Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Three new ideas

In a single 24-hour period I came across three "new ideas." They are interesting to me for three reasons:
  1. All three ideas are "outside the box."
  2. All three ideas have been published in the hope that a groundswell of support might develop around the ideas.
  3. They all seem like original ideas that approach problems from a different angle and may be better than the current "dominant" ideas that are out there (although none of them are perfect).
Let's look at them and you will see what I mean.

The Hubble idea

The first new idea involves the Hubble space telescope. If you've been following the Hubble saga, then you know that the existing Hubble needs a repair mission soon or it will fail. The two ideas out there are: 1) send a manned shuttle repair mission, or 2) send a repair robot. Option 1 is a problem because there is no way to rescue the astronauts if something goes wrong with the shuttle. Option 2 is a problem because it will cost a gazillion dollars.

The new idea is simple -- build and launch a brand new version of the existing Hubble telescope using spare parts and plans that already exist. The cost would probably be less than $1B, and you get a better mirror and better computers than the existing Hubble has. Click here for details. The existing Hubble becomes disposable, like most other products today.

It is cheaper and safer than repair, plus we get a better telescope to boot. What a great idea.

The social security idea

The second new idea is trying to come up with a better way to solve social security. It is being floated by Paul O'Neill, former treasury secretary in the Bush administration. If you have been following the social security saga, you know that it is a messy system that will, at some point, run out of money. The way the system was originally designed cannot handle the baby boomers because there are so many of them.

O'Neill's idea is simple and elegant. Set up an account for every new child in America. Put $2,000 in each account every year. Invest that money in index funds in the stock market. Let the returns compound. Worst case, after 65 years each kid will have more than $1 million, which will then fund the kid's retirement. Total cost for this solution is about $150 billion per year. click here for details.

It is a great idea because of its simplicity. Plus it gives each child a private account, which seems to be the current goal of most reformers. It has a problem -- we have to figure something out in the middle of the 65-year span. His best line in the article is this one:If you are interested in other outside-the-box ideas to fix SS, see also Robotic Freedom

The 10 commandments idea

The third new idea is trying to find some kind of compromise around the 10 commandments. The idea is floated by Gregg Easterbrook in the Wall Street Journal. If you have been following the 10 commandments saga, then you know that: 1) some Americans want the 10 commandments displayed everywhere, while 2) some Americans want the 10 commandments erased from public display.

Easterbrook's idea is interesting because it comes out of the blue. What Easterbrook noticed is that, in the New Testament, Jesus refers to a stripped down version of the commandments -- the 6 commandments:
  1. Don't murder
  2. Don't commit adultery
  3. Don't steal
  4. Do not bear false witness
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. Love your neighbor as yourself
His point is that these are hard for anyone to argue with. Who is going to argue, for example, with "Don't murder?" Click here for details.

The most interesting of these is #6 - "Love your neighbor as yourself." It would be fun to see members of Congress argue over the meaning of that!

Here's another take on the 10 commandments -- the nine "core principles" from the Australia Project. They are:
  1. Everyone is equal
  2. Everything is reused
  3. Nothing is anonymous
  4. Nothing is owned
  5. Tell the truth
  6. Do no harm
  7. Obey the rules
  8. Live your life
  9. Better and better
Click here for details (toward the bottom of the page).

Have you seen any outside-the-box ideas recently? If so, please mail them to me or put them in the comments:


Here's an idea on Tivo: TiVo: The anti-cable
An idea on the broadcast flag: Join the Liberation Television Digital Front!
Somehow, I don't think that quoting from a different section of the same religious text is going to solve the problem.
I always liked your idea on billing for wasted time. I like your robotic freedom idea too. Show me the money!
My favorite is actually a 'back in the right box' -- restore the calendar to the version Sosigenes presented to Julius Caesar (with fixed alternation between 31 and 30 day months, it's Jan31, Feb30, Mar31, Apr30, May31, Jun30, Jul31, Aug30, Sep31, Oct30, Nov31, and Dec30 (for leap years). Reset the calendar (drop 10 days) so that Jan 1st falls on the Winter solstice and move the 'leap day' to Dec (non-leap year, Dec, then has only 29 days).
Winter solstice is ALWAYS Jan 1. Spring equinox is ALWAYS Apr 1, Summer solstice is ALWAYS Jul 1, Fall equinox is ALWAYS Oct 1. Also, drop BC and AD (or BCE and CE), and recognize the ancient Zodiac ages (we are now in Pisces, which is only 6 years older than 'A.D.'). Today (2/23/2005) would be 3/3/2011 -- that's not hard.
Translate great books into the arabic-descended languages. Sell them cheap in bazaars all over the middle east. Start with novels that are out of copyright. Robinson Crusoe. Moby Dick. Canterbury Tales.

That's my bugaboo.
A new idea they are trying in New England

Screens hide crashes from curious drivers
Commandments from who?
I don't think the problem involves
people not agreeing with the ideas behind the commandments.

At least Christians, Jews, Muslims, and most Americans know who Moses was and knows of the commandments he introduced to Judaism.

If you take the six rules from the new testament, you are using are drawing from an even less universal source.

Why not put the Code of Hammurabi on a giant slab? Because it's not a set of laws that Americans approved through our political process.

If everyone really wanted to be fair about it, any idea of a ten commandments monument would be replaced with the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, or maybe even the Declaration of Independence.

A representation of the ten commandments in a courthouse would offend far fewer people sitting next to Hammurabi's Code, the constitution, and the Magna Carta. If the intention is to show a history and evolution of the rule of law, this is not offensive.

But implication that concerned citizens perceive is that the posting of the commandments in the courthouse reflects the intention of the authorities in power there to replace the rule of law with rule of Christian fundamentalists prejudice, which is a clear breach of separation of church and state.

Posting Jesus's laws does little to solve this.

Thanks for the crazy ideas, but this one I have to pass on.
Ive had an idea of my own. Im pretty sure that I was the first to think of it. Ive certainly not seem them before.

We all use Ring Binders right? Isnt it annoying how you have to spend five mins looking for a hole punch before you can put things neatly in your binder?.

Why not have a binder with a hole punch built in? A small plastic one, with metal "punches" would be lightweight and wouldent obstruct the use of the binder.

What do you think?

The Hubble idea is brilliant. How do you get anyone in NASA to pay attention?
The Social Security idea doesn't seem to take inflation into account. A million bucks sounds like a lot now- but in 65 years?? Otherwise, not a bad idea. I doubt that the Bush administration is too keen on taking any advice from O'neil - seeing as Bush fired him.
About social security...

As I am living in France where a social security exists (FYI, retirees earn 50% to 75% of their salary average based on their 25 highest paid years of employment), I am quite interested about the debate taking place in the US.

What concerns me is that in this "out-of-the-box" idea about social security, the picture of the social security that is given is quite blunt and do not question some of these "obvious facts" that you may never have been seriously presented with.

So when "at some point" is it expected to "run out of money"? Next week? No, it seems to be in a rather far future (2042 I read). So it seems that it is performing quite well indeed (even Microsoft could have doubts about still existing in 2042) and so there seems to be a great possibility that just a small to moderate adjustment could compensate for this picture, just as there have been in the past.

Maybe the real problem is not the social security in itself but the state of the public debt (which in turn can have repercussions on the social security)?

Here is a link to an interesting piece of information about the Social Security: "A Question of Numbers" in the NYT:

Of course it's the NYT, so some people could argue that it is ideologically biased. Maybe it is, although the numbers and facts are precisely cited, so you can verify by yourself. I'm still browsing for facts and thoughts, though.
Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a ohio debt consolidation
site/blog. It pretty much covers ohio debt consolidation
related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)
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