, that is! Let’s fix the days of the week, too, while we’re at it.

Background:

In English, there are names for days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, …) and months (January, February, …).

The Issue:

But it is not actually necessary for weekdays and months to be named—it’s just a bunch of extra words that serve no purpose!

Many other languages (e.g. Chinese) manage with days named “Day #1, Day #2, …” and months named “Month #1, Month #2, etc.”.

In fact, this is exactly how English operates with days of the month and years: we say “2022,” not “The year of the Golden Elephant,” and “July 8,” not “July, Day of the Indomitable Spirit” or whatever.

Proposal:

Now that it’s clear that we don’t really need month names or weekday names, let’s see what we can do to improve the situation.

The most obvious and least-intrusive one is to keep the months as names, but rename them to be in a sensible order. (This is basically the opposite of what the Roman emperors did when they messed up the month names in the first place.)

Some candiate month names in which the months start with letters A through F (the 12th letter).

  • January  →  Aanuray (abbrev. “AA”)
  • Febraury →  Bebruary (abbrev. “BB”). Maybe we should also remove the “r,” while we’re at it.
  • March →  Carch (abbrev. “CC.”)
  • April →  Dapril (“DD.”)
  • May →  Eay (pronounced “E. A.”, abbrev “EE.”)
  • June →  Foon (“FF.”) (rhymes with “Moon”)
  • July →  Gulai (“GG.”). “Y” changed to “ai” for pronunciation. This is also the name of a food.
  • August →  Hoggust (“HH.”) (Note the change from “u” to “o,” and the additional “g”.)
  • September →  Iptember  (“II.”)
  • October →  Joctober  (“JJ.”)
  • November →  Kovember (“KK.”)
  • December →  Lecember (“LL.”)

Figure 1 shows what a daily calendar might look like with these revised months.

Fig. 1: Wednesday, October 5 is now Threesday, Joctober 5. So easy to remember!

There are many options for renaming the weekdays as well, but let’s just number them from 1 through 7 and be done with it:

  • Monday →  Onesday (abbrev. “D1” or “1sday”)
  • Tuesday →  Twosday (abbrev. “D2” or “2sday”)
  • Wednesday →  Threesday (abbrev. “D3,” etc…)
  • Thursday →  Foursday (abbrev. “D4”)
  • Friday →  Fivesday (abbrev. “D5”)
  • Saturday →  Sixday (abbrev. “D6”)
  • Sunday →  Sevday (abbrev. “D7”)

Now, a date like “Monday, May 16, 2022” would be written as “Oneday, Eay 16, 2022” (or abbreviated as “D1, EE. 16, 2022”).

(The days of the week still don’t alphabetize, but maybe this is OK if people use the abbreviations—“D1” through “D7”—instead.)

Conclusion:

If there’s one thing people love, it’s esoteric massive renaming efforts in the name of efficiency! File this one along with the French Revolution Calendar and the metric-system-ization efforts in the US and Britain. (Apparently this effort even has an official word: “metrication“).

PROS: Finally, the months now alphabetize correctly. Additionally, by removing the weekday names from English, we have made the language easier to learn by ~7-ish words. Students who are learning the English language will appreciate this! This plan also combines nicely with December 6, 2021’s idea (or LL. 6, 2021, if you prefer) for 28 hour days.

CONS: Everyone will love this idea, but the staid old-fashioned plutocrats at BIG CALENDAR might oppose it. Don’t fall for their diabolical anti-modernization schemes!

Solve an issue that has bedeviled programmers for over 50 years: move code comments OUT of the main body of the code and INTO the margins. Long code comments can be footnotes!

Background:

Programmers frequently write human-readable comments (which are ignored by the computer) to describe certain regions of code (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Comments are in green (after a “#” character). Everything else is regular code.

The Issue:

One might, naively, expect that these comments would be separated from the main code in some fashion that would make them easy to consult (or ignore), as desired. This is how books have operated for thousands of years, with additional information in the page margins and footnotes.

But this is not how programming works! Comments are mixed in with the rest of the code. As as result, having extensive comments can make code quite hard to read, as seen in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: These comments provide some useful information, but they really get in the way: Figure 1’s 24 lines of code now take up 2.5 times as much screen space!

Proposal:

Let’s re-invent the footnote! Instead of having super-long comments mixed in with the code:

  • Add a footnote in the “main” part of the code. This footnote will have a unique number that links it to…
  • …a matching footnote at the very bottom of the text file.

(You may have noticed that this is exactly how footnotes work in a book.)

Now, the monstrously long comments in Figure 2 are reduced to a manageable size (Figure 3):

Fig. 3: The file is still super long (in fact, it’s even longer than before!), but the excessively-verbose comments are now placed in their own “footnotes” section.

Since these footnotes are basically equivalent to HTML links, it would be easy to make code-editing software aware that this footnote text could be displayed specially: see one possible option in Figure 4.

Fig. 4: In a modern editor, the footnotes could also be presented as tooltips when the user hovers their mouse over the footnote. Putting the notes in the margin would be another option: this is already how comments are handled in many collaborative (non-programming) document editors (e.g. Microsoft Word or Google Docs).

Crucially, the footnotes will still exist as text at the bottom of the file—we want these files to remain plain text, not some weird format that requires special editing software.

Conclusion:

If this is too much work, it seems like a simple option would be to have a single keyboard shortcut that would collapse (or show) ALL comments in a file. Somehow, this is not a feature that exists as a built-in feature in any widespread code-editing software in 2022. Hard to believe! There are, at best, some extensions that will collapse some comments, or set the comment color to the same color as the document background (which still takes up screen space).

PROS: Allows comments to be more descriptive without impeding readability of the actual code.

CONS: Actually none? Why is this not a thing!

Bring the nightmarish totalitarian future of Orwell’s 1984 a little bit closer with this new and inexpensive computer vision idea!

Background:

Futurists and sci-fi authors have suggested many technologies that took decades to become practical, but did eventually arrive, such as:

  • The flat panel display
  • Tablet computers
  • Videophones
  • Machine translation
  • Computers that can defeat a human at go and chess
  • Wristwatch phones (e.g. the “Dick Tracy” wristwatch two-way radio, later given video capabilities as well)

But, some predictions haven’t come true despite the required technology already existing. For example, see this yet-to-be-realized future promised in George Orwell’s 1984: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

Proposal:

The capability now exists to both monitor people at all times (thanks to cheap cameras) and have a computer interpret the results (thanks to face-recognition algorithms).

This can be used for various purposes: it’s usually promoted for “tracking down criminals” or “finding kidnapped children,” but it can also be used to proactively detect thoughtcrimes in potentially subversive citizens.

For this application, all we need is:

  • A propaganda poster (existing technology)
  • A video camera (existing technology)
  • A computer program that can distinguish human facial expressions (existing technology)

The technique is simple and cheap: first, a camera is placed next to a propaganda poster (Figure 1, left). A computer watches the video feed and classifies the people it sees into two categories: people who saw the propganda poster and smiled (patriotic citizens) and people who saw it and frowned (potential subversives).

Fig. 1: Left: the propaganda-and-camera setup. Right: video feeds from the camera, along with the algorithm’s interpretation of the footage.

Can computers make mistakes? Let’s assume not. And even if they do, there can always be some perfunctory human review on top of the computer’s decision.

Conclusion:

This system would also help people find lost pets, let people know which of their neighbors attend the same churches or mandatory state-sponsored rallies (so they can hang out afterward and become friends), and many other beneficial features.

PROS: Helps realize the high-tech future promised by the fiction of the past. And if someone opposes this system, it’s easy to refute their concerns by saying “Wow… I guess you don’t care about kidnapped children, huh.”

CONS: Luddites might still be hard to convince to approve of this monitoring, but they’ll change their tune when the surveillance system helps them remember where they parked their cars!

Reduce customer support costs and increase customer loyalty relocating customer support desks. Specifically, relocating them to the top of a gigantic pyramid.

The Issue:

Two elements are important here:

1. It is generally the case that if a person expends more effort in an endeavor, the person appreciates it more. See also 2017’s Art Obstacle Course proposal. (Incidentally, this is also described as a factor in the popularity of hazing and initiation rituals in the “purpose and effects” section on the Wikipedia hazing page)

2. Providing customer support (including product returns and complaints) is expensive for any large retail business.

Proposal:

In order to reduce customer support costs (and product return rates) and make customers feel more kinship with “the brand” (ugh), we can fix the process of obtaining customer support. Usually, getting support involves either standing in a long line, filing paperwork, or waiting on hold on a phone forever. Those are all annoying, yet passive activities.

Let’s fix this by making the customer support process into a physically grueling ordeal! See Figure 1 for one possible approach.

Fig. 1: In this candidate design, the “product returns” counter is placed at the pinnacle of a Mesoamerican-style ziggurat.

This should reduce the customer support burden somewhat (is a person REALLY going to climb 1000 steps to the top of a pyramid to return an extension cord?), and will increase the likelihood that anyone who does successfully get to the top has a legitimate complaint

Additionally, a person who reaches the summit might also feel a sense of great accomplishment (like they’ve “conquered” a mountain) which should encourage positive feelings toward the company.

Conclusion:

This system is likely to gain widespread adoption across all retail businesses. If you own a business, act now: don’t be the last one to get in on the trend!

PROS: This will encourage exercise (specifically, stair climbing), among the customers, which will increase national physical fitness and well-being. (Unless they fall down the stairs.)

CONS: This specific example might be in violation of certain wheelchair-accessibility requirements. Possibly a law will need to carve out a specific exemption in accessibility regulations to prevent those laws from applying to customer service desks. Start lobbying now—the lawmaking process can be slow!

A new twist on the “lose money on razors, make money on the blade refills” plan. You won’t believe this zero-inventory plan for selling electricity at an outrageous markup!

Background:

Some products, like printers, razors, and coffee machines, rely on a recurring purchase of input materials (ink, razor blades, and coffee, respectively).

Frequently, the company that sells the durable part of this system will sell it at cost (or even below!), with the hope of profiting from a hefty markup on the consumables (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Inkjet printer ink and single-use coffee pods are frequently “locked” by the manufacturer, so a consumer can’t comparison shop: other brands simply won’t work!

The Issue:

But the company has a problem: if Inkjet Printer Co. sells a printer at a loss, but sells exorbitantly priced ink, some other company might step in and sell ink at a more reasonable price.

The solution to this problem, of course, is “Digital Rights Management“—lock the printer in such a way that it can ONLY use branded ink from the same company (Figure 1).

Proposal:

Strangely, this “lock the product ” system has not spread to every aspect of consumer products. (For example, there is no such thing as a stove that only works with same-branded pots and pans.)

In order to create an inescapable “locked” product, we will try to brand-lock the most basic element of modern machinery: electricity!

By creating a new line of products that only work with a new type of plug, a company can sell “branded” electricity to consumers.

In order to make the concept more palatable, let’s call this system “Green Electricity” (Figure 2). Note: it isn’t ecologically friendly in any way, it’s just the color green.

Fig. 2: A consumer who wants to use this “Green Electricity”-branded computer will need to also get a five-pronged “green electricity” plug installed in their house.

This would allow a company to sell heavily-marked-up electricity to consumers. 

In order to prevent a user from simply buying an outlet adapter or transformer (and thereby using regular electricity in a Green Electricity product), the Green Electricity wiring could have an unusually-modulated voltage and amperage.

Perhaps the exact parameters of this electrical current, and the dimensions of the plug, could be trademarked in order to prevent competitors from selling adapters. (And trademarks, unlike patents and copyrights, can be renewed forever.)

Fig. 3: Sure, the “regular” plug (top) might have cheaper electricity, but it won’t be compatible with the great products that require Green Electricity.

Conclusion:

This is the ultimate in selling consumable items: not only does it lock consumers into a particular resource that they have to keep buying, but the company can also just purchase electricity from the regular power company and re-sell it at a markup! No inventory or shipping required.

PROS: Brings new innovations in product development to the world.

CONS: People might get annoyed if they end up with six or seven different (and incompatible) outlets in their kitchen, but I’m sure they’ll get used to it.

A possibly-legal way to officially be paid for advertising purposes while serving in a public office! Run it by a lawyer first, though.

Background:

Most countries have laws that discourage public officials from being financially compensated to use their official powers to benefit particular companies. (This is usually called “bribery.”)

For example, a state governor probably couldn’t declare July 5 to be “Official BestUsedAutoDeals.com Appreciation Day, Use Referral Code AUTO4U.

However—maybe there’s a “one weird trick”-style loophole that would allow public officials to be paid to promote a business without officially promoting it!

Proposal:

Two elements of this are crucial:

  • In some countries (e.g. United States) it’s legal for a person to legally change their name to essentially any text, no matter how bizarre.
  • Public officials often sign documents that go out to thousands of people: for example, a governor’s signature might be found on a college diploma and a treasurer’s signature might be found on a piece of paper currency (Figure 1).
Fig. 1: The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury’s signature can be found in the highlighted area.

So here’s the question: could a government official—let’s say the Secretary of the Treasury—be paid to change their own name to, for example, “www-ultimate-snake-products-dot-com”?

Normally, this would just seem like a really strange marketing plan, but in this case, that text would also appear on millions of banknotes / diplomas / passports / etc., as shown in Figure 2.

(Essentially, this is a roundabout way of selling ad space on official documents.)


Fig. 2: If we suppose that the Secretary of the Treasury from Figure 1 (William E. Simon) had changed his name to “BestUsedAutosDotCom REFERRAL CODE USA#1,” could his official signature have looked like this? Perhaps!

Conclusion:

This situation is probably weird enough that there isn’t any law that explicitly prohibits it in a clear fashion. This provides a spectacular opportunity for any aspiring politician looking to make a mark on history!

PROS: Opens the possibility of a person receiving a presidential pardon signed by “Mega Value Soups & Noodles: Your Trusted Brand!

CONS: Apparently the legal and political systems are not (yet) operated by a giant robot or Star Trek computer, so it’s possible that there’s some kind of catch-all anti-bribery law that could be applied to this situation.

Want to get a written message out to everyone? Just redefine your country’s borders to make cartographers do your bidding!

Background:

Many national and provincial borders are defined in highly arbitrary fashions that have no underlying geographical rationale: these often appear as straight lines on a map, frequently passing through uninhabitable wastelands.

Fig. 1: Some borders have a basis in a geographical feature (e.g. a river, a mountain range), while others are defined solely based on text in some legal document (e.g. “a straight line from X to Y”).

For this proposal, we’ll discuss borders that satisfy these criteria:

  • Border region is uninhabited.
  • Border region has no strategic value.
  • Border region has no resource-extraction potential.

Proposal:

For hundreds of years, countries have had a perfect opportunity to define a border in such a way as to write whatever text they desire (Figure 2)—yet somehow this has never been implemented in practice!

Fig. 2: Let’s imagine that one country was a big fan of their national sports team, the Wildcats, and wanted to make sure that every other country was subjected to their team’s inspirational cheer. If the country changed its actual borders to write out this text, then the text would appear in every map, atlas, and globe, across the world!

Although large-scale geology-based drawings do exist, like the Nazca Lines in Peru, these have the property of actually existing in physical reality, and not just being abstract map borders.

Fig. 3: Here, we see how this border-drawing situation might appear on a cell phone map. The promotional phrase “Go Wildcats” would be inescapable to anyone within a hundred miles of the border!

This kind of border-writing is the ultimate billboard—visible to everyone, everywhere, night and day.

Conclusion:

Almost any straight border that runs through a desert (e.g. Figure 4) would be a great “blank canvas” for border writing.

Fig. 4: Most countries have some borders that would be suitable for writing. Here are some candidate areas on the US–Mexico border. (Map from OpenStreetMap.)

