Metatalktail Hour: Whither jetpacks? September 13, 2020 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I look at Classic Era scifi as a string of broken promises. Never went back to the Moon. Hardly any jetpacks. Gigabit internet in the city, dial-up in the country. But still I dream. What's a thing you'd like to invent, something maybe near-plausible, or something entirely fanciful? Can solve a societal problem, a personal problem, or no problem at all. Technological, biological, philosophical, what do you dream about improving?

As always it's a conversation starter not limiter, so feel free to just let us know what's up with you these days.
posted by jessamyn (retired) to MetaFilter-Related at 1:21 PM (118 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Now that cars are all glorified cell phones with wheels, there's no reason why they can't synchronize their computers' clocks in order to finally get their turn signals to all blink at the same rate and the same time.
posted by fritley at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2020 [19 favorites]

I just read a great book that was in a near-future with self-driving cars. They all used complicated technology to know where the other cars were and so the self-driving highways were where all the cars went FAST. But! There was a firmware upgrade pushed out to the cars that had, among other updates, a thing that disabled the most-popular game people liked to play while driving. So people downgraded/jailbroke with dodgy firmware which meant that the cars were a few inches off from where they were supposed to be in space leading to some truly gruesome accidents. It was one of the best "unexpected consequences" lateral-thinking looks at other things that could happen besides just "car can't see human" kinda of things.

I know credit card stuff in the US is hopelessly backwards, but I'd love to be able to carry one card that had all my major payment systems encoded on to it so I didn't need a wallet with a stack of plastic where everything did basically the same thing. And a tire pressure light for my car that said WHICH TIRE and HOW MUCH (I am aware some cars do have this)
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:41 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

A "smart kitchen" that somehow knows the state of all the groceries in the house and suggests meals based on inventory.

Bonus points if it includes a scale that ranges from "I don't want to wash a single dish" through to "Channel my inner Julia Child".
posted by madajb at 1:49 PM on September 13, 2020 [14 favorites]

Teleportation machine. No more long distance relationships. No more having to travel by plane. No more telecommuting or being forced to live in a particular geographic area, or even a particular country, for a job. I fantasize about it pretty often.

Meanwhile, I had an excellent voice lesson today where I finally grasped something that had been confounding me for a long time, so there's that too.
posted by holborne at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2020 [17 favorites]

I would SO like something that the audiologist could stick in my ear and measure my hearing loss, instead of making me guess when the beeps are real and when they're just my normal ear noises.

And something that an optometrist could use to measure my vision loss without making me guess whether A or B was clearer. 9I know those exist, but my impression is that they're not accurate.)

And a self-cleaning house.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:52 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'll give you three:

1) The truly converged device. I've been reading and hearing for decades about device convergence, where you'd be able to do everything just on one plinkety-plonk machine. Why, therefore, am I carting around a laptop, a smartphone (with an inadequate camera) and a camera on my trip (and choosing not to bring a Switch with me so I can't try Animal Crossing New Horizons)?

2) Trousers that adjust their material density and size as my body (especially waist) adjusts its shape due to the transmogrification of lard-based products.

3) A device which, when you send it a digital file to be printed (such as an A4 page, a boarding pass, or a document) does so efficiently and without fuss, the first time of asking, and without malfunctioning. Nobody has yet created such a device that is remotely close.

+ + + + +

My strange trip, which I'm making up as I go along as I started it just a few days after scrubbing a trip abroad, is going really well. Places wandered around - it's very much an outdoor trip because pandemic - include the Malvern Hills, orchards (several) of the Vale of Evesham, the river Avon, central Worcestershire fields, a bit of the north Somerset levels, and Avebury (twice...) I've also met several really great people for the first time, back in the Vale of Evesham and in Bristol, plus a schoolmate I had not seen in 35 years and we picked up pretty much where we left off, and the trip has been a success because of those things alone.

And so sleep deprivation has kicked in a bit today. This was due to going to Avebury this time before dawn so I could - finally - see the sun rise. It turns out that during a pandemic is the best time as, day or night, the place is pretty much deserted (as is public transport if what's left of the rush hour is avoided). On the subject of public transport, one of the discoveries of this trip is that with a bit of looking around, first class train tickets can be gotten really cheaply, and these usually mean you have the whole train carriage to yourself (which sitting in a big seat).

So I got there (it's about ten miles south of my temporary base, a hotel where I'm the only person on this floor) about 90 minutes before dawn, seeing a brilliant night sky display of the sickle moon, various planets, Orion and many other constellations and stars. Had a wander. Put gloves on. Sat. Wandered. Sent a tweet.

My only regret - not bringing a flask of tea. I did have a chunk of fruit cake in my bag, so there was that.

And I just spent a few hours doing ... nothing. The occasional picture. Listening to the crows. Hugging random stones. Saying hello to the very few other people there, but not engaging in conversation. Watching the reflections and shadows change. Feeding a black cat who chose to follow me. Some writing (actually a lot of writing). Some thinking of certain other people and certain other places. A simple dawn Druidic ritual of my own variation, which may or may not have involved hugging a 6,000 year old stone without either the stone or myself being clothed.

And eating cake.

But nothing else.

Here's the growing Flickr album for this trip, which contains some of the before, during and after-sunrise pictures from earlier today in it.

And then got a near-empty (someone else drove) bus (top deck front seat for the big view!) back to base, and slept much of the day. Tomorrow is Day 26 (though this trip feels like it's been three months long), a forecast heatwave day, and I have to do some dull but essential admin before retracing my steps westwards.
posted by Wordshore at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2020 [17 favorites]

Teleportation machine. No more long distance relationships. No more having to travel by plane. No more telecommuting or being forced to live in a particular geographic area, or even a particular country, for a job. I fantasize about it pretty often.

We have quantum computers-ish, know that robins use quantum positioning to figure out the earth's magnetic fieds, even have a plan to harvest the Van Allen belt for antimatter. Why hasn't teleportation entered into the realm of things that are theoretically possible?!
posted by geoff. at 1:59 PM on September 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cats. Cats are great! But most people's housepets (including mine!) are randombred semiferals. And too many purebreeds are bred for aesthetics and not temperament (or health.) I don't want to settle, I want friendly domesticated healthy cats. Who live a long time. And are very large. (The latter point is negotiable, I guess.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:06 PM on September 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

A device that's cools foods as fast as a microwave oven heats them.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:09 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Replicators. Also wearable digital cloth that would change patterns at the touch of a button.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 2:16 PM on September 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe this is colored by my experiences in the last 10 minutes or so, but I will absolutely inject myself with nanobots that automatically detect and heal or trim hangnails. I don't really care if they are to monitor my health, give me super strength, or provide dystopian monitoring to my employer, just add "fixes hangnails" the list of features and I'm in.
posted by Tehhund at 2:28 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

What I want is self-adjusting bifocal contact lenses, which could sense whether I was trying to focus on something close up or far away and automatically adjust so I would see correctly. I am not sure what the physics of that would be, but that's what I want.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2020 [13 favorites]

This, for the nights I want a decent healthy meal but I'm not up to the task of making it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:44 PM on September 13, 2020

I was walking to work in the snow once and noticed that since I was wearing a nice long hooded wool coat and boots, I was perfectly warm except for my face. Then I thought that if we had force fields, and I had one in the hood of my coat that exchanged oxygen, but otherwise kept warm air around my head, I'd be perfectly comfortable. Then I thought, hell why not have it around my whole body and I could be walking through this blizzard in a bikini. Then I made up about half of a great story idea, but I'm not a writer so I didn't know how to finish it. If I knew any actual authors, I'd give them the idea but there ya go, it remains half-baked.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:54 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

A pill (or nanobots or whatever you like) that will make you physically fit. Many people love exercise, apparently. I find it utterly tedious, and always have, even when I had the persistence to do a lot of it.
posted by pipeski at 3:10 PM on September 13, 2020 [12 favorites]

I feel like there's gotta be a better, easier and more readily accessible way to go to the bathroom. Especially in public.

Also, brushing teeth is outdated and boring. Shouldn't we have trays or chewables or something less archaic than bristles on a stick by now?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:12 PM on September 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

I want to live underwater in a glass bubble house in a kelp forest. Or failing this I want a house made of aquariums, so there are fish swimming around the floor and through my field of vision as I watch the neighborhood. I have wanted this since I was 8 and yet it just doesn’t get closer.

Fixing the American electoral system would be nice too and seems equally sci-fi and out of reach.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2020 [14 favorites]

General cheese detection equipment, for when one has failed to attend the supermarket before closing, or when one is being hosted and said host says "Make yourself at home" in that bewilderingly vague way, and you wonder if that means you are permitted to eat every shred of cheese in the house, and you decide that it does.
posted by Wordshore at 3:28 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

A little off-prompt, but just today I was musing that The Jetsons had futuristic video phones and... that came true! Totally normal now. (Now where's my "morning mask?")
posted by evilmomlady at 3:38 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I dream of repairing the American election system (hi mygothlaundry!) with emphasis on getting rid of gerrymandering, and how judges are appointed. Getting rid of the parties control on the system -- especially primaries. Speaking of which, they don't need to be spaced out, and no one gives a rat's patootie about being first. Make Primary Day and Election Day a national holiday. Oh, and split the bloody place into multiple countries before it's too late. Just like all previous empires it has gotten too big, and will fail. Fail gracefully FFS!

Ok, I need a drink.
posted by terrapin at 3:48 PM on September 13, 2020 [10 favorites]

I daydream a lot about forbidding cloth made of materials that can't be recycled by the same process, and it also being required that clothes be sewn with thread color that tells you what recycle-stream they belong in. I muse on likely knock-on effects -- extra topstitching on the more expensive materials, to show off the content.

And on the effects of take-back laws, and what we could design with easily replaceable aesthetics and solid durable guts. Wouldn't scratch the conspicuous-consumption itch though.

(I used daydream about having a personal wardrobe in which each material only occurs in one color, but I realized I'd look sort of like a cartoon character, so maybe not.)
posted by clew at 3:59 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can I just say that I'm really disappointed by the dearth of results for the "jetpacks" tag? They were supposed to be the future, damnit.
posted by Mayor West at 3:59 PM on September 13, 2020

Self-correcting lens implants for eyes, which automatically compensate for all eye shape distortions (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism...) and allow your eyes to focus the same way they (ideally) do with natural lenses. We're actually close to having this! -- when you have cataracts, you're usually advised to postpone surgery for as long as possible simply because the processes and lenses available a few years from now are going to be better than whatever they are now. The problem as I understand it is that every improvement exposes more intractable problems, slowing down progress just a little bit more with each step forward.
posted by ardgedee at 4:11 PM on September 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Car-free cities, with streams running down the centers of the former streets, and orchards where the cars once parked. Read that in a book somewhere, once. Maybe we can make it happen in my lifetime, there's still time.
posted by aniola at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Teleportation machines are cars and airplanes. Telepathy machines are the internet and cell phones.
posted by aniola at 4:34 PM on September 13, 2020

I mean seriously.

You get in a train and 12 hours or 3 days later, watch some pretty scenery, contort yourself into a nap as best you can, and wake up where you want to be. Chicago to NYC is 265 hours of nonstop walking. San Francisco to Seattle is 274 hours of nonstop walking.

Teleportation is old news, people!
posted by aniola at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Btw warp drive is terrible for the environment. I like how their solution is similar to Vision Zero.
posted by aniola at 4:48 PM on September 13, 2020

Once I thought of how different the world would be if a politician's mouth literally filled with shit every time they lied, I haven't been able to shake it. So that, please.

Alternatively, yeah, a functioning government in the U.S. It could start small: end gerrymandering, kill the two-party system, switch to proportional voting....
posted by johnofjack at 5:00 PM on September 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

A substantially faster-than-light vehicle, because I am one of those kids who watched a pirated copy of Cosmos and found, not wonder, but depression and fury because I knew that I would never ever ever see any of those sights up close. It was, I think, probably the first time I realized that I nothing I did could ever conceivably change the outcome.

...I would sell the bulk of humanity to the alien overlords for a functional FTL ship. This is probably why, if we ever encounter aliens, I should probably be seized and stuffed into a closet for the duration. Y'know, FYI and all.

(teleportation, meanwhile, I would immediately use for the purposes of political assassination)
posted by aramaic at 5:39 PM on September 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I would make things quieter. I think about it a lot: no leaf blowers and no jetskis and no snowmachines (exceptions could be made for rescue functions for the latter two.) I would like the ocean to be quieter so that whales could hear each other better. Much less traffic noise (more trains, many fewer cars.) I want my house systems to run quieter.
Also whatever bullshit satellites are ruining night skies for the rest of us should be scooped out of their orbits by some kind of space junk remediation system that I hope some grad student is (quietly) working on right now. Exploring space should not require ruining earth for those who don’t give a shit about it.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2020 [23 favorites]

The cure for greed. We need it. Desperately.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:19 PM on September 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

I’m gonna defer to my five-year-old, who wants someone to invent a dress that changes colors when you’re starting to have a huge feeling, so you can take early action to manage it. (This is possible in her fave princess show, but with ancient magic.)

While we’re at it: something that translates between ancient magic and science so things we don’t understand make sense!
posted by centrifugal at 6:51 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

What I want is sense augmentation that can be dialed up or down with a thought or a learned muscle movement. Eyes that can zoom up to telescopic and down to microscopic. Vision into infrared/ultraviolet and farther. Pain you can dial up or down. Same thing for taste, touch. and balance...walk on a tightrope like it were a sidewalk. Geolocation and always knowing where north is. May as well toss in mood enhancers/changers like they have in the Culture. We are all limited by our senses to experiencing only a small portion of reality. I want more, without the bother of using equipment to get it.
posted by mono blanco at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

I just want teleportation.

I get what some folks are saying about it already existing: the first time I flew to another country, and realized that the previous night I was in Colorado and then less than 12 hours later there I was walking to dinner in a city on another dang continent, it indeed felt like a miracle. But given the damage fossil fuels do to the environment, the damage a car-centric culture does to the landscape and safety of cities and towns of all sizes, and how miserable flying while fat is for me, and flying while brown or disabled is for my friends--and not to mention how much time it takes out of life, and the proximity to all the other people who might have the 'rona--it's just not enough. Teleportation now, please.

I'll settle for affordable national high-speed rail as an interim solution, though.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

I think the environmental damage would be manageable if we treated motor vehicle transportation like the rare and special gift from sci-fi land that it is.

Only going above 10mph for emergency vehicles, no vehicle may weigh more than the cargo it carries, etc.
posted by aniola at 7:46 PM on September 13, 2020

A lightweight spacesuit-like thing that would provide all the warmth, cooling, light, food, water, and air you need to survive anywhere. You could walk from the bottom of the ocean through Death Valley, to the North Pole, up to the summit of Mt. Everest without worrying about dying. Unless you fell, of course.
posted by bondcliff at 7:47 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've always thought that gerrymandering could be solved by declaring a number to be the maximum number of line segments that may be used to draw a voting district. I'm thinking 12 or 15, but I recognize that other people should study this idea before we make the number into law. And the segments need to follow the lines of major streets.

For my invention, I want the nanobytes that will live in our bodies to be able to measure the amount of calories I just ate and figure out how many I need for healthy survival and then just consume the remainder and excrete it via the normal digestive process. . The human body should recognize that there is no period of scarcity so there is no more reason to store calories.
posted by CathyG at 8:02 PM on September 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

auto corect
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

no vehicle may weigh more than the cargo it carries


I would like tab fees to be proportional to the weight of the vehicle to the fourth power (IIRC this is the rough measure of the vehicle's damage-to-streets per mile).
posted by clew at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Two medicals, involving different types of plaque:

An oral solvent which would dissolve dental plaque. You'd rinse with it after brushing and flossing, and there'd be no need for annual or semi-annual visits to the dentist or hygienist, scrapping your teeth below the gum-line, and

Teleportation. Well, if we had that, and it actually worked on mammals, rejuvinating transmissions could be designed which omitted all of the subject's arterial plaque, when the subject was reassembled (an idea from Larry Niven).
posted by Rash at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would like to have a consensus on what the definition of 'productivity' is. Everyone understands that the 20thC story was one of increasing efficiency of making things, designing, delivering, creating. But it's almost impossible to actually convince people that 'productivity' (as defined by economists) is a measure of outputs as related to inputs! So you get bosses wandering around shouting 'more productivity', which just means 'work harder', or trying to pinch wages on breaks and at either end of the day. The future was supposed to be far more productive with more time for leisureful humanity, what's happened is that we're paying the bills by shorting on time and wages. What if we could get the same outputs from fewer inputs (like, say, a four day work week?)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:51 PM on September 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

OK, if they made that Willy Wonka 3-course-meal piece of gum, I'd chew that.
posted by not_on_display at 10:51 PM on September 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Literally anything that would fix insomnia. Nanobots, drugs, time travel, don't even care. ANYTHING. (It is 2:11 a.m. my time, why do you ask?)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:11 AM on September 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

What a great thread idea jessamyn!

I dream of a bicycle shaft drive with the same efficiency as a chain drive - but it would defy current physics , so there are barriers to that dream. Not that I haven't spent ages thinking about it.

Yes, Rash, dentistry needs some major advances, human teeth seem like a design fault - but it's probably just the soft (and sweet) things we eat now.

I had an idea once (ideas are easy - monetizing them not so) for a mouth mouse for quadriplegics so you could navigate (a plate on) the roof of your mouth as a haptic interface to any device. IDK if it's ever been done. I imagine it'd be useful for bipeds too.

terrapin! you could just import NZ's electoral system, altho' I can assure you it doesn't prevent complete idiots running for office.

I really don't know who I'll vote for now as Jacinda's team are going a bit mad at the moment, the Greens are too Utopian and beyond them is an infinite expanse of right-wingers, libertarians and now Quidiots.

But I have lots of interesting work, some good clients and a new company that I've started to carry out phyto-remediation, so I'm looking for very polluted sites anywhere in NZ.
posted by unearthed at 2:31 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Supermarkets to be open on Sunday.

I live in Germany.

Oh, something futuristic? A real modern democracy for the USA so that one day maybe we could move back. (Presuming a democracy, a functional one, would bring with it universal health care, a functional social safety net and common-sense gun laws.)

More futuristic? Technology that would allow us humans to reverse (say 75%?) of the truly deleterious impact we have had on the planet. Likely in the form of huge atmospheric scrubbers and something, god knows what exactly, to clean up the oceans.

(We went to Berghain yesterday - the clubs has been closed since, uh March?, and a local collector rented the space to set up this show. The show was fine, not amazing not terrible a bit of a let-down considering some of the 'big name' artists - my favorite piece was by Olafur Eliasson and consisted of three large, lightly oval mirrors on stands kind of facing one another but far enough apart that their configuration was not at first apparent - they cut up the space and the way you saw it in surprising ways.

The real star of the show was building itself. The way it is worn and has been repurposed and how much of it has not been touched at all - overwhelmed the art. Never particularly wanted to go there, can't say I do now, either, but wow - that is a space with many many many many ghosts.

It reminded me of any of the myriad old factories we used to tear it up in in Brooklyn, back in the early 90's - hell, the building I first moved into in the late 80's: their original purpose had been abandoned and what was left now was a sort of purpose built husks - like a prosthetic without its owner, or a well worn tool, a knife, say. The building, now bereft of its second life, its EDM life, while its original use as a power station still evident around every corner, was a powerful illustration of transience.

And the sky is high and a hard blue- just like on that morning 19 (!) years ago. I can confess that for the first time since that day I didn't feel a tidal wave of dread building up in the days before.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:48 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I suppose I should still be flattered when a cashier checks my ID and learns I'm at least twice their age, but when it's a Whole Foods where I've previously shopped, previously bought beer or wine, it really seems like an unnecessary step. Tim Cook's phone knows my birthday. Amazon knows my birthday. Whole Foods knows me from the QR code in its app and should remember my birthday. Standing in checkout lines takes so much longer now with fewer cashiers. I'm totally ready for the Amazon grocery store that knows what goods are in the cart and just lets customers walk out without any need for human interaction.
posted by emelenjr at 4:28 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

A public policy that preserves privacy while tracking where people live, work and play and automatically gives them economic rights to the places in their life. So, if a neighborhood is redeveloped for profit, all those who call it home automatically benefit. This would fundamentally change the nature of rent, as by renting a space an individual would also be earning a small share of that space’s future value.
posted by meinvt at 4:33 AM on September 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

I’ve always wanted a thing that allows me parallax on what it means to be human. But absent a means of direct perception, the written word is a fairly miraculous substitute. Thanks, all, for yours.

Week three of virtual school begins today. It’s been a little rough so far. My temper has been short and our days have been very very long. I remember that in the spring, week three was where it started to click into place, so here’s hoping.

I had an ugly political fight with my dad last weekend and I’m still sore. He appears to be firmly rooted in “both sides” and isn’t able to reflect that when one of the sides is promoting bleach injections, election fraud, and extrajudicial murder, maybe the middle is not actually a sensible place to stand. (Would that he didn’t live in a swing state.) But of course getting angry at such a person only further entrenches them in this view. My real problem isn’t politics at all, my real problem is that my dad’s always believed deeply that as the man in the house, caring about me was not his job. But that’s not a grievance one can really air. The one time I came close, he and my mother both laughed at me. It’s very hard to hear “both sides” as any kind of genuine position when his contempt for the things that matter to me has always been so very plain.
posted by eirias at 4:41 AM on September 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

I would like to get rid of aging. I realize this would cause a host of other problems, but if I'm wishing, I wish to solve them too.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:33 AM on September 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Dogs with significantly longer lifespans. And an FTL ship. Now please.
posted by Chairboy at 6:07 AM on September 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

[rant] I would just like freakin' cell phones where you can HEAR the other person. I had to take a call the other day from a Minorly Important Person and I kept having to be the idiot asking him to repeat himself because his damn phone made him sound like he was at the bottom of a swamp. Telephones: the once-great technology that totally went down the drain. [rant]
posted by JanetLand at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

I think it would be pretty cool if I had a cat specific hoverboard that kind of looked like a spaceship for my cat. Hologram fashion, so you could just hit a button and suddenly wear whatever (this would also be A++ for hair and makeup). Oh and a super fast-acting pill that you could take to temporarily suspend your period for, say, 8-12 hours.

Also, like, can we figure out this cancer thing already?
posted by thivaia at 6:22 AM on September 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Cheap, easy to user personal microrobot swarms, including crawlers, climbers, flyers, burrowers and swimmers, that you could program with simple local rulesets that would evolve and become complex and emerge global behaviors as they interact with their brethren in your own cohort and with other people's personal robot swarms, so that going out into the physical world involved gingerly stepping over strange microrobotic battles, dances, mating rituals and other forms of relation that our full size, non robotic brains can't fully grasp, and being able to VR into the perceptions of any one (or many) of the microrobots and experience the incomprehensible life they lead.
posted by signal at 6:33 AM on September 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Because of the dystopian implications, this isn't something I really want to happen, but it would be a pleasant convenience if facial recognition or some other biometric scanning was universal, such that you would no longer need to carry any kind of credit card, insurance card, drivers license, etc. I low-key resent having to carry that stuff around everywhere I go.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:38 AM on September 14, 2020

posted by Meatbomb at 7:28 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

For me, the one thing I would like is drug glands.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:43 AM on September 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

Ooooft. If we're going down that road, can I just have Iain M. Banks back as the Mind of my aforementioned FTL ship? And can the Culture be real please? We could really do with a Special Circumstances intervention right about now...
posted by Chairboy at 8:31 AM on September 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah, just specify 'The Culture, please'. I'd be good with that.
posted by signal at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

JanetLand - I have a Sonim phone and it has fantastic audio.
posted by aniola at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2020

My neighbourhood's mail is delivered to a centralized community mailbox down the street, at wildly varying times each day. I don't mind the walk when it's nice, but in the dead of winter it's frustrating to make the trek and find the mail hasn't come yet.

So! Each community box could have a QR code that the mail carrier scans after arrival, which could then trigger an SMS alert to my phone that says The mail carrier has now been to your mailbox. I don't even need it to tell me that I definitely have mail -- just knowing that they've been there would be super nice, and I don't think it would add that much extra work to a mail route.
posted by Monster_Zero at 9:34 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since dental cavities are caused by bacteria, I want a vaccine.
posted by aniola at 9:39 AM on September 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

I would like the paint-bucket tool in Photoshop and other editing apps to apply in physical spaces so I could change the color of my walls with a gesture.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 10:58 AM on September 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

Using (a bunch) of solar or wind power, create giant centrifuges into which (maybe curated?) garbage from landfills is placed and spun down by atomic weight. Recycling writ large.

