The dreams of a near futurist
I was stuck under a baby for a while this weekend in a house with a sleeping toddler, said baby passed out on my stomach, a dying cell phone battery, wife out for a few hours, and trying to start this season of CW’s The Flash. In other words I had some time to think.
Using cheap computers, old cell phone, existing inexpensive tech, but not existing software (as far as I can tell,) I came up with some ideas for solutions to problems.
Problem: stuck behind a bus
One of the things was a problem I see everyday with people getting stuck behind a stopping bus. One of the worst places I see this the bus is always about 15 feet away from its stop and then moves forward 15 feet after a light changes and then there’s a line of cars 30 deep trying to get around it.
Solution entails using the power of a deactivated cell phone, a piece of software that knows where the bus will be stopping, and a $20 LED sign on the back of the bus telling approx feet until next stopping of the bus.
I’m not sure, but I think the $50 or so investment per bus and coding cost of about a day’s worth of work for one person (one time,) probably would more than pay off in gasoline savings and lowered damage to following vehicles.
Problem: kids bolting
My assumption is that an app on people’s phone that warns them of nearby dangers based on a database with real-time GPS coordinates and what the problem is should be easy enough to implement. Apple can brand it iSurvive, Google can call it Google Play Safe, Amazon can call it “I’m on Fire” or some such.
Basically all the thing does is check in with approximate location, server side figures if there’s anything in that area to be concerned about, if so your device makes a bleep bleep to let you know something may be going on.
Most parents have smartphones, most kids wouldn’t mind wearing a kidfit watch that gives them points for exercise, takes photos, etc. Those watches cost about $14 to produce. Even if you just used a bluetooth echo device that’s in the $3 range.
Device moves out of range, means a short stack is out of parental control or oversight, parent’s phone shoots a grey warning with approximate street/location, devices in the area get warned there’re wild children running free and to slow down.
Dumb versions of this exist to alert you in places like a mall if your kid has moved out of sight.
Problem: bad drivers/road rage
While self driving cars are around the corner, what we do have currently are six years of cameraphones that are more than capable of being road monitoring devices that can record a license plate (with software enhancement) and upload via WiFi if the driver wants to submit an incident.
Imagine what would happen if 0.5% of the cars on the road were carrying a device that could report bad drivers with video evidence.
Now, I’m not saying ticket anyone, but a police officer contacting the lunatics, harshly worded letter, initial warning, etc. Maybe get some of the killers waiting to happen off the road or to at least recognize that they won’t get wiggle room if they get a ticket later.
You’d also probably, assuming you’re not a bad driver, incur some sort of insurance discount as long as you turned video over of any accidents.
Problem: Us vs Them
I’ll point out this is probably not an easy fix, involves some soap boxing, and you can skip it should you disagree.
A long time ago when Russia initially fell I wondered who we were going to be against next. It was us. For a while it was them again, then us became them, and now we’re a completely argumentative nation where the idea of shutting people out for their beliefs has risen to the forefront of collective solutions.
Don’t agree with someone on guns, birth control, refugee policy, Android vs iOS, religion, culture, diet, baby rearing, medical voodoo, etc? Call them names and block them. That’ll get them to your cause, guaranteed.
Back in 2008 or so I got invited to a group called Beer Church. Don’t bother and look it up, there’re 11 Beer Churches just in Nashville, some affiliated with Beerchurch.com (not us, although they said we could be,) some with a different group, some indy. You can find an article in the Tennessean that features a picture of me with Einstein hair holding a beer glass if you look enough. Ours is dead.
The premise of this one was to gather a bunch of people with disparate beliefs and experiences, talk about such, and not allow grandstanding, name calling, speeches, etc. The group, which would sometimes attract 25 people, was composed of about 20% right, 35% left, and a moderator who was just a total dick who shut down people making stump speeches.
What followed was interesting. A group of highly opinionated people having to listen and understand, or storming off and never coming back again because their opinion was more important than communicating with the people around them. Some just hated it.
In the post-mortem of our Beer Church, dead lo these six or seven years, some things about putting a bunch of people with radically different ideas together emerged. Most of them were that it improved everyone to not be in a group of yes-men and ideas that we felt needed to be true.
But people don’t want to do that online. They want to win a challenge, they want to prepare a scathing rhetorical answer, questions are notoriously lost in forums where people pile on to bash the different belief, and people are vilified and spend their time explaining what they meant.
People pick up whatever tone they feel suits the evil that’s against them and assign it to the person, demonizing their words, adding sneers and mocking or whatever it takes to make someone who might have a different belief into a monster.
