Idea #12: Trackable Money

A very curious feature of this invention we call currency is that you can’t track it with ease. Pick a dollar bill in your hands, can you say if the past owner of that money was your employer, or if you got it from the market? No, most likely you can’t.

Short of conducting an investigation, money is virtually trackless. Owned by who posseses it, one needs simply to present it to benefit from it’s credit feature.

The average people need not know the origin of the money, but this information is relevant for governments, companies and organizations. A government is interested to know if money was involved in illicit activities, as well as to keep track of taxes, for example. A company would be interested in not being associated with crime.

There are means to track large flows of money. For example, any bank transaction higher than a set amount is notified to regulating banks. Personal intensive investigations, with correlating databases, can eventually uncover money laundering. But there is hardly enough people to investigate the population, so only a small fraction of the infractions are punished.

But how one could make money more trackable?

The first step into achieving this is to abolish completely the paper and coin currency. It’s simply impossible to keep track. Instead, favor electronic payment options. We will need to redesign currency as well as the infrastructure used by it.

Money currently has only one relevant attribute: it’s value, how much it represents. What if we added to every cent a list of owners, as well as a past transactions field and a timestamp?

This is a very simplified example of what I’m proposing. Say that for a particular cent:

table

The more down in the table you go the further back in time you are. So this cent went from the Government of Indiana all the way to Mary, who owns it now in her bank account. John loaned this cent from Peter in 15/06/2017.

Of course there could me more fields in this, as well as codes representing each type of transaction, estabilishment and person. This would have to be very synthetic however, since in the US alone there are  $1.56 trillion of dollars in circulation. Imagine the computer space required to store this information. Probably a record too far in the past could not be kept. Nothing is free of charge.

So a person would have many blocks of cents with different history in his/her bank account. Of course to him/hers, it could only be displayed the total amount.

In every store, there would be credit cards like machines that would register the transactions. They could also be owned by people, or be available in banks for people to register personal transactions such as loans. The banking system would compensate these transactions as it normally does.

Of course, people could still falsify the entries somehow. That’s why there would have to be standart security measures, like the ones used today to prevent credit card fraud. It may seem like too much an imposition to force everyone to use electronic payment means, but there could be considerable gain.

It would be required to process this information. The second step of this endeavour is to build advanced computer routines for scanning infractions, and apply them continuously to the data gathered.

For example, a large amount of small transactions from young consuming group could indicate a drug selling bussiness. A large donation from a company to a politician could trigger an investigation. An unusual growth in income could potentially lead to identifying criminal organizations.

People would ultimately barter or use a black market money, but it’s a lot harder to try to by crack with your iPhone than it is with money.

When in doubt, always follow the money trail.

[IMAGE: French Pacific Territories currency note, circa 1985 image source]

Idea #05: Stackable Chair

Suppose you have you are hosting a barbecue, but since you live in a small apartament, you don’t keep spare chairs laying around.

Aside from renting chairs or asking your neighboor, there is folding chairs and those plastic bar chairs that go on top of the other. But those things are not fancy – and you want fancy chairs!

Well here is an idea for a furniture:

furniture

Don’t mind the awful paint drawing, but I never taught myself a better tool. The back foot of the chair above is omitted.

The idea is a smaller chair that can fit under and behind the larger chair. And then another, and so on. I’ve seen this on tables before so it’s not an original idea, but never in chairs.

But how many chairs could you put in the space that would normally be occupied by a single chair?

Let’s see: the chair would have to have a thinkness (e) in order to stand. There would also be a gap (g) between the chairs. And finally, if you stacked too much, the upper chair would be too high and the lower too low. It would also become to narrow for a person to sit.

Some guesses for a somewhat large wooden chair are:

  • D = 50 cm
  • d = 25 cm
  • e = 3 cm
  • g = 0.3 cm

Doing some math alternating the gaps and chairs, you find that you could fit seven chairs in the space of one.

If the chair is metal, it can be made thinner:

  • e = 1.5 cm

So there could be fourteen chairs in one space! That’s a lot of chairs. It almost made me consider a career change.

There is a catch: the chair would not have the beam under the seat, that prevents the legs from opening, like the one in this picture:c553887a7888e35e8fdb269374777fb3--furniture-plans-furniture-projects

From a DIY webpage. All credit of this beauty is due to image source

The solution to this is to use, on each side of the chair, a strong elastic wire with a hook that can be attached when the chair is going to be used. It might not even be necessary if the chair is robust.

Now before you go on building your stackable chair make sure to double check these calculations. It’s a bit empirical to know the thickness required to support an average person’s weight.

If you do build one, make sure to let me know so I can buy it.

[IMAGE: luxurious kitchen image source]

 

 

Idea #14: Stargazer

Here is an idea for someone with a passion for Astronomy. You will quickly realize that it requires background on computing and photography. Do not be discouraged!

Living in urban areas with electrical lights, we lost much of the ability to stargaze. We pratically can’t see faint stars or the beautiful patch of the Milky Way. On a full moon you can forget about it. And that is sad because it’s been a past time of mankind for millenia. Looking to the stars connects us with the universe and puts some things in perspective.

milky-way-stars-night-sky

The patch of the Milky Way, usually to faint to be seen. image source

The idea is to manufacture and install a camera in a rural area, a farm, far from light pollution. This camera is pointed to the sky, and can rotate 360° on the horizontal plane and ~180° on the vertical plane (theta and phi in spherical coordinates). The camera streams the images to the internet to many clients around the world, stargazing.

So there is a tricky part in finding an isolate enough area, but with powerful enough internet connection. Internet access in the countryside can be a problem.

A live stream probably would yield images too faint though. It would probably be better to set it for long exposure photos (with the camera halted, of course). So an internet website would display high-quality photos of the sky, being updated on a regularly basis. The idea is to preserve true color as much as possible, to retain the feel.

Here the hardcore computing comes to play. A layer could be added to this photos, marking the astronomical objects and connecting the constellations, naming them. A search feature could enable search of a particular object, say Mars or the Voyager 1 probe. A full collection of telescope images could be added if one should select an celestial object.

This is done in many excellent phone apps  and online planetariums. But in the first case, one must first be able to see the star and in the latter it just feels like navigating an artificial image. It doesn’t give that feel of really looking into the stars. Most of the places online have really poor image quality.

There is a commercial dimension into these project, to explore this desire to actually seeing stars, getting familiar with the constellations and locating the planets. There could be two kinds of clients buying stargazing time of the camera.

A first type of stargazing clients would only get the images the camera is showing at the moment, and perhaps the ability to see past in its recorded images. They would have no control of the camera, but would be able to use the layer feature.

The second type would have full camera control for a given time. Only one of those clients at a time (per camera). The price of the camera/hour could be steeper for them. You could also make promotions for periods of low usage, as a marketing strategy.

Or maybe you could take an entirely different approach, and the position of the camera is defined in a pool. This would be more democratic, but would lose the personal satisfaction of controlling alone an object miles away.

It’s not supposed to be a telescope (with zoom feature), that would be an entirely different thing, with much more complexity. It would probably be impractical as a time-shared telescope.

Perhaps this company could also sell the projection equipment to say, display this starfield in a bedroom. I would certanly like to have the feeling of sleeping under the stars, but comfortably indoors.

[IMAGE: Djorgovski 1 globular cluster, near the center of our galaxy.  ESA/Hubble image source]

*Note: The content of these notes is not endorsed or affiliated with NASA/ESA, and express solely the author’s view.

 

 

 

 

Idea #13: Metrics on Text

For the most part, you can only tell how good a book is after you have done some reading. Sometimes you are identified with how the author’s ideas resemble your own’s, and other times it’s the innovative writing style that gets you caught. All of this, regarded here as the ‘quality’ of the text, is too personal and subjective to be put in numbers.

However, there are some aspects of a text that do allow a quantification. Some of these attributes are

  1. how positive a text is, meaning that its words are associated with good memories and emotion;
  2. how innapropriate a text is, meaning containing socially frowned upon words;
  3. how erudite a text is, with elaborate words not commonly used;
  4. how technical, revealed by the presence of technical terms;

But why have this information before reading it?

Well, first, to aid in the decision of reading or not (or buying or not a book). If you have the measure of how negative a text is, and you are in a mood for a light reading, you probably would leave that for another day. Second, to estabilish some sort of relative distance between texts, a scale of how technical for example.

This is a proposed method of measuring the quality of a text or book. It is, of course, not exact math, as it will be seen. It’s simple but demands some work.

Lets tackle number 1 quality, how positive or negative a text is. For the average people, some words are associated with negative emotions or memories. For example, heaven is a ‘positive’ word while rape is a ‘negative’ word. Some words don’t evoke a strong response, such as the word banana, and are ‘neutral’:

POSITIVE (+1) NEUTRAL (0) NEGATIVE (-1)
heaven banana rape
waterfall shower prison
baby rock abortion

Example of a classification

There is a more comprehensive, but somewhat dubius list on this site: positive/negative. You will notice that I limited myself to nouns because they are easier to work with. There are many words that lie in a gray area that is best represented with neutral. To make it simple: when in doubt, it’s neutral.

So the first step is associating each word with +1, 0 or -1. It’s not required to classify every word (what would be impossible), just a large enough group of them.

Then the second step is to run the text counting each appearance of the word, summing it. For example the phrase ‘The baby took a shower’ would yield Q=1, while ‘The women had an abortion in prison.’ yields Q=-2. You can see how it works, the second sentence is obvioulsy a lot heavier then the first.

This is meant to be done by a computer.

We can fine tune this: in order to get the table of values for each word, a online survey could be estabilished presenting the user with an isolated word and asking it to rate it. Different users would answer about the same word.  The results would lead to a scale of the more negative or positive words, with statistical meaning.

The text is feed into the computer that compares each word with the table, and there you have the quality of a text. This requires the text to have had an electronic form at some point.

Books could have a series of that information printed on the back cover.

[IMAGE: Beautiful library of Trinity College, Dublin image source]

 

Idea #11: A Cap for Wealth

It’s a surprising simplistic idea but, why doesn’t wealth have an upper set limit in society?

A simple statistics by OXFAM this year states that the richest 1% hold more wealth than the rest of the people combined.

The answer the question stated above is quite simple. Wealth doesn’t have an upper limit because the individuals who own enough wealth to bother soon found out that they could make even more profit by cornering the law-making process. Thus economical power became political power, and wealth accumulation ensued.

Of course today this is done in practice by corporations and organizations. There is no need to tell that it’s not in their interest to have a limit for themselves.

As the relations became more complex, more and more safeguards and insurances to protect assets where put in practice. These include both physical methods (ie banking, security) to more powerful social methods such as:

  • alienation to the real status of wealth concentration;
  • creating the illusion that ordinary people will ever become rich;
  • carefully segregating society into social classes (for example, certain places can only be accessed by people in the upper class);
  • restricting access to education, particularly one that questions.

Today is a safe bet to say that, unless there were a major rupture in society (and I mean really major) these safeguards would deter any attempt to change this status. We live in our own cage of a system.

And our system isn’t able to correct itself against the most serious problems such as global warming and global inequality.

I say hit the ‘reboot button’ in society, starting by setting a cap and redistributing the wealth.

But do it in a non-violent way, by organized gradual awareness and polarization. Sure Gandhi taught us a trick or two. You could still count any extra money earned as a point system, if you care for measuring and comparing earnings.

I doesn’t even need to be a small cap, it can be enough to allow a relative luxurious life style. There is plenty of wealth around to give everyone more than enough to survive.

If you are still not convinced, it’s important when you read these plain statistics about wealth concentration to have this mental image:

12342646_463460650513159_3967201546645023853_n-655x360.jpg

[The vulture and the little girl, famous 1993 Pulitzer photo by Kevin Carter image source]

This is the other end of being rich. There is only so much wealth in this world, and if you have too much then someone is short of it. We mask it by saying that this is caused by country poverty, but in reality there isn’t much difference. Certainly doesn’t make a difference to that child.

Any moral being of conviction would refuse to be rich on principle, with the exception of those who do it to help others. To quote a series, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really.

[IMAGE: US S5 dollar bill, portraying Lincoln image source]

 

 

Idea #3: Luxury Item

There is something special about gold. Something in its metallic luster that sparks the desire to accumulate it.

This is a sort of business idea, with a social aspect.

Design and manufacture a luxury item, that is:

  • rare;
  • expensive (say 1 million usd/unit);
  • unique;
  • collectible;
  • and desirable.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the item is a gold-coated portable drive. It should be possible to control it’s production and set the price as to guarantee the first two requirements.

Inside the memory of the portable drive lies a unique collection of digital art, a set of musical compositions or a literature work. Naturally produced by a talented but yet unrecognized artist (otherwise his/her work would cost more than the price of the luxury item).

Plus a state-of-the-art software to prevent the most direct ways of copying the content. It also adress the security concerns should the item be stolen, for example being tied to password.

The factor of desire comes maily from the nature of the item. Since the consumers would be people with enough money to spare on art, it makes sense to be something that appeals to an educated taste. I’m hoping that, for enough people, the combination rare-expensive-unique is all that it takes.

Another component to make it desirable would be its social aspect. A significant portion of the income should be used to back carefully selected social projects. That way it can create a sense of competition for collecting more and helping others. For other people, these would be the single reason for buying the item.

I can envision a social gathering in some mansion where the host exhibits in the living room the sheer number of luxury items he has collected so far.

I know it sounds silly that the only difference from a donation is the receiving of a trinket. But at least for me, I found that when you receive something back and attribute meaning to it, a powerful sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, is obtained.

[IMAGE: Gold bars almost close Image source]

Idea #10: Guns

Depending on the society, the access to firearms can be more or less controlled. Most countries have very tight restrictions to the usage of these items, no doubt due to how tied they are to violence and crime.

Regardless of the policy, it’s in the interest of the state to be able to know precisely where are the guns, particularly the more restricted classes that cross the borders in the dark. These guns have the potential to be used in bank assaults and mass shootings.

Surprisingly enough, there is little way to pinpont the location of a weapon from afar. Without submitting  everyone though a meticulous search, you could use for instance this experimental long-distance testing device.

This idea is a proposal for another long-range testing device. Is it possible to make a gun pipe ressonate, either by an acoustic or electromagnetic wave?

Well every gun has a pipe, and due to mass production there should be a limited selection of pipe calibers and lengths. If you could make a gun emit, for example, a wistle at a distance, you would have the means to detect it.

And perhaps not only detect – Imagine that you make the gun pipe vibrate with a powerful enough wave, tuned to the ressonating frequence. You could render aim more difficult to make. A whole EWAR field could be born.

Unfortunately, I found very little useful data as to estimate how strong would an acoustic wave have to be and at what frequency range would it lie. Perhaps an experiment could shed some light on this.

Hopefully, a better tools such as this could contribute to a world with less guns, or at least less unauthorized ones.

[IMAGE: Soldier with gun. image source]