If we're talking science fiction.
posted by riverlife at 11:04 AM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I wanted hydro sprays, like in Star Trek. Swallowing pills sucks. Just boop my neck with the meds and let me move on with my life.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 12:47 PM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

The one thing I would love to have is the holodeck from the Enterprise. Virtual reality is all well and good, but I want to be able to immerse myself in a different environment without having to use an ugly, ungainly headset.
posted by Roger Pittman at 12:54 PM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Pain control without side effects. I've got too many loved ones suffering with no good solution, we need to be able to dial down the pain somehow without destroying the mind and/or body.

Really I'd just like to upload myself to the matrix, I'm ok if my meat body has to be left in a vat of goo and exploited by robot overlords. Just would rather not deal with this fleshy prison any more.

Back in the 80s I used to imagine being able to put all the world's music on a computer, and then ask the computer to play music according to my mood. So one of my scifi dreams has been fulfilled.

A relevant song by a friend Still no Cure for Cancer (chance I am one of the audience about 85%).
posted by buildmyworld at 1:04 PM on September 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

Once I thought of how different the world would be if a politician's mouth literally filled with shit every time they lied, I haven't been able to shake it

Doesn't Dante include something like that in the Inferno? Or maybe that's from Niven and Pournelle's '70s update?

Literally anything that would fix insomnia. Nanobots, drugs, time travel, don't even care. ANYTHING

Came here to say "the sleep thing they use on Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element" but Eyebrows beat me to it.
posted by hanov3r at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2020

I wanted hydro sprays, like in Star Trek. Swallowing pills sucks. Just boop my neck with the meds and let me move on with my life.

Hypospray jet injectors are a thing, but they're decidedly a work in progress, and very far from the Starfleet version.
Jet injectors have been used for 75 years to rapidly vaccinate millions of people in need of immunization. The results proved convincing as, by 1990, no more smallpox epidemics were reported by the Center for Disease Control. Despite this accomplishment, jet injection never reached its full potential as a strategic tool to deliver medications through the skin. Its general acceptance in routine dermatological practice remained low due to many concerns, such as risk of infection, pain during injection, bruising, perforation, neuropathies, accidental injury of the operator’s finger, subungual hemorrhage, cellulitis, and a single unpublished report of amputation of a digit due to an epidermal inclusion cyst that followed Dermojet® (Dermojet, Friedrichshafen, Germany) injection. Technical difficulties such as clogging of the injector, splash, and splatter were among other factors that discouraged practitioners to use jet injection technology and favor the traditional syringe–needle method.
posted by zamboni at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

My ongoing joke here in Japan is asking where our Greater Tokyo Weather Control Dome is. Just a nice, pleasant temp at all times, rain scheduled to keep everything healthy and growing, warmer temperatures at the beaches, and an end to 35C with 70% humidity in August.

But, as a kid who grew up consuming as much science fiction as I could, I can’t really do it anymore. Yeah, I wonder where the flying cars are, and the jet packs, and all the rest, but if the last two decades have taught me anything, it’s that any new technology will be only advance if there’s a way for overly large corporations to exploit it. Want to teleport? Sure, but that means giving up your genetic details, which will be sold to whoever wants them. Ooh, you’ve got a predisposition for cancer? Your insurance company bought that info, and your premium just doubled, and there’s a new loophole that you’re no longer covered for cancer treatments. I just can’t see any major sci fi advance that doesn’t come with 21st century late stage capitalist avarice attached.

That, and with any new technology, we’ll get to enjoy the equivalent of the vape-bro phenomenon (you remember the fun of dealing with someone vaping away in a non-smoking area, trying to argue that it’s not smoking, so it must be okay). I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of the early days of flying cars, where we get the equivalent of rolling coal Neanderthals refusing to use flight paths with their Gadsden flag decals glimmer in the sunlight.

Yeah. I used to feel excited about the future until I realized it wouldn’t arrive until it could be monetized, and that when it arrived, it would be coopted by assholes.

I mean, doesn’t anyone else have a really bad feeling about Amazon’s recent announcement of a fitness tracker that also tracks your emotions throughout the day? I’ve read that book. Hell, those books! It doesn’t end well.

I guess I could say I’m nostalgic for the future I grew up believing in, but I’m terrified of the future we’re getting.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:07 PM on September 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

I'd like a potion or special lamp that will make seedlings sprout and grow like in the time lapse films of grade school. Putter around with the potting soil, the pots, and the seeds, and then-- boom! Yay my Double Joy bunching onions are coming up!
posted by winesong at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

As I age my eyes continue to deteriorate so I'd love self-correcting glasses. Never get a prescription, just one set of lenses that will change as you need them. And something, a pill / machine / nanobots, which would allow me to eat as much cake as I like, without consequences [there's a lot as I am also celiac].
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:11 PM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ctrl-f "sexbot." OK, y'all are way classier than I am.
posted by merriment at 5:43 PM on September 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

I’m on the west coast of North America, so I’m beginning to wonder about a new life in the off world colonies.
posted by clew at 6:18 PM on September 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

Remember in chemistry lab, you could put a magnetic stir bar in your beaker, and then you'd turn a dial on the hot plate and it would stir your mixture automatically? I want that, but for my stove.
posted by gueneverey at 6:22 PM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I want a "smart kitchen" that starts my grocery list based on the staples I have used up.

It should also tell me when foods are near their expiration date and such.
posted by NotLost at 7:16 PM on September 14, 2020

Fun topic. In the past, I used to respond to the mention of flying cars with, "we've had them since the '40s. They're called helicopters. They're expensive and dangerous, so we don't use them." But, I've matured enough to couch my asshole comments in a second layer of meta-commentary, which lets me feel like a contemplative person thinking about being a jerk, rather than actually being a jerk.

