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Ask HN: Cool stuff that's still completely unregulated?
244 points by newman8r on Oct 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 202 comments
Things like drones, e-bikes, vapes and 3d printing have already received varying amounts of regulatory attention - I'm curious if anyone can think of very early trends that aren't regulated now but may be in the future.

I'm asking partially out of curiosity, but also to get ideas for interesting project areas to brainstorm.

Data laundering

This means crawling or using illegally obtained datasets then processing it with "machine learning" until you have enough plausible deniability to use it.

This could be used for bypassing copyrights. For example you can remix stock photos you don't want to pay for. You can crawl a competitor's dating network to build similar looking fake profiles. You can steal writings and automatically paraphrase it. You can steal algorithms by cloning their inputs/outputs. You can generate new porn by swapping faces and background.

An illegal dataset can also be used as a hidden input to improve your core product. For example you can buy up all stolen databases and logs and correlate the users. This can then be used for better ad targeting using data that isn't even available to google and facebook.

One area I've heard of this being used is when companies buy lists of email addresses of people in certain industries (which is usually not illegal per se) and then upload them to Facebook's advertising platform to do targeting (rather than spamming them directly).

If its illegal I'd consider that highly regulated. I never considered that this was even a thing though so interesting post.

Yes! I run a data science department that's involved with digital advertising. We have client files that are restricted and regularly destroyed. Sometimes I wonder how many competitors use those files to build better ad targeting systems.

Nice name for it.

What you re describing sounds like taking photos on the street. I hope thats never regulated

Are there any public examples of this?

I just wanted to say that I love this post.

There is a huge space around """fitness""" devices that are running around the FDA regulatory process. I think there is going to be a huge health revolution by making everybody take their weight, glucose, blood pressure, sleep statistics, and heart rate statistics every day and feed them into an AI.

The major techincal step forward that is happening is microneedles that can draw out interstitial fluid. The patient doesn't feel it, and you can do things like constant glucose monitoring, and constant cortisol monitoring (which is huge) completely uninvasively. It's going to be amazing.

The breakthrough device is going to be a watch that can sense glucose and cortisol all the time. A while ago there was some PG post about wanting a tricorder, well it's coming, and it's going to look like a watch.

Sidenote: if anybody reading this is working in any of the labs working with these microneedles, please contact me, I would love to collaborate with you.

If the microneedles are part of a watch and the watch is simply worn on the wrist like a normal watch, how do you avoid (1) breaking the needles, or (2) contaminating the needles with random substances that are present on the user's skin or periodically enter between the watch and the skin?

Could you replace the needles somehow? Can you avoid having to replace the needles frequently?

Every worn device that I'm aware of that continuously interacts with the body in some way is either totally noninvasive (like a pulse oximeter that just shines light through a finger, or an EEG with external electrodes placed against the skin) or invasively and persistently attached to the bloodstream or an organ system (like an IV, an insulin pump, or an implantable defibrillator).

Or do you have to somehow deliberately engage and retract the needles when putting on and taking off the watch? But wouldn't they break, or something, when the watch moves around on your wrist?

Or do you apply a disposable or partly disposable sensor under adhesive tape to one part of the body, and then have the watch receive data from it using electrical or electromagnetic signals?

The way (these) continuous glucose monitors work is that there's an adhesive patch with the needle, sensor, some storage/processing and comms module. Attaching the patch is done via a spring-loaded module and the data is read by waving the reading over the patch. The patch itself lasts a couple of weeks before it deactivates itself and you need to apply a new one.

The patch/sensor doesn't hurt going in but depending on where it's attached and how you move it can sometimes pinch a bit when you move around. And you'll definitely feel it when you jostle it.

> making everybody

That sounds extremely fucked up. No thanks. How do you suppose this will be enforced? Higher health insurance rates for people who want privacy? Or are they just going to start arresting and throwing people in prison over this? Sounds like a horrible future.

AFAIK continuous glucose monitors are regulated by the FDA because of the microneedles: breaking the skin puts them under extra scrutiny. I don't think they need to be behind a prescription, but I 100% support regulation to at least ensure that the devices are safe and sterile.

You need FDA approval (510(k) or PMA) if you use the device to make an actual medical claim, regardless of whether it pierces the skin or not.

Good point. It might have been that a prescription is required because it pierces the skin; at any rate I remember some complication on getting a hold of them easily because of that.

They are medical devices that provide diagnostic information so they would require licensing regardless. The tongue depressor is a class 1 medical device.

In the case of a CGM like Dexcom or attached meter like Freestyle Libre or a glucose meter that takes a drop of blood on a strip, or even glucose monitoring urine strips: all require FDA approval to be marketed as a diagnostic tool. They have to show a certain tolerance of accuracy and be manufactured under GMP. The FDA isn't messing around.

I've been down this path with the FDA in a prior life so I'm not just speculating.

(Also FWIW the extremely thin needles used in the mounted devices aren't referred to as "microneedles" -- that term is used for a different technology used in some drug delivery patches.)

This sounds a lot like a Theranos idea, here is why.

There are physical constraints concerning continuous glucose monitoring, you cannot simply replace the capillary blood with something drawn from skin tissues depth. It significantly lags the real blood glucose level and the water content screws up the measurement. Even the continuous glucose monitors that are implanted under the skin and that are significantly larger than anything a watch would do have issues with precision and lag compared to the blood prick method. It is worth it because of the better control loop, but its not a simple topic.

Continuous glucose monitors are not significantly larger than a watch. See pictures here https://www.dexcom.com/g6-cgm-system and here https://www.freestylelibre.us/

They are also more precise than it sounds like you think they are. I think that all current models require some calibration every once in a way (maybe every few days).

Also, there is a lag, but it is fairly predictable and for a lot of potential use cases the lag is not an issue.

Continuous glucose (and lactate and maybe cortisol) monitors are not like Theranos.

The folks making the "cardiogram" app were somehow able to figure out which of the users had diabetes simply by monitoring pulse. This was part of a study they did with an academic institution (UCSF? -- can't remember) and not a feature they advertise. This isn't the same as figuring out BG level but is quite interesting nonetheless.

I work in a field adjacent to healthcare, and we're spending a lot of time at the moment making sure we're not regulated as medical device software.

What you've just described will be one of the most regulated devices known to man in every jurisdiction I can think of including the US, Canada, UK, EU and Australia.

> I think there is going to be a huge health revolution ...

How would any of what you listed help against cancer, aging and the obesity crisis?

It won't. Simple as that. Our environment, food, and meds are the primary instigators in biological deregulation.

Yes it will. I’ve talