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Tag: Internet

Uber and Lyft may have diminished the taxi medallion system, but the “medallion” idea can still be applied in other places! One weird local government tip.

Background:

Taxis in many cities operate under what is called a “medallion system” (Figure 1), whereby the supply of taxis is limited by a fixed quantity of tokens (“medallions”) that are issued in controlled quantities by the city.

taxi-medallion

Fig 1: An actual “taxi medallion” is apparently nothing like this.

Proposal:

For some reason, almost nothing else is regulated in this manner. But there are other services that are conceptually similar and could have their own “medallion” systems.

For example:

delivery-driving

Fig 2: Food delivery (e.g., pizza, Chinese food). Like a taxi, the driver operates a passenger automobile on public roads for commercial purposes.  A “delivery driving wedge” could be required in order for a business, such as a pizza restaurant, to deliver food.

dog-hypercube

Fig 3: Dog walkers make use of the public sidewalks and roads, and must abide by requirements that other pedestrians are not subject to (“pick up dog poop, do not allow the dog to bite anyone”). This “dog hypercube” would ensure that there was not an over-abundance of dogs on the sidewalks at any given time.

 

internet-cube

Fig 3: The medallion system could be applied to other activities with commercial potential.

  • Bicycles: Like a taxi, a bicycle consumes space on the public roads. Licensing of bicycles to a small number (see Figure 3, right side) would guarantee the availability of bike rack spots.
  • Internet usage could be prohibited without an “Internet cube” medallion (see Figure 3, left side). This could increase the available bandwidth for other purposes and could bring clients back to businesses like video rental companies and paper map retailers.

PROS: Opens up a new source of income: purchase a medallion, and then rent it out!

CONS: It may be difficult for City Hall employees to estimate the exact quantity of medallions to issue.

 

 

 

One weird application of the “invisible fence” dog collar that’s setting the world of Internet comments on fire! And possibly also setting people on fire, depending on the amperage involved.

Background:

The staggering degree of stupidity and general mean-spiritedness of Internet comments is a well known and undeniable phenomenon. But what can be done to prevent the anonymity of the Internet from causing people to write inhumanly monstrous things in Internet comment sections?

laptop

Fig 1: Even if your web site is about historical Danish model trains, your comment section will quickly fill up with arguments about subterranean trilateral commission lizard people. But perhaps there is some way to dissuade the stupidest comments?

Proposal:

The solution is simple: if a user wants to comment on a web site, they first have to put on and plug in a USB shock collar. Then, while the collar is on, they are free to comment to their heart’s content.

However, for a certain amount of time after the user has commented (say, 15 minutes), the shock collar will remain active, and a small “lightning bolt” icon will appear next to the user’s comment. Anyone who thinks the comment is stupid (or perhaps this is a privilege reserved for the site moderators) can click the button and administer a presumably-non-fatal electric shock to the commenter.

internet-comment-shock-collar

Fig 2: This USB device consists of a shock collar which you 1) put on yourself and 2) plug into the USB port of the computer that you will be writing Internet comments from.

To discourage the commenter from attempting to game the system by unplugging the USB cable early (before the comment-vetting period has expired), the collar could be set up to automatically administer additional painful shocks if the cord is disconnected prematurely.

Conclusion:

PROS: Reduces the frequency of stupid  Internet comments without sacrificing the (occasionally very valuable) anonymous nature of the Internet.

CONS: May result in electrocution. This peripheral could draw unfavorable comparisons to the Milgram experiment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment).

 

The 4 tricks to Highway Fast Lanes that you’ve been doing wrong this whole time

Background:

There is a certain amount of inherent appeal in the concept of a “fast lane” for any rate-limited transportation mechanism.

For example, on a roadway, a lane might be reserved for alternative forms of transportation (or for the especially virtuous and/or wealthy). One popular “fast lane” is the “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lane for cars with a certain number of individuals; this is intended to incentivize carpooling and reduce the overall amount of roadway congestion.

fast_lane_road

Fig 1: Red triangles mark a “fast lane” on this highway. Normally there would be several “normal” lanes, marked blue, although only one is shown here.

Recently, there has also been debate about of “Internet fast lanes” for certain forms of traffic. For example, maybe a company with a lot of money could pay to have its content preferentially transferred.

However:

The reality is that “fast lane” vs “regular lane” is equivalent to “regular lane” vs “slow lane”—”fast” is a relative term.

fast_lane_1

Fig 2: A 5-lane road (or Internet connection), representing total capacity.

fast_lane_2_extrafast_lane_3_partition

Fig 3: Ideally, we would magically create a new “fast lane” (left). But what we must actually do is steal one of the “normal” lanes and make it into a fast lane (right). This has the effect of making the “normal” lanes even more congested than before.

With that in mind, we come to the following proposal:

Proposal (in two parts):

The gist of this proposal is that instead of paying for themselves to be allocated space in a “fast lane,” individuals could pay to have other people put into the “slow lanes.”

Part 1: Internet example:

Imagine an apartment-dweller beset by slow Internet speeds due to a high degree of usage of the same connection by other people in the building. Although this individual might be able to pay for a faster (and more expensive) connection, under this new model they could also choose to contribute to a fund to slow down the Internet speeds of their neighbors instead. Once the neighbors connections are slowed down, more bandwidth would be left over for the paying individual’s own use.

Additionally, perhaps the apartment-dweller determines that their slow internet speeds are due to all of their neighbors downloading from a single source—”UncompressedBluRayDirect.” This user could then pay to specifically limit the bandwidth of UncompressedBluRayDirect (instead of targeting their neighbors).

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Part 2: Car example:

Some areas have an “HOV lane OK” sticker that allows certain cars to drive in the high-speed lane even if they don’t have enough passengers in them to qualify under the normal rules. (Motorcycles are often also allowed to drive in these lanes.)

But instead of having an “HOV OK” sticker, there could be a “SLOW LANE ONLY” adhesive sticker that one could purchase and stick onto one’s neighbor’s cars.

This sticker would be purchased from the local Department of Motor Vehicles and would limit the stuck-on vehicle to the slow lanes only.

PROS: Provides a more straightforward interpretation of the allocation of limited resources.

CONS: The “slow lane” sticker would probably need to be applied secretly in the dead of night to avoid negative repercussions.