PROS: By selling “border text” to the highest bidder, governments could reduce the tax bills for their own citizenry. Or, they could antagonize their foes by changing internal borders (e.g., two provinces within one country) to spell out taunting messages!

CONS: Inevitably, as soon as one nation cedes a tiny bit of land to spell, for example “USA #1!,” a valuable mineral deposit will be found on that ceded land. This might cause international conflict.

Bring cosmetic microtransactions to every aspect of society. Soon, you’ll be able to pay thousands of dollars for a fancier driver’s license or passport!

Background:

In the mid-2010s, video game companies discovered that they could often make more money by giving away games for free (!) and selling cosmetic “extras” than they would have made by just selling the games.

These cosmetic extras are generally fairly basic (e.g. “your character is now dressed as a vampire” or “your sword is now a candy cane”), but they can sell for upwards of $20. The game Fortnite managed to bring in ~4–5 billion dollars annually using this sales model.

The crucial element of a cosmetic microtransaction is that it confers no functional benefit beyond the visual change. (And, as an added bonus, it usually costs almost nothing for the seller.)

The Issue:

The idea of “cosmetic microtransactions” occasionally extends beyond the realm of video gaming. Here are some real-world examples that can inspire us:

  • Custom automobile license plates: In most U.S. states, a user can pay extra to 1) specify the numbers/letters in the plate (e.g. “COOLCAR”) and 2) pick from a set of pre-determined “premium” plate backgrounds (e.g. a picture of the state bird).
  • Car paint colors: Certain models of car may have “premium” paint jobs: for example, in 2019, the Tesla Model 3 could be purchased in “Pearl White” for an additional $1,500.

Proposal:

Let’s bring these cosmetic microtransactions to other realms of commerce!

  • Driver’s license: A driver could pay a small fee to get a license with a fancier look to it (Figure 1).
Fig. 1: For a mere $15,000, this driver was able to upgrade his boring “regular” driver’s license to the regal “GOLD RANK” license.
  • Computer user interface themes: A user could have the “base” operating system with a boring “plain” look to it (Figure 2A), or a “premium” OS with a fancier appearance (Figure 2B). For more inspiration about user interface changes, check out the incredible variety of WinAmp (audio player) themes from the late 1990s.
Fig. 2A: A simplified example of a no-frills “regular” window in a desktop operating system (specifically, from 2022’s macOS 12). Compare to the premium version in Figure 2B.
Fig. 2B: After spending $149.99 for the special “Ultimate El Dorado Treasure of The Lost City” edition windows, the user will be treated to the premium appearance depicted above. The added shine and sparkles will reinforce the deluxe experience.

For people who spend hours each day at a computer, it’s definitely worth it to upgrade the operating system appearance to provide a psychologically-comforting “premium” experience.

Conclusion:

By bringing these ”nickel-and-dime-ing” microtransactions to all aspects of daily life, we’ll improve the experience of the citizenry. Is this the apex of technological civilization?

PROS: Might allow things besides video games to be provided for free. For example, perhaps income taxes will eventually become optional, if there are enough “whales” paying $1,000,000 for the privilege of filing their tax return on a piece of gold foil!

CONS: None! It’s the perfect plan.

Repurpose this common office supply to prevent casual snacking on junk food. Binder clips to the rescue!

The Issue:

After a person purchases a gigantic (yet economical) tub of snacks, they’re probably doomed to devour them in short order.

But what if there were a way to harness human laziness to prevent devouring of junk food?

Proposal:

Behold, the solution! Just put an excessive number of binder clips on the container that you’re trying to protect* (Fig. 1), and you’ll find that your desire to chomp on thousands of calories of chocolate chip cookies is kept in check by your similar desire to not have to undo (and redo) a bunch of binder clips.

* From yourself.

Fig. 1: This 1.44 lb. container of chocolate cookies is protected by four large binder clips.

This system even works on irregular containers, such as the bag in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Works on bags, too!

Conclusion:

This system has been tested in human trials, and has been shown to decrease cookie consumption rate by approximately 50%. Not bad!

