Wish List of Innovations

Wish List of Innovations


Newspapers that include relevant things that aren't "new"

It seems like there's a fundamental problem with the media that's trying to deliver things that are "newsworthy" — they're neglecting lots of things that are important and relevant but that aren't strictly "new." In the same way that there are different sections of the newspaper like "letters to the editor." Bill and Melinda Gates were shocked to read in the newspaper that 800,000 children were dying every year from diarrheal diseases, and in response, made global health a priority for their foundation. (The Atlantic is my favorite news source that feels more educational and my bestie says that Ed Yong is the best.)


Print "obituaries" on someone's ~75th birthday

For the lengthy obituaries that highlight the unusual and interesting accomplishments of someone who has died, I'm always disappointed that in the moment that I'm discovering this person, I sort of definitionally couldn't reach out to them to ask them questions or learn more. It also seems like in that moment, they get a bunch of societal praise — It seems like we're missing out on a lot of value by waiting until they're gone to bring the world's attention to their lives.


Have Men/Boys pee sitting down

I haven't heard a good argument for why they don't, and the most decent men in my life do, most of the time.

(I used to think that there was some mechanical/anatomical difficulty that made it a hardship, but at some point I was told that when men sit down to go #2, they can't help but also go #1; in which case it's already happening!)

Maybe the catalyst will be photos of the spray and backspray of droplets, like the backlit sneeze pictures.


Easy way to have friends’ snail mail addresses

I often come across things on amazon that I think someone would like, and with prime shipping, the friction is really low for sending a thoughtful small gift, but I wouldn’t know where to send the object.

Especially for someone I haven’t been in touch with in a while, if I ask for their address, they’ll think I’m getting married 🙃

It also sets a general expectation of “I’m sending you something” which I can’t/don’t always follow through with.

If I just had an address book, like I had as a teenager, I could even just send a birthday card or a postcard while I’m on vacation, without all the fuss. (Bonus points if it includes kid’s clothing sizes!)

I might just bite the bullet and do this myself, but if we had a system, maybe even just within friend groups, it might encourage others to also send things more often. First pass: if you collect addresses for your Save the Dates, do it in a spreadsheet shared with the relevant people? Which reminds me...


Have a way for your wedding guests to know who else is invited/coming

It’s good for coordination, motivation, and avoidance of social discomfort (in case someone isn’t invited). I missed the wedding of a really good friend because it was a destination wedding and I didn’t have the bandwidth to plan a solo trip and I didn’t want to make any of our shared social circle uncomfortable by mentioning it, in case they hadn’t been invited. But months later, photos of the event showed up and it turned out that a couple friends went who I would definitely have been able to share a car and hotel room with 😕


Be able to make corrections/suggestions on the internet

I read a fair amount of news on my phone (via Apple News), and I typically find an error in almost every article. It's not the end of the world; sometimes it's a small typo or a missing word, sometimes it's claiming that Sarah Palin was the former governor of Arkansas...

Even if I could simply highlight something that had a problem and that would give the author a head's up, I'd count this one as handled.


Weather reports that include the pre-existing conditions

I want to be able to look at the weather before getting on a plane, see that it’s supposed to be 50 degrees with partly cloudy skies, and not be surprised upon landing by three feet of snow on the ground that fell a couple days prior.


A pronoun that clarifies which "we" we're talking about

I would like a pronoun that distinguishes between “we, including you” and “we, excluding you.” I’ve always had to sort of gesture with my hands to clarify things like “*we* are going in Nevin’s car and leaving 5minutes early to get in line” when coordinating with friends in a group.

It seems like we’ve pretty much handled the other one that I’d like: a way of distinguishing the singular “you” from the plural “you.” “You all” or “you guys” or “y’all” or even “all y’all” works for me.


A way to exclusively avoid freeways on Google maps

For some reason, they only give you the option of toggling on or off “avoid highways” when getting directions. I live in an area with both highways and freeways and this toggle is good for rerouting me through town without needing to get on the freeway, but is terrible if I’m leaving the city limits, since it will try to put me on all sorts of tiny roads in an effort to keep me off of perfectly tame single lane stretches of highway.


A way to filter movies or tv shows based on the specific parental guidance

Often someone will recommend a show to me and I’ll get a couple episodes in, when suddenly someone is brutally raped in way too much detail for me to handle. I’ve learned that at the very beginning of each episode, there will be a quick warning in the corner that lists all the potentially offensive things that will happen “smoking” “sexual violence” “adult language” or whatever. I would like to opt out of shows that have types of violence that are really triggering for me, but I haven’t figured out how.

Dear Capitalism:


Amazon pre-order timed delivery

Because Amazon shipping is free and easy (and because boxing and shipping as a civilian is actually pretty expensive and complicated), I would love to be able to purchase birthday or Christmas gifts for people when an item is on sale (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Prime Day, etc), but schedule it for gift delivery directly to the recipient at a future date, e.g. Dec 23rd.


Sleeping head tent

I get a ton of value out of having no light hit my eyelids while I'm sleeping. It can often be impractical to completely block out light from windows in your sleeping space, and it can also be difficult to ensure that your eyes are physically covered as you toss and turn in the night — a good compromise would be to have a tent over your entire head that's completely light-blocking. You'd want to make sure it had good airflow — e.g. with a cloth tube that attaches to a small fan that tucks into the tent.


A way to insulate cell phones from dying in the cold

As far as I can tell, in places that have any significant number of days below 40F, people are constantly having their phones die if they take them out of their pocket to use them. (A pretty serious issue if you play

or like to take pictures with your phone). Maybe you could have a battery case that warms them? (though it seems like anything with a battery is at risk, so perhaps you'd need to insulate the case and/or start it running while warm enough to sustain itself as well as the phone battery. (Separately I've heard there's a problem with hot places, in particular when you work somewhere that doesn't allow phones, since hot cars are maybe not a great place for phones to spend the day).



"Bras" for women that are mostly like a slightly tight thick-fronted shirt — tight enough to avoid pointyness/true natural shape and thick enough to avoid indication of nipple, but without tight bands or thin straps.

This might not be valuable for women who want/need “lift” but in a culture that requires breasts to remain “hidden” this would allow a lot of us to be in casual environments (at home, in PJs, etc) without the discomfort of the current more restrictive options (regular bra or sports bra).


Warm socks that are short

OK, I know there are some of these (I have some), but it's more like the principle: my feet get cold, but my lower-leg is fine. Long socks are fine with boots (I actually use ski socks to keep my non-skinny-jeans contained when wearing tall boots over my pants), but under regular jeans, I really only need them to come up around my ankles. The other reason this makes the list is because warm wocks are often too tight. (This might be because wool shrinks, but in my experience, they start out tighter than normal socks in the first place).


Blue-blocking glasses with a strap

I like lying on my side while reading before bed, but when I’m wearing my blue-blocking glasses, they are uncomfortable on the side of my face and/or they’re shifted off my eyes. Maybe there are minimalist ski goggles that might work? (Alternatively, I'd accept a way of making my kindle light warmer, e.g. via a gel that sticks to the screen. Update: the new Kindles (Paperwhite and up) now have “adjustable warm light” — I haven’t tried it yet, so not sure if it blocks enough blue light, but I’m pretty excited. P.S. apparently it also has darkmode??)


A vacuum sealed coffee bean hopper that goes on your burr grinder

Like an Airscape coffee canister, but the plunger lid would start at the top and just get pressed down over the beans until you needed to refill the hopper. So the main innovation would just be to make the hopper with vertical sides (ideally with the same diameter as the airscape canisters).

Maybe to actually keep it air-tight, you’d need to also have a piece at the bottom that you could close off between uses.


A way to keep a bathtub warm

If you have a spa tub, I think you can just install a heater (edit: apparently spa tubs get gross), but if you just have a regular tub, you are stuck with things like adding lots of bubbles as a form of insulation, heating the air in the bathroom, preheating the tub itself with super-hot water (like priming a thermos/thermal mug), or keeping an electric kettle handy for adding piping hot water (I've heard of people trickling in hot water throughout their bath, but as water is pretty precious, I'm generally looking for something that doesn't use more than is necessary). I have it on my list to try experimenting with heating a slab of soapstone in the oven and plopping it in the tub as the water starts to cool, but I don't really know how to predict the pattern of heat release from something like soapstone in water (which would normally release its heat over a long period of time in the air or under the covers).

Update: by turning the temperature on my hot water-heater to the “warning: risk of scalding” setting, I’ve largely solved this by essentially being able to get kettle water straight from the tap (hotter starting temp and the ability to add a small amount of very hot water to reheat the bath). Still open to more innovative solutions though!


A way for everyone at an event to easily share all the photos they take with their personal devices

It really seems like there should be something that lets everyone e.g. scan a QR code or something and be able to share all their photos in one place. Weddings, high school graduations or reunions, even parties or conferences — frequently you have guests who don’t know one another well enough to swap photos after the fact, but there are zillions of photos of the event that everyone would like to see (especially the organizers).