Sunday, January 10


Happy 2010, everyone!

As originally intended, the beginning of the new year marks the end of the thought lab, so hopefully it served as a fun and thought-provoking distraction during its 52 week run. Thank you everybody for your comments, I enjoyed this project.


Sunday, December 27

#52 - superhero

One night while sleeping, you are startled by a booming voice. The voice informs you that when you awake the next morning, you will be vested with the superpower of your choice. All you have to do is name the power.

You are free to use an existing superhero to frame your choice, but your selection must consist of a single, distinct ability. You could choose from a particular hero's repertoire ("Superman's x-ray vision") but would not be permitted to adopt a host of superpowers ("I wish to be Superman").

Also, this ability will last for the rest of your life, though its effects may lessen as you age. For instance, if you chose superspeed, though you would still be able to move faster than any human for the rest of your life, your top speed at age 64 would not match your max in your thirties.

What superpower do you choose?

Sunday, December 20

#51 - repeat

A new drug has been developed and patented. It is being referred to in the media as the "Groundhog Day drug" as it allows the user to re-live a specific day in his or her life while sleeping. You are one of the lucky individuals who has received a free trial.

The drug comes in pill form and works by essentially playing off of the user's memory. An individual merely has to swallow a single pill, after which they focus on memories from a single day in the past. The drug then strengthens the (often dormant) associated memories, and recreates the day as a sort of lucid dream as the individual sleeps. Should you take a pill, it will be as though you are really re-living this day, complete with the sights, sounds, and memories you may have since forgotten.

The pill is to be taken shortly before sleeping, as the onset of extreme drowsiness usually occurs within a half an hour. If the individual is unable to choose a specific, unique day from their past within that time (and instead brings to mind various unrelated memories) the drug has no effect. Also, it is an adaptive drug, meaning that once you have used it to re-live a day, it will then be primed to trigger the same memories the next time. Using it again will cause you to re-experience the same day while you sleep.

The FDA has extensively tested this drug and has given approval for its distribution. There are no side effects or health risks (short or long term) associated with the Groundhog Day pills, and they are not addictive.

Your trial includes five pills, so if you choose, you will be able to re-live a day from your past up to five times. What day do you decide to re-live?

Tuesday, December 15

#50 - others

It is the mid-21st century. Undoubtedly the most shocking event of the past decade, and likely the entire century, was the discovery of the lost city of Atlantis.

The city, which in actuality functions as a larger undersea society, is populated, and it was the Atlanteans who first made contact several months ago. Not much is yet known about them or their culture, but it seems that their way of life is fairly comparable to ours. However, having limited space in their sea bottom location, they have focused on advancements in technology and the arts (and architecture for their watertight cities). In fact, it was a remarkably complex electronically produced shroud that allowed them and their world to remain undetected for so long. They are fluent in many languages.

Physically, the Atlanteans appear very similar to land-dwelling humans. They walk upright on two legs (and are not mermaids/mermen as most of the tabloids initially speculated). One noticeable difference is the presence of gills on the side of their neck, which allow them to breathe underwater without any external apparatus. Scientists are divided on whether or not the Atlanteans can be classified as homo sapiens and their origins are unknown.

Thus far, all interactions with the Atlanteans have been civil. There is no way to be sure of their intentions, but their claim is that they revealed themselves in order to partner with the human race in protecting earth's environment. Their main wish is to be recognized as a nation, thus having a voice in world events and international affairs. Not surprisingly, opinions and attitudes on this subject vary widely, running the gamut between welcoming and extremely cautious (many have urged the president and other world leaders to act as they would if earth had made extraterrestrial contact).

You are serving as an ambassador of the United States. The president has dispatched you to meet briefly with the Atlanteans in a neutral location and wants you to return with your recommendations.

How do you deal with the Atlanteans? What questions might you ask of them during your meeting? Assuming that everything seems "on the level", do you recommend giving Atlantis nation status?

Tuesday, December 8

#49 - dining

You come across an e-mail message one day that you are about to junk, when you notice a line at the end informing you that you are one out of only 101 individuals receiving this notice. Curious, you read the message more carefully.