Twelve years ago, my near-plausible answer to this question would have been "a universal translator." But, today there's a computer in my pocket that does 70% of that for most languages with large numbers of speakers. Last week I was informed, while lying in bed, that a fantastic live virtual concert was starting 14 time zones away, because someone who I share no common language with mentioned it. Machine translation has real problems. . . but, goddamn, it's fantastic! That the same tiny device also knows where I am on the planet and when the next bus will arrive while playing my favorite music is astonishing.

My entirely fanciful answer is time travel, followed by faster than light travel. (Which, arguably, are actually the same thing, or at least cause the same difficulties in preserving causality given what we know in contemporary physics.)

The thing I find really frustrating about most SF time travel accounts is how petty and small they are. You've discovered time travel! Not only have you changed our understanding of the universe and secured your place in history, but you can explore the greatest mysteries on the planet. You can write an ethnography of the Olmec or a Linear A dictionary, interview Quipu makers, photograph Great Zimbabwe, film neanderthals, de-extinct sabre-toothed cats and pteranodons, observe local supernovae, sample the forming solar system or watch the first stars turn on (with a sufficiently robust time-travel ship.)

If you want to help people and time travel works in a way that makes that possible, you can warn everyone in history about tsunamis and earthquakes, give smallpox vaccinations to people in the pre-conquest Americas, prevent the plague in Europe, prevent many wars. Even if you can only travel forward and return, you could amass a fortune and use the money to manipulate global politics in the directions you'd like. You could bring back declassified documents and topple corrupt governments. You could collect obituaries and tell people they have cancer before it becomes inoperable. You could warn people about natural disasters. Even if you're a selfish piece of shit, you could patent/write/paint fantastically successful things before they've been made.

But, instead, you've chosen to fix your mildly embarrassing high-school prom date, make enough money to buy a beach house, or spend a Manhattan Project budget on a law enforcement program targeting minor criminals? What‽ I love my family and enjoy the world I live in (mostly), but I'd abandon everything in a heartbeat for the chance at a one-way trip into history. How could you not? If there's one thing time-travel SF has taught me, it's that most writers have no actual imagination. (There are a few exceptions, fortunately!)

Also, if you feel like a silly, hour and a half long podcast about wacky people building real jet packs, I suggest this episode of The Dollop.
posted by eotvos at 9:50 PM on September 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

spit gutters for pillows, and some kind of system to automatically redirect the spit to the pot of a small houseplant or possibly moisten the washcloth on the forehead of an ailing child
posted by um at 10:38 PM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm moderately face blind, so I'd like a HUD on my glasses that would remind me who people are and where I know them from. I was really hopeful that Google Glass or something similar would go in this direction. Obvious privacy issues, though [maybe somehow make it opt-in?].
posted by Pink Frost at 1:09 AM on September 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Uterine replicators. And some way to not have to have periods other than the few methods of birth control that prevent them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:59 AM on September 15, 2020 [9 favorites]

An easy way to donate ones reproductive organs to someone who would like to use them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:55 AM on September 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

Every piece of plastic sold in the US has to be recycled. Buy a 20 ounce soda, there's an extra dollar -- or two -- stuck onto the cost. But once you buy it once all you need do is turn it in when you buy another. The plastic that your loaf of bread came in? It doesn't need to be recycled but if you don't it's going to cost you two dollars.

Any person from Big Plastic (IE Big Oil) who complains and/or snivels gets taken outside and shot.

None of this is rocket science. This could easily be done. It would simply put much of the burden back upon the back of Big Oil, rather that ending up with Big Landfills. People will moan, people will say it can't be done. That is fine. Unless of course they are associated in any way with Big Oil, in which case they get taken outside and shot.

Also, every computer you buy, there is a one hundred dollar recycle reward. Or one hundred fifty dollars. Once you buy one, you're set; just take the computer in to get your money refunded. The computers are then field stripped, every piece that can be recycled is recycled, pieces that cannot be recycled in some way are the responsability of the computer manufacturer to turn into something useful, or have it all dumped in the top executives driveway, swimming pool, their dining room.

Every piece of plastic ever created is still here, ruining our Home Sweet Home. This could be stopped. Lots of other things but this is something that just seems so obvious to me.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:55 AM on September 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

I would just like to say that there's a reason why some humans are assholes, and that's because sometimes, assholes are the only people who survive to pass on their genes. What we need is to find a way to ratchet the number of assholes way way down and make sure they don't have any power, with the caveat that it will always be necessary to have some assholes around because even if there are no human assholes left there will be situations beyond our control where the asshole nature is absolutely essential for survival.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2020

It's "whither", by the way. [pedantry]
posted by pipeski at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

or possibly moisten the washcloth on the forehead of an ailing child

What an unexpectedly poetic phrase! especially considering it's about drooling, which is what I'd call an un-poetic context at best
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2020

Force fields, not just as said above allowing you to walk through anyplace naked, but also around dwellings to keep out bugs and pests. Never having to poison or trap a critter again, that would rock.
posted by emjaybee at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

[Before correcting jessamyn, be positive she's not making a joke or pun]
posted by fritley at 10:57 AM on September 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Teleportation is great, but I'd settle for a nice Gravity Train. Between any two points on the globe, 42 minutes.

Yes, I know it's impossible. I don't care.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:15 PM on September 15, 2020

There's nothing I need to invent. We already have Esperanto, it should be the international second language like in the Stainless Steel Rat, and it's not! Forget flying cars (Alaska basically has flying cars, i.e. bush planes, and it's pretty much what you'd expect) it makes way more sense to have a second language for everyone that is more logical than English.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2020

Was not making a joke! Have corrected.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:16 PM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Technological, biological, philosophical, what do you dream about improving?

At the moment: sleep.
posted by y2karl at 3:21 PM on September 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yes, I know it's impossible. I don't care.

Impossible, Captain? Not at all. Ideally, Hyprloop tubes would be straight lines.
posted by Rash at 4:55 PM on September 15, 2020

I would also like a healthy, domesticated, enormous cat! My cat is domesticated but with some health problems (drippy eyes), and seems to be plateauing at 8 pounds. But he is very soft and nice to us.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:27 PM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think Futurama had the right idea...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:33 AM on September 16, 2020

Well, if you're asking about philosophical improvements, the number one thing I would like to improve is *people*.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:53 AM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

A browser extension or TV equivalent that fact-checks politicians and the like in real time.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2020

> Also, like, can we figure out this cancer thing already?

