I have a few silly ideas I’d like to investigate but I don’t have the time. Here are five of them:

1. (One’s experience of) time flies when you’re having fun and slows down when you’re bored (or scared – David Eagleman has done a pilot experiment on this involving scaring the bejesus out of his PhD student: see the video here). Would be nice to find the time (tehe) to review the research on what kind of events affect time perception. The secret to a happy life would then involve multiplexed misery/fright: mixing in whatever unpleasantness slows things down in a carefully controlled manner so that the experience of the pleasant bits of life could be stretched out a bit. I’d hope the curve of time-stretchedness would impinge a bit on the good bits when the bad bit had ended.

Not sure what form this would take. A self-help guide? A very quantitative one. “Just after you kiss it’s important that you scare the shit out of your partner. Chapter 3 has a selection of ideas, and a random number table using which you can ensure your partner doesn’t become habituated.”

2. A (logicist and connectionist?) cognitive model of the bladder and connected systems. An existential proof that there’s more to cognition than stuff philosophers care about and that it’s not only about stuff we’re conscious of. The model would have to take into consideration the likes of paruresis, the interaction between the internal sphincter muscle and conscious awareness of the need to urinate, and so on. The distinction between the personal and sub-personal levels of analysis would be important.

3. An empirical investigation of the effect of table and chair arrangement on meeting randomites in cafes, pubs, and other public spaces. I’m running a pilot of this at the moment somewhere in Edinburgh… :-) Data collection only possible when I’m having a cup of tea and since I haven’t got ethical clearance I can’t actually record anything, so it’s not a particularly good pilot. It’s really just moving tables around and drinking tea.

4. An alternative to relationship counselling: ex-committee counselling. This is pretty easy. You just get together a load of your exes (only those who are now in a healthy relationship) and they answer your questions and give you advice. Exes are likely to know you better than anyone else so would be full of deep insight. They may also want to make you cry which could be a problem. Anyway, a questionnaire would be handy and would feature standard questions such as “What would you tell future partners to help them to understand me and why?”

5. Much communication is nonverbal but yet we’re scared to death of awkward silence. So let’s embrace the silence. Get a load of people together in a cafe or whatever and don’t speak. See what would happen. Communication is still allowed, but not explicit communication. For instance you wouldn’t be allowed look at someone and blink a message in morse code or sign in BSL, but you could look at someone, think something, and as a side-effect of that thought blush, or, say, have dilated pupils. Perhaps given enough practice we’d all become better at guessing what such signs mean.



  1. Donald Stahl

    A bearded American comedian whose name I don’t remember incorporates just such a committee in his act.

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