Forums, message boards, chat rooms, aren’t the answer to bring people together, and even video chatting with multiple people still suffers from moderation issues, although it’s significantly easier to silence people.
I had the idea that since we’re gamifying everything these days, why not gamify groups of people’s conversations over a video Beer Church style meeting. Air the most interesting discussions. Turn learning about an issue people face into something interesting and discovered as opposed to ill-informed talking heads with a political agenda.
Record it all, take the most interesting from several and turn it into a show. Maybe inform from multiple directions without demonizing the liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, vegetarian, etc etc etc.
Could be done with Hangouts and YouTube, but probably want to make a little bit more robust to both allow for gamification, and to prevent some of the hangups Hangouts has.
Our Beer Church eventually died due to a smaller core group that understood, although didn’t agree with everyone else’s positions. I think understanding most people’s issues has helped me in life, I’m not 100% certain as I don’t have access to view a parallel universe in which I didn’t hang out with hippies and gun toting republicans (maybe I’m super rich there and you should avoid all suggestions I have).
Seems just sitting people down in a video conference and letting them talk to people with different beliefs, nationalities, etc wouldn’t hurt. If you could make it fun, would probably be good all around.
An emergency relay
It’s been noted previously I call 911 a lot. In the past 10 years I’ve been behind, witness to, or the first person at more life threatening wrecks than you’d imagine. This is partially because I drive the most dangerous part of the interstate two to four times a day for work.
There have also been calls for a robbery, a minor fender bender where someone got out and started beating up the other driver involved, jackasses shooting guns in an alley near me, a semi hitting a bridge because they were too tall, couch on the freeway in a lane, and a host of other things.
In a couple of cases I haven’t been able to call emergency services. My phone’s battery was drained to the level it wouldn’t let me boot it up and dial. Realistically the battery probably still held 5-10% before it was drained completely.
My idea here is an emergency mode for the phone where it only boots up a dialer (maybe in recovery mode,) and since communicating with a tower two miles away takes X power, find a nearby cell phone that will relay for you and talk with that device, let it talk to the tower.
I have to believe talking to a phone nearby would cost considerably less juice than normal talking operations. Maybe I’m wrong.
Have you ever wanted to purchase item X from someone on Craiglist only to have to figure out how to get it to you and what time you can pick it up? What if there were a service that would go to the seller’s place, take a bunch of photos for you so you can inspect it for approval, and deliver it to you?
I know half the time I want something from CL I have to figure out how to either clear time from my schedule or clear junk from my car, and sometimes both, in order to go and grab something.
There’s also a dance many times between buyer and seller of “you’re not going to kill me are you?” and if you could inject a somewhat trusted service into the mix I think that could clear that up.
Everything’s already available to do this. I think the lowered creepy internet stranger thing could really work to everyone’s advantage. Also not having to locate a truck.
Monitor all the things!
There’s no reason today that someone can break into your house and not be videod doing such. Or drive down the road shooting out the window and not have their plates recorded. Well, there is a reason and that’s that we don’t want to have a surveillance state. Too late, we have one. Just not an effective one.
What if there were an option for a street to record but to not forward except as required by laws?
Cameras are cheap, you can record for days on SD cards, they can be encrypted so nobody can get your data, solar powered so you don’t have to have a power line charging them, placed in places no camera has been before.
We currently have the tech to slap a camera per road recording every plate and driver that drives down it. Any street segment with a couple of cameras on it, no car could come and go without the plates being spotted.
Anyone who burgles or murders on street X would probably be recorded. you could probably do this for about $200 per street segment using existing tech.
But you want privacy? Encrypt the video, store it locally. To get the video out you have one local person who has a decryption key, and one person who doesn’t live within the laws of this country’s reach with another key. Each person has to submit their decryption key for that day to get the data off.
Worst case scenario is that someone overseas doesn’t agree that a four-hour segment of recordings is worth giving up to the authorities. Data is stored locally so nobody on the internet can hack it. You don’t have to worry about private investigators grabbing the SD and hacking it because it’s useless without the two keys (billions of computer years decryption time.) Local authorities can’t force the company that runs the cameras to give over the data if they’re trying to blackmail someone, etc.
But robbing a house, you’d be filmed. At a place when a murder goes down? Unless you parked and walked chances are they’ve got you.
Police, when given the videos, would have a suspect. Homeowners would have proof. Murder victim’s families might get the killer. Got to think that the whole thing would pay for itself in a year just.
Or alternately it turns into some Orwellian dystopia of monitoring because I’m shortsighted.
I’m laughably shortsighted
I’m sure at least two of my ideas here are laughable, so if you’ve got a solution feel free to post it.