This is super high on my personal list at the moment. If we could sort that out in the next month or so, that would be awesome, thanks.

Teleportation, but cat-sized, so I can take the cats on vacation with me without putting them in the car for 3 hours.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:47 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

A browser extension or TV equivalent that fact-checks politicians and the like in real time.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:21 PM on September 16

Years gone by a woman stepped into recovery, came bouncing in off the back of a Harley, had some rough edges. Along about 2 1/2 years in, as she was going nuts trying to be this new person which she'd found as her ideal -- one thing to lay out an ideal, a whole 'nother thing to live it. Her sponsor was observing this, saw one thing that seemed a real sticking point -- she had a razor sharp tongue and sortof enjoyed character assassination through gossip, under the guise of "helping" this other person. Her sponsor told her to begin to notice what she was saying, which was bad enough, but then told her that if she not say something nice that she was to not say anything. She didn't talk for almost six months. She'd take in a breath and her mind going ninety to nothing about what she was going to say, but then she noticed that she was about to shank somebody, so she sat back, held her tongue. It sure was fun to watch! I suspect we'd find the same with any politician.

> Also, like, can we figure out this cancer thing already?

It's a huge, multi-faceted illness. This describes quite well what oncologists are up against.

posted by dancestoblue at 1:41 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have been doing a lot of home improvement type activities on old stuff recently, so my request from the magical technology department would be for a screwdriver that can identify and reconfigure to fit any screw or bolt head automatically. Swapping out several bits and trying to figure out if this one fits right or looks like it fits because the screw head is worn doesn't count - you put it against the screw head, push the button and it does a little Terminator 2 liquid metal effect to fit: the end result is equivalent to already having a good quality screwdriver of the correct kind. Bonus points for a second button that puts a 90 degree angle in the shaft at will in case you need more torque.
posted by each day we work at 2:27 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Remember in chemistry lab, you could put a magnetic stir bar in your beaker, and then you'd turn a dial on the hot plate and it would stir your mixture automatically? I want that, but for my stove.

This might not be that hard to do right now with a simple modification of existing induction cooktops to cause them to produce a rotating magnetic field.

It might suffice to replace the single Lidz coil which is standard now in induction burners (as far as I know) with three smaller coils, each one of which is driven by voltage 60° and 120° degrees out of phase with the two others and which would be naturally compatible with modern three phase AC systems.

You could expect some difficulty with the stirring bar, which would tend to stick to the magnetic pot in a way a stirring bar in laboratory glass would not, but you might get past that by modifying the bar to roll along the bottom of the pot instead of scraping.

But what really intrigues me is the possibility that a rotating magnetic field would stir the most common sorts of contents of a pot without needing a bar because salt water conducts electricity:
Salt Water & Electromagnets

Salt strengthens water's ability to conduct electricity. When a electromagnet is placed near salt water, it creates a moving magnetic field in the water due to salt water's conductive properties. The salt water then creates an opposing magnetic field. This creates water turbulence.
This modification might also have the benefit of eliminating hot spots in pots on induction burners (assuming any such now exist!) the way rotating electromagnetic fields do for microwaves without resort to the turntables which were a feature of some of the early 'waves.
posted by jamjam at 7:50 PM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not "60° and 120°" out of phase but '120° and 240°' out of phase.
posted by jamjam at 7:58 PM on September 17, 2020

a rotating magnetic field would stir the most common sorts of contents of a pot without needing a bar because salt water conducts electricity

I would love to see a practical experiment of this using pasta in really salty water, and watch it slowly swirl around and around as the pasta became more soft and pliable. It'd be great way to relax.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:23 PM on September 17, 2020

I'm intrigued by the stirring idea. Figuring out how to make it work on an induction stove while also heating the cookware might take a bit of thought. I'd naively expect that the pot gets hot because there's an induced current in the metal that more or less exactly cancels the field inside the pot. Maybe there's still enough of a field to stir a rod. Or, you could design a pot with dielectric rings or something.

I guess the silly, short term option is just to cook your food on lab hot plates.

(I want to be convinced induction stoves are good. They concept is neat. My two experiences using cheap ones and third-hand pots in rental apartments has been mostly frustrating. They're like really slow-heating electric stoves, except they're irritatingly noisy and guaranteed to burn your food. I'm willing to believe there are better versions.)
posted by eotvos at 12:18 AM on September 18, 2020

I'm waiting for a working laundry folding machine. Not like the current efforts, which can fold maybe four types of items, if you feed them flat one by one into the machine, and even for those items does not save you any time, while simultaneously costing as much as a good car.

No, I want a $500 machine the size of a washing machine, where I simply dump the whole load of dry laundry in and come back in a couple of minutes to fetch it neatly stacked.

Folding laundry is maybe the most dull household task still left for humans.
posted by Harald74 at 1:26 AM on September 18, 2020

>> Also, like, can we figure out this cancer thing already?

> It's a huge, multi-faceted illness

Hello, sorry but you're posting this in the wrong thread.
This is not a thread for reality. There's plenty of room for that elsewhere. In here, we get to make a wish.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:55 PM on September 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I want a device I can point at any random food item in my supermarket, to tell me what kind of processed or other non-food-kind-of crap is incorporated in said product, and who, on the way between producer and me, earned from handling the product, doing what exactly.

That way I would be able to choose not only best-for-me, but also best-for-the-producer and skip all the abominable nonsense they foist upon us as would-be-digestible that actually only costs money and fills my waste-plastic-bag faster than it otherwise would get filled.

(as a low-key beta version, for the time being, I'd be happy with a European Ingredients Codes Translator Scanner that's a) able to decipher the small print on labels, and b) able to translate the codes into what-it-actually-means-and-how-it-will-hurt-your-body and c) play some crazy laughter once done, to entertain me and scare fellow customers).
posted by Namlit at 1:18 PM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

As a biologist, a way to blow up any individual cell and read out all the stuff inside at once (RNA! DNA! protein!) would be awesome. We use way too many proxy measurements by necessity. I'm working right now on a better way to read out a single type of highly modified, highly structured RNA, without even getting into the single cell context, and it's amazing how challenging that is to do not just okay, but actually well.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:15 PM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would like to invent an "Alan Watts Watch."

