Topics: technology, transportation
If you look at today’s list of billionaires, you’ll see that many of the names got on that list by solving some of the biggest problems mankind ever faced:
- Bill Gates: Created a system allowing stupid people to use computers.
- Ingvar Kamprad: Brought cheap furniture to the masses.
- Liliane Bettencourt: Made ugly poor people slightly less ugly and a little poorer.
- Sergey Brin and Larry Page: Provided a road map to this garbage pile we call the internet.
Fortunately for you, there are still lots of problems out there in the world that need solving–diseases needing cures, wars needing resolutions, pets needing adorable outfits–and plenty of them are problems that could be solved by ordinary people like you and me. Because of the sheer impact they would have on the world, the solution to any of the following problems would virtually guarantee its inventor a paycheck in excess of a billion dollars.
The Problem: For every new commercial building that goes up, so must a new parking lot go down. And at any given time, more than half of all parking spaces are unoccupied. Parking lots occupy up to 50% of any given commercial property. In short, they can take up more room than the stores themselves.
Why It’s a Billion-Dollar Problem: If parking lots were no longer needed, there would be trillions of dollars of prime real estate instantly available. A lot of property owners would pay handsomely for any such innovation… and you would charge them triple what they ask… and they would pay it.
My Solution: I have many, but nobody’s really interested in them. Free public transportation would solve the problem nicely. So would auto-piloted cars that return home after dropping you off at your destination. My most viable alternative: sideways parking. Simply roll your car onto a ramp which rotates it 90 degrees for storing while you work or shop. Sure, this wouldn’t eliminate the need for parking lots, but it would cut their size requirements in half.
Music Everyone Likes
The Problem: Despite the fact that we are all members of the same species with a common ancestry, our ears don’t all like the same kind of music. Lots of people love listening to country music; others would sooner run naked through the streets. Most young people don’t appreciate classical music, but more will when they grow older. Though music is often called the universal language, it sure has a ton of dialects that many people can’t understand.
Why It’s a Billion-Dollar Problem: Imagine combining the popularity of Britney Spears, The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra. Record company executives would cough up a lot of money for a sound that’s universally enjoyable.
My Solution: A rap sung by Garth Brooks set to Beethoven’s Ninth. Something for everyone.
Deer-Vehicle Collision Avoidance
The Problem: Deer versus your car, and you both lose. The deer will likely be splattered across a few lanes of traffic, and you might have antlers sticking through your windshield–or worse.
Why It’s a Billion-Dollar Problem: It seems like a pretty minor problem. We’ve resigned ourselves to living with the occasional wildlife meets SUV incident. But with over a million vehicle-deer rendezvous each year in the U.S. alone, and most repair bills totaling $1,000 or more, figuring out a way to prevent these accidents would make you the idol of car insurance companies worldwide.
My Solution: Cars with deer radar. Self-replicating GPS homing beacons that spread to other deer and to their offspring. Motion-activated headlight laser cannons. Trampolines at deer crossings that would fling them safely to the other side of the road. Your best bet: a combination of all four.
The Problem: Get ready for the most insightful statement of the century: stuff is big. And perhaps even more insightful: people like having lots of stuff. Unfortunately for most, they don’t live in a 60-bedroom mansion with room to fit all of that big stuff they like. So anything that allows people to fit more stuff in their limited space is going to encourage them to buy more stuff!
Why It’s a Billion-Dollar Problem: Folks spend ba-freaking-jillions of dollars on stuff every year, and they will gladly shell out the cash next year for the same thing they bought a few years ago if it’s smaller. People with perfectly fine desktop computers dish out even more for comparable laptop computers because they are more portable. And those same people with fabulous stereo systems, telephones, map books, and notepads will pay insane amounts of money for a smaller, more portable device with all of those functions.
A few items that could really use some miniaturization and/or portability: cars, furniture, most appliances, and toilets. Definitely toilets.
My Solution: You know those little sponge toys where you add water and it grows from a tiny pill-shaped nothing to a humongous two-inch-tall dinosaur of terror? Yes, that’s my solution for all of these.
Universally Accepted Religion
The Problem: For thousands of years, religion has been the driving force for nearly every major world event. From wars to literature to what we name our children, religion’s influence on the evolution of humanity has been enormous. Unfortunately a lot of bad things have happened in the name of religious differences–horrible atrocities that show just how cruel human beings can really be.
Why It’s a Billion-Dollar Problem: If everyone believed in the same religion, all of these wars fought and atrocities committed because of differences in beliefs wouldn’t happen. In essence, the “inventor” of such a religion would usher in a new era of peace for mankind never before seen. As much money as all these war-mongering religions bring in, imagine how much cash would pile into the collection baskets of your world-peace-bringing religion.
My Solution: You might take exception to the idea that any one person could “invent” a religion, but that’s exactly how all of today’s major religions came into existence. Whether or not you believe in the God or gods those religions worship, the religion itself was created by the people who decided to do the worshiping. Perhaps a universally accepted religion wouldn’t be one in the traditional sense with an omnipotent being at the top of the food chain; rather, it would embody the principals of humanity that make us, for the most part, good people.
The Catholic in me says, “Let’s all just follow Jesus,” but the scientist in me says, “Office Space is a great movie.” Yeah, good luck solving this problem.
Let’s face it: you’re not going to find a clean and renewable fuel supply or reverse global warming all by yourself. But the above problems can likely be solved by a single person–any person–with a great idea and the courage and motivation to realize it. (Hopefully billions of dollars is a good enough motivation.)
And if you happen to read this and end up solving one of these problems, please consider sending me a check for a million dollars so I can solve my biggest problem: not having a million dollars.