#21: Antinoise window boxes

For people unable to fit double glazing (due eg to building regulations) window boxes could be filled with artificial plants.

These would have a range of stem lengths tuned to absorb the low frequency techno-funk that drives me nuts.


Alternatively, the stalks could be automatically shortened or lengthened and actively wafted about in order to cancel whatever offensive noise young Barry has taken it into his baseball-capped head to create outside my window.

#20: Consciousness as process scheduler

I thought this up after reading an article about how US Govt. intelligence agencies are using ‘new’ tools eg blogging and wiki’s to share data. It made the point that allowing anyone in the organisation to post information works well, but that only the very smartest people must be in control of whittling down what’s posted.

It seems to me that that’s largely what consciousness does. It acts as a kind of arbiter between the multiple calls to action which the mind throws up….and chooses what should be done next (we seem to be able to do only a very small number of things in parallel -ie one. Although some women seem capable of time sharing numerous different thought streams effectively).

This filtering also appears to do more than just that. It looks to me that if you have, say 1000, mental processes competing to be chosen as the next one to be given control, consciousness doesn’t just make a choice….it also reorders the remaining candidates….a kind of page ranking applied to queueing mental programs. Exactly how this gets accomplished isn’t clear at all.

(I’m reminded that a similar thing occurs in attempts to minimise network congestion, whereby when packets are competing to pass through some gateway, those not selected are forced backwards in the queue by some pseudorandom amount).

What I know about operating systems could be written in fat felt tip on the head of a pin, but process scheduling in a computer has always looked pretty primitive, especially by comparison with the complexity of some of the programs themselves. Processes wait in a queue and get intermittent access to resources if they are next and no higher priority process appears. Priority tends to be based on some very simple, static rule for each OS (eg Round Robin, First-in-first-out etc).

Invention of the day therefore is a ‘page ranking’ system for computing processes, using a simple model of conscious supervision. This would almost certainly need to involve a feedback mechanism whereby certain system outputs caused a state of happiness and others fear, disgust etc. This effectively defines eg fear as ‘the degree to which some event makes me select a self-protecting process’. Anger would therefore be ‘the extent to which some event makes me select an agressive response process’. Notice I’m not using quotes here: the machine would be actually feeling these responses. Processes could then be reordered according to the extent to which they had contributed to increasing system happiness in the past. According to this model, certain processes finding themselves repeatedly demoted in the queue (starved) could be regarded as ‘repressed.’

#19: Crock-o-mat

I’m bored by loading and unloading the dishwasher -almost as bored as I would be by handwashing the damn dishes.

Here, therefore, is my proposed solution. Manufacturers please note. Let’s have new machines divided into 2 separate compartments. At any time, one would be involved in washing and one containing dishes waiting to be washed (ie being filled intermittently by people deciding to have some emergency pain-au-chocolat or Shreddies in the brief gaps between main-er meals.


One beauty of the system is that, although it would be running for a high percentage of the time, my kitchen wouldn’t disappear under a mountain of festering, dirty dishes.The system would have a third tray, full of clean stuff, which would fit within a big cupboard or compartment. When the wash is done, whatever small amount of clean stuff is left in the tray in the cupboard gets entered into the machine, to be filled gradually, and the cleaned trayful is placed en masse into the cupboard. The tray which has been waiting can then start being washed.

This eliminates the tiresome step of having to extract randomly-placed stuff from the machine and locate individual items in their designated spaces (our knives, forks and spoons merrily exchange partners in the cutlery drawer about twice a week, when all elements of any two of the three sets are being washed).

This requires three complete sets of cutlery+crockery. The main difficulty with that, aside from cost, is that unless I want to spend a lot of time neatly packing each tray (and I really don’t) the machine itself may have to be bigger than normal (ie wider). I figure that’s a small price to pay for minimising the downsides of all this endless shovelling and display of filthy kitchen things. There would obviously no requirement to store dishes in cupboards any more, since they would all be involved in the eternal waiting, washing, feeding cycle.

Ideally, I’d like to get such a system built into our dining table, so that, at the press of a button, the three trays circulate -the dirty stuff disappears and the clean stuff emerges.

#18: Multimedials

Medals have always interested me, both as beautiful objects and because of what they represent. They act primarily as part of the extended phenotype, providing women with increased information about the reproductive fitness of their wearers.

Medals also make a promise to young men that bravery in battle will make them more attractive. As a means of celebrating that bravery, whilst also combatting war, today’s invention is the multimedial: a minor variant on the clamshell mobile phone. These can be worn just as medals currently are, but with each able to show images on an electronic display when worn in the open position.


Soldiers these days commonly carry small moviecameras with them. I suggest they be equipped with a multimedial and if decorated, the footage they shot at the time should be played on the display of the device at subsequent ceremonies and occasions. This would provide members of the public with an insight into what war is really like, without its heroes having to talk about their activities.

Another major advantage of this idea is that the chestfuls of clamshells adorning our monarchs would be conspicuously, yet eloquently, quiet.

#17: USB Passport

The UK Government have been faffing for ages about whether, and in what form, to impose ID cards on we citizens. (Of course, people forget that we used to have such things in the UK during the last war, when it was compulsory to carry a brown, dogeared card with a sepia photo which made everyone look like a Nazi spy).