It would have a wrist-sized mini etch-a-sketch as the watch face (red frame, yellow buttons).
Pressing, turning, pulling, tapping one or both buttons would always have exactly the same effect: Alan Watts would come on screen and a bell would sound. Alan Watts would not say what time it is/was. Nor would the watch be capable of keeping track of time. Because neither of those functions would be possible, given that this would be a mini etch a sketch watch. Versus a typical watch.

Anyway, he (Alan Watts) would just sorta fizzle into the tiny etch-a-sketch screen (think: Max Headroom) and then say, just before dancing off into the distance:


with such convincing diction that the watch-wearer would be hilariously surprized every time it happened. Which would cause the watch-wearer to chuckle and muse, and go "gosh, that alan watts gets me every time, get it... every TIME...hahahha" and then would just carry on about their morning coffee.

Each time Alan Watts would dance off into the distance, the dance would be unique. No two dances of Alan Watts' would ever be the same. on any watch. Ever.

Again, by the way, no time-of-day would actually be being communicated here with this particular watch. Just alan watts, doing the time is an illusion thing, and then dancing off into the distance (of the watch face).

I just need to figure out how to engineer an incalculably vast library of Alan Watts dancing vids stored in a tiny, invisible, untraceable "cloud" so that exactly one random video is deployed anytime someone interacts with one or both etch-a-sketch buttons; and then, after the interaction, that same video flickers and disappears sorta like an 80's scifi movie. That's all that's really holding the project back from, you know, getting funding.

Anyway, the cool thing is that there would be no way to verify whether each Alan Watts dance is/was in fact unique or not.

Who built such a thing? How would it be possible? I wouldn't know, because I couldn't be both the maker of the watch AND the wearer. I would most likely have stumbled onto the alan watts watch at a garage sale. Or something like that. Where I would tell people how cool it was that it worked, right outta the box, with no batteries like that voltar machine in BIG. I bet I would go my whole life not knowing the dances were different!!

There would of course be no website for the alan watts watch, no customer service desk, no app for the iPhone...

Anyways, thanks for asking this question!
posted by abuckamoon at 5:28 PM on September 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I don't understand all the theoretical discussion of pot stirrers. Do these pot stirrers not work well enough?
posted by CathyG at 5:34 AM on September 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Forget all this crap to make cooking easier. I just want a pill that I can take that truly is the equivalent of eating a balanced, healthy meal. I don't mean a multivitamin. I want it to make me feel full. I want it to satisfy all nutritional requirements. I don't want to have to eat a meal replacement bar or shake.

And I want some super fucking awesome nutritionist to tailor make these "meal in a pill" for me so that it gives me exactly the right amount of calories and other stuff. Need to go on a diet? Well, get the "diet" version of the pills with carefully calibrated calorie reductions.

And I want these to be so cheap that anyone can afford them. Free, in fact! We could solve world hunger.

(I may be in the minority in that there are a lot of times where I loathe the act of actually eating. I hate it even more than the actual cooking part. I resent it. I forget to do it. It just feels like such a wasteful burden.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:52 AM on September 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would also like a healthy, domesticated, enormous cat!

Even better, I'd like a gadget that allows me to shrink and enlarge my cat whenever I want. Like, I love the idea of "domesticated cat only much bigger" but sometimes maybe you want a small little tiny kitty as well. Same for dogs. I love a good giant dog, but sometimes you want to be able to take them places that only small dogs can go.

Got an apartment with a size limit on dogs? No problem! Just shrink your dog whenever your landlord comes around.

Need to put your cat into the cat carrier? Definitely want to shrink them for that. Like, I've always wanted my own domesticated tiger, essentially. But sometimes I want a tiny cuddle monster as well. Why should we have to choose one or the other?
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:55 AM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Last one:

You know how sometimes you do or say something and you would immediately give anything to take it back? Well, I want to be able to do that. An "undo" button for life. Basically, I guess it's like a time machine that just goes back a couple minutes. But I'd like it to just be a big red button. I just hit it and immediately undo whatever horribly embarrassing thing I just said. Or if you break your favorite vase. Whatever! Just hit the undo button.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:58 AM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Like, I love the idea of "domesticated cat only much bigger"...

Apart from the fact that a cat of, say, the size of a black lab could easily -- and I mean easily as in physically and wilfully -- kill you, I assume.

You know the old saw To dogs we are gods while to cats we are staff -- to a bigger cat we would be prey. And they do love to play with their prey.
posted by y2karl at 1:10 PM on September 22, 2020

This is a lot of fun!

I would also like to be a healthy, domesticated, enormous cat!

There, I fixed that for me. I guess only part-time though.

Teleportation, but cat-sized, so I can take the cats on vacation with me without putting them in the car for 3 hours.

Like John Brunner's Web of Everywhere, except we get cats! That was what you meant, right?
posted by cattypist at 6:30 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had the opportunity to wrestle with a pair of young tigers long ago. (I think it was in an ethical context, aside from the child endangerment that I enthusiastically volunteered for. County animal control officers were present. Also, I was 12 and didn't ask too many questions.) It was a hell of a lot of fun.

But, for some reason, the sense that "this animal could kill me in three seconds" was really obvious in a way it has never been before or since. The same is true of horses, elephants, llamas, and big dogs. . . but, there's something about cats that make it clear that they are their own masters and that not killing you is a choice. A horse could kill me easily, but somehow I don't believe they would want to. Which is a large part of why I love cats. Even the little ones who likely don't eat me only because I'm bigger than them and have access to can opener technology.

Though, if I'm going to choose to transmogrify into an animal, it's going be one with wings.
posted by eotvos at 11:44 PM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Dang, I didn't even think as big as "I could be a cat" but now that is what I want more than anything.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Especially now ?
posted by y2karl at 2:01 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

An "undo" button for life. Basically, I guess it's like a time machine that just goes back a couple minutes.

man I’d keep mashing that thing until I wound back the last 40 years
posted by um at 11:05 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

A device which, when you send it a digital file to be printed (such as an A4 page...

Heck, I'd settle for one that didn't default to insane U.S. paper sizes all the fscking time.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:12 PM on September 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

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