The text asks you to follow a link to a short 20 minute consumer survey about restaurants. Nothing about the message or the link looks suspicious, and you are promised an extravagant prize, so you decide to take the survey.

You finish in a little less than 20 minutes and are soon looking at the final completion screen, notifying you of your prize. You are now eligible to make one selection from a list of restaurants, and will be able to eat there for the rest of your life, free of charge. Scrolling down, you are shocked at the length of the list. Extensive is too mild a word. In fact, every restaurant you can remember visiting (that remains an active business) is on this list. Local places, chains, everything.

You call a couple of neighborhood hotspots and they confirm that they are participating in this offer. It seems that eateries everywhere were open to such an arrangement, believing that the winner would often be bringing family and friends (who would be charged as normal) along with them.

There is, of course, a catch outlined in the fine print. You will never be able to set foot in any restaurant you do not choose (though there is no way of preventing food from being brought or delivered to you by someone else). This clause does not seem to make sense, but that is the rule. You can choose one restaurant and eat for free at the expense of ever going to any other restaurant, or decline the prize and continue to dine as you do today.

Do you select a restaurant? Which one? What restaurant would you choose if you were forced to decide?

Sunday, November 29

#48 - a large building

In recent years, the nearest large city has been trying to decide what to do with a domed stadium within city limits that has remained unoccupied for some time.

After running many projections and estimates, the city is wary of selling or auctioning the site, fearing that the offers would end up being only a fraction of what it cost to construct the arena. Instead, they have set up a contest to find a new owner. Applications were submitted in advance of a random drawing, and whoever's application is chosen will inherit the site, with the stipulation that 10% of any profits (before taxes) made from the use of the land will go to the city. The winner will also be responsible for any annual property taxes.

Back when applications were being accepted, you submitted one almost as a lark. You did not include a full-fledged business model with your application, but somehow, it advanced to the final drawing stage and you were notified of this a couple of months ago. Since then, the entire ordeal had been filed away in the back of your mind. However, the day after the drawing, you are notified that you have won the stadium and land!

The arena is currently on a large lot (that served as a parking lot for fans). It is very accessible, both by highway and light rail. Also, if used as a stadium for a concert or sporting event, it can seat around 70,000.

What do you do with your new dome?

Sunday, November 22

#47 - sea rescue

You wake up alone in a sailboat somewhere in the ocean. You had taken the boat out with a couple of friends, one of them relatively skilled at sailing, but they are now nowhere to be seen. You have no idea how much time has elapsed since you began to sleep (or otherwise went unconscious), and no memory of how you came to find yourself stranded.

As you take in your surroundings, you see a larger ship nearby. Then you noticed a uniformed man hailing you. The two of you are close enough to communicate vocally.

He asks who you are and you respond with your name. You tell him all that you can remember about the sailing trip with your friends, finally asking if he can help you. The man takes a moment to assess the condition of you and your craft, and sighs.

This man identifies himself as a crew member on a very unique vessel. The ship is transporting a number of compromised secret agents to a secret island. The island contains a peaceful, self-sustaining society, but the agents on the boat (and those already in the island community) are considered by those in charge to be too dangerous to leave unattended. They have accrued too much information.

The uniformed man indicates that to his eyes, your craft looks to be in pretty bad shape. His vessel is not going to change course (taking you back is not an option), but he offers you a choice. You can go aboard his ship and proceed to this mysterious island, or take one of the ship's rescue boats and try to make it back home on your own. If you choose the island, you would never be able to leave or communicate with the world at large. Otherwise, existence would be made as pleasant as possible for you. You would have an occupation, but it would not be cumbersome, and the island is stocked with most of the creature comforts you are used to. The spies there are not being punished so much as kept from communicating sensitive knowledge or data.

As for going it alone, your new boat would be equipped with both a sail and motor. You would be provided with supplies and rudimentary navigational tools, but the crew would not be able to show you a map or your exact location (and risk indicating the island's location). You would merely be given a heading to follow (as best you could).

Your choice is between a comfortable but secluded life amongst strangers and a longshot attempt at finding your way home across an unknown amount of ocean. Which option do you choose?