Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Hard software problems

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could build software to solve really hard problems.

Recently Y Combinator put out a call to kill Hollywood.  I agree with the principle…  but this is not a particularly hard problem.

Let’s talk about something hard.

Let’s use software to stop rape.

I don’t know how to do this, but we can do better.

I think I can write a mobile app which can detect when someone is being assaulted and automatically phone for help. 

I think I can write buddy-system-like app which can connect solo girls with trustworthy strangers at bars who can walk them home. 

Let’s use software to stop suicide.

I don’t know how to do this, but we can do better.

Reddit has created a beautiful thing.  Go there now.  If you don’t come back, that’s fine… it happens.

I searched for Suicide Hotline in the Android App Market.  The offerings are weak. How about a decent Suicide Hotline app?  It’s really simple:  Your app’s icon says “help”, and when you push it you get to a screen that says “You’re ok. We’re here for you.” and there’s a single button which calls your local suicide hotline.

Let’s use software to stop child abduction.

I don’t know how to do this, but we can do better.

More and more kids today have cell phones.  Let’s make an app which works like this:  Every 30 seconds, your phone will chirp to other phones in the area.  If someone goes missing,  track the last known locations of the person and contact all of the witnesses.



My ideas so far are all just attacking the low-hanging fruit.  They’re mobile-centric because that’s what I happened to come up with. There are better solutions and bigger things to investigate.  These are hard problems, and let’s be honest- my ideas suck.  But even though they suck, they could make a difference.  I find that both sad and inspiring.  It’s feasible that a weekend project could save a life.  There’s no need to get Orwellian, let’s just work on these.  What are you doing next weekend?


shevy said...

WTF MAN?!?!?!

Also, cause != correlation.

You CAN NOT remove the cause by following something where there is not even any correlation at all!

Anonymous said...

@shevy - you can remove the cause by increasing the rate of apprehension of suspects, convicting, and incarcerating them.

@the author - agree with everything except the kidnapper app. the cell towers already do this, and with that cell phone spy software that was discovered recently, FBI was already doing this without telling us. So we just need to change the laws to make this info accessible.