PROS: Improves public health for only the cost of a few binder clips!

CONS: Unfortunately, incompatible with most ice cream containers. Definitely does not work on ice cream sandwiches, either.

A new style of financial advice: showcase only the stocks that were enormous losers and led to financial catastrophe!

Background:

A huge number of books, blogs, and web sites have been written to supply investment advice to the common people.

Almost all of these books recommend strategies that, up to that point, have been successful. Strangely, very few of them recommend strategies that have lead to catastrophic financial failure, even if the strategies behind these investments are conceptually sound.

For example:

  • A reasonable sounding theory: “Energy will always be required in the modern economy. Thus, it isn’t a bad idea to have some money tied up in this reliable sector.”

Yet these never follow up with:

Or in ~2001:

  • “A new segment of computing is clearly in small wireless devices: perhaps a fusion of the cell phone and notebook computer: some sort of ‘smart’ phone.”

Yet these, too, never follow up with:

  • “So a savvy investor would choose the company at the cutting-edge of this market: Palm, Inc.” 

The Issue:

The problem with this style of financial advice is that almost all of the examples are just survivorship bias: they cherry-pick the successes (“Apple computer, it was so obviously going to be a success!”) and ignore all of the companies that didn’t survive (“Wang Laboratories: it’s been around since 1951, it definitely has the expertise to be the next big thing in computing!”).

This is similar to writing an investment guide about betting on a roulette table: if a spin comes up red, you might expect dozens of financial bloggers and “influencer” analysts to write long treatises explaining why, in this particular situation, clearly it was time for “red” to shine.

Proposal:

In order to balance out these examples of sensible-sounding-yet-unsupported financial advice, we need a blog that offers superficially reasonable advice that, when tested with real data, always resulted in disaster. The real world is full of useful examples

  • The pitch: Early 2000s: “CPUs are crucial to modern products, but they’re held back by legacy engineering requirements. A new line of re-engineered chips (by a major company) that can make a clean break with the past will unlock vast computing potential!
  • The reality: the Intel “Itanium” chip never catches on, and is a financial flop.
  • The pitch: Mid-2010s: “Microsoft is a huge tech company that can integrate their OS with a new phone ecosystem, for the ultimate in synergy. If they entered the mobile phone market, they’d be almost guaranteed to succeed (Figure 1).”
  • The reality: the Windows Phone mobile OS never manages to crack the market, which remains split between iOS and Android.

Crucially, both of these products failed on their own merits, and weren’t squeezed out by some “evil” competitor or by some kind of internal malfeasance.

Fig. 1: Windows Phone was considered by many to be an almost guaranteed bet: it had the backing of a huge company that had succeeded in similar spaces before, it could leverage phone-PC integration, and it had (seemingly) an unlimited budget. (Fortunately for investors, there was no way to buy stock specifically in “Windows Phone.”)

Market projections are also a popular way of showing that some random new technology (e.g. the personal jetpack, the Segway, some specific cryptocurrency, etc…) is going to get adopted.

The formula is: 1) combine things that have ALREADY succeeded with the new thing that you HOPE will succeed, and then 2) plot them on the same graph (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: This style of chart works for anything: just take your favorite new technology and show how it’s only been around for (say) 2 years, but it’s already got 2% marketshare. Now add a bunch of other technologies that took a long time to get going (the automobile, the airplane, phonetic writing, the camera, etc…), and you’ll discover that your new technology can’t fail—look at all the other unrelated things that didn’t fail! Here, we see that the Zeppelin is due for a resurgence.

Conclusion:

It’s a bit surprising that this book / blog doesn’t already exist!

PROS: Would be easy to find examples in history: just search for all the stocks that became worthless, and then do some research on the circumstances on each eventually-worthless company.

CONS: It might be hard to monetize this concept: normally, financial advice can attempt to persuade you that it’s worth your time (and money), because you’ll be financially better off according to some bewildering charts. But if the advice entirely showcases failures, people might be more hesitant to pay for a subscription.