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BBC Future

60 Second Idea

‘Fine distracted mobile users’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week American historian Anne Applebaum wants to outlaw a scourge of the modern world.

“My idea to change the world would - I hope - be extremely popular amongst many people across the planet. It would prevent accidents. It would increase traffic safety and above all it would make it possible to walk very quickly down a crowded street.

In other words, I would fine anybody that walks, drives or even stands still whilst simultaneously looking at their smart phone, their blackberry or their iPod on the street. There is nothing more irritating than being stuck behind a crowd of people who are moving at a snail’s pace because they are too busy reading Twitter or being stuck at a traffic light behind someone who is answering their email.

While I concede that no one would want to create a whole new system of email police, perhaps we could create an app that would enable fines to be laid on people who engage in this irritating social practice.”

You can listen to Anne discuss his idea with Egyptian writer and economist Tarek Osman and Chinese professor Weiwei Zhang in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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