P&DA Pickup and Delivery Services Inc.

A number of outfits (including Google) have been working extensively on making self-driving cars. Someone should take that technology and apply it to a smaller automaton — create the P&DA Pickup and Delivery Service. This business would run a number of P&DAs (pronounced “pan-duh”, for Pickup AND Delivery Automaton) out of central garage/shop/repair/charging stations to handle a variety of pickup and delivery services. The v1.0 P&DAs would be slow, light, and small electric scooters with side wheels for extra stability and a box for cargo instead of a human driver/rider/passenger seat; I think I see them as speed-limited to like 15-30kph at first for safety in order to prove that the technology is reliable and can be safe. The service model would be to provide a smooth, web-based, mobile-accessible interface for “retail” customers, as well as more advanced features and contact/help for corporate/enterprise contracts, so that customers could order that a P&DA arrive at address A, be loaded with whatever, arrive at address B, get unloaded, and return to its home charging/service station. Have the container designed by the people who make ATMs, for physical security, and it could only be unlocked if its GPS coordinates were correct and a secret key code (sent by email to the delivery receiver) is typed into its keypad. I might also integrate a credit card reader into the keypad so it would only open once you paid for the delivery.

Imagine ordering a delivery made to you, even if you are out at the library or at a coffee shop. You could also use it to drop off packages to the post office (skip the line!). Would you order your next take-out food, grocery, or dry cleaning transportation from a P&DA?

Can we get a guaranteed freedom to privacy?

The privacy protection which we all need is a constitutional amendment (similar to what Europe has had for over a decade[1][2]) in the United States that declares all private information to be the sole, non-transferable copyright and intellectual property of the identified citizen:

  • This private copyright and grant of intellectual property includes, but is not limited to, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, lists of friends or acquaintances, family trees, physical location history, browsing history, shopping history, employment history, medical history, and financial history.
  • This private copyright does not apply to any groups, organizations, collectives, institutions, corporations, or businesses. This private copyright only applies to individual persons.
  • Companies may offer to collect or create this information for you, but such services are always considered work-for-hire and the customer exclusively owns the resulting information and copyrights.
  • Companies may also offer services to store and distribute or publish this information for you, but all default options must be as private and closed as possible, and the customer’s consent is explicitly required for all instances of distribution or publishing. If the customer is a minor or has a legal guardian, then the parent or guardian’s consent is also required.
  • Companies are forbidden from requiring customers’ private information as part of the terms of service unless such information is necessary to deliver goods or services to the customer. The burden of proof lies with the business to show that any information demands are necessary in order to provide their offered product or service.
  • Since businesses do not and are legally incapable of owning individuals’ private information, they are forbidden from selling individuals’ private information.
  • All private organizations which store private data are required to destroy such records after 2 years (24 months) without communication from the identified individual consenting to continued storage.

It is likely that is not worded perfectly, but I think I managed to get my primary thoughts into the section. In case I did not, I will try to explain them explicitly.

I believe that the only true solution to privacy protection is to make it unprofitable to invade people’s privacy or abuse private information, regardless of how the information was collected or whether the identified individual purposefully shared or inadvertently leaked the information. I cannot see how a tax could be implemented and that has its own moral dilemmas anyway (e.g. at what point are you poor enough that someone can buy your privacy?), so I see legal protection [strong enough that it creates a basis from which offended individuals can sue offending parties for damages] as the best hope for privacy.

The most intuitive way I see this could be achieved is to enshrine in law the idea that people’s personal information is their personal intellectual property rather than letting it be the property of whoever collects it. Then individuals whose information is abused can sue the offending party. This ought to prevent the sale of collected information (even though you have a copy, it is not yours to sell), and the unauthorized display or transfer of the information to third parties.


[1] : “Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995” by the Center for Democracy & Technology, 1995/10/24

[2] : “Data Protection Directive” by Wikipedia, 2010/11/14

Additional Reading:

“Raising data privacy awareness” by Peter Fleischer and Jane Horvath, Global Privacy Counsel, The Official Google Blog, (2009/1/28)

“Why I deleted my Facebook data. Commentary on Internet data privacy rules.” by Dhananjay Nene, (2009/02/?)

“No pixels, please, we’re German” by The Economist, (2010/09/23)

“Google, Facebook, Rivals Face Stricter Data-Privacy Rules in EU” by Stephanie Bodoni, Bloomberg, (2010/11/03)

“Google vs Facebook: Adult supervision desperately needed” by Robert X. Cringley, Adventures in IT: Notes from the Field, (2010/11/10)

“Safebook Project” by Safebook, (2009-2010)

What if grocery receipts included calorie counts?

My most recent grocery bill was $195, but how many calories did I bring home? If exactly everything was consumed by 4 people in equal portions over the next week (7 days), then how many calories will I have consumed? Websites with nutrition information are legion on the internet (with 88 million results for “nutrition” on Google, 2010-10-20), but finding the time to apply it all is difficult [even under the amazingly optimistic assumption that you can sort out what is correct and what is not]. It may be a heuristic, but you more or less eat all the calories that you purchase and bring home from the grocery store (unless you are throwing out a lot of uneaten food or throwing parties where you provide food to the guests). America already has a law that mandates calorie counts for restaurants [2][3][4], barcodes already link to price data, and all the packaged food sold in the store has nutrition labels. What would the public effect be of printing a total calorie count at the end of grocery store receipts?

[1] : “SELF Nutrition Data” by NutritionData.com © 2009 Condé Nast Digital, 2010/10/20

[2] : “Fast Food Calories News Reveals Health Care Restaurant Law” by Andy Hodges, 2010/03/25

[3] : “FDA releases guidance on federal menu labeling requirements” by U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2010/08/24

[4] : “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” see section “4205” by One Hundred Eleventh Congress of the United States of America, 2010/01/05

Where is my car’s ringtone?

People like personalizing their possessions and the more expensive something is the more personalized the owner would probably prefer it to be. A car is likely the second most expensive thing someone owns, after their house. Most modern cars beep an acknowledgement when the associated keychain radio transmitter is clicked. It just beeps? Didn’t cell phones stop “just beeping” like 5 years ago, while nice phones had basic ringtones at least 10 years ago?

So, here is the idea. What if you could use a USB connection in your dashboard to load a 1-5 second audio clip that plays (midi-fied?) instead of beeping when the radio transmitter is used? You could even permit a set of them to be loaded, so that “lock”, “unlock”, and “find me” can have different audio settings.