According to some ‘latest poll’, 30% of us would be willing to pay £20 for an ID card -out of our own pockets (That’s surely a bargain, to avoid sitting next to some sweating crazy hugging a briefcase and fiddling with his shoe heels at 20,000 feet).


Anyway, you can now buy a 1-Gigabyte USB flash drive, with fingerprint recognition, for about £18 (1 off).

My idea is therefore to equip all of we potential hijackers, money launderers and terrorists with one of these drives. To get onto a plane, you stab your device into a reader attached to any of the 20 year-old PC’s which litter airports. Your fingerprint would allow the PC to access information on the drive which could then be cross checked with data from the top secret MoD undesirables list. It might even allow some additional security questions (‘Mother’s maiden name?’ seems a bit old fashioned -and assumes she was later married, of course).

These cheapy devices currently make a mistake and incorrectly admit someone about 1 in 100,000 times I believe, whilst stopping someone incorrectly only about 1 in 10,000 times. Both of these rates, if correct, seem pretty good given the low cost involved.

That cost could be further reduced, considering that HM Govt. would be able to buy these at a huge discount for 60 million off (it would also be a hell of a lot cheaper than the current Heathrow shenannigans: www.misense.org )

The only problem then would be the much more difficult one of working out which way to put the USB connector in the slot (a future iotd perhaps).

#16: Reshredder

To transform a one-cut office paper shredder into its more expensive two-cut cousin, I suggest a reshredder insert that allows the output from a one-chop machine to be caught and fed, at right angles, into the same machine again.

This could be achieved by use of a plastic hopper costing only a few pence.


#15: Flatpack flap

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the rain with a collection of flat-pack boxes just too much the wrong shape to get into your car (or perhaps even into Elvis’ car), here’s a suggestion you might like to make to the Ikea’s of this world. Or you could just knuckle under and pay them £80+ to deliver your chipboard….

The store should provide, alongside each cardboard box full of furniture components in the collection shed, an identical cardboard box containing nothing (in fact many of each of these spare boxes could be stored flat, adjacent to the goods themselves and at almost no extra cost).


These empty boxes could be unflattened and carried with ease to your vehicle where you could then undertake a small experiment to see if the antique formica effect fitted kitchen you are about to buy will actually be coming home with you that evening. Even items which are not normally boxed, eg armchairs, could have a rough pop-up cardboard facsimile made for this purpose (or you could just take that home and sit on it, I guess).

This idea also saves our warehouse chums the costs and hassle associated with the ‘immediate returns’ department (who have to cater to people who made it as far as the rainstorm outside only to discover their Shogun Landcruiser inadequately proportioned).

#14: Escaping from tv advertisement mentality

14% of all spending on advertisements in Britain is now invested in online marketing. I expect a lot of that goes on slush funds and junkets to the Maldives, but even so, that’s a hell of a lot of money. I suspect two things are driving this:

1) That more people are frustrated by the low quality of contemporary tv.
2) That advertisers are starting to get the fact that in online advertising, you don’t just fire a campaign out there: you can actually monitor the results in terms of clicks, or even £ spent, as a result.

Which leads me to today’s idea. It’s hardly an invention, more just common sense.

At the moment, whenever I reload this page (with its admittedly diverse content) the ads which our friends at Google send to my browser include:

  • one from a driving school
  • one from a hotel in Manchester
  • one from a vacuum flange manufacturer
  • one from a rental villa near Disneyland
  • one for some medical gas systems
  • one for a red consumer product ‘as seen on tv’ which is so indistinct that it’s unclear what is being sold (maybe the mystery element is supposed to provide an incentive to click?)

Today’s idea is that one way to improve online advertising effectiveness is to place less emphasis on tuning the ad. content to reflect the page content…instead, if I haven’t clicked on an ad. in say the last two or three showings, it can safely be assumed that I’m not interested…so don’t show me that ad. again: ever. This can all be arranged easily via cookies, without placing that much extra strain on anyone’s ad. server. I’d be happy to opt-in, even if a privacy obsessed minority object (do they actually ever buy anything?) Given that the current click-through rate on banner ads is only 0.39%, this must surely be worth a try.

#13: Catflap with integral grooming

For those of us bothered by moulting cats…

Get hold of one of those small vacuum cleaners, the ones that are pretty much useless for anything else. Wire the cleaner so that it switches on as the flap is opened.

Arrange a section of the hose in a loop around an existing catflap aperture. Make a longitudinal slot in the hose and blank off the end, so that, on entry (and exit), all of that surplus fur, skank, rotten leaves, mouse entrails etc are removed from your furry friend.

You still have to brush down the apparatus weekly and remove the bag of course (unless your cat is valuable enough to warrant a posh, overpriced Dyson). It may also deter foreign cats who aren’t prepared to brave the blowdry on the offchance of some extra rabbit’s liver biccies.

#12: Cheaper parking?

Disgusted at the prices which councils are allowed to charge for car parking, I thought it might be possible to drive a car transporter into town, in the early morning, park it covering several bays and buy one ticket for the whole day.

Then, I’d charge people a lower-than-council rate to park their vehicles (with greater security) on the back of the transporter.


Aside from the costs of a transporter (huge) and the fact that councils would at once disallow parking outside single bays, I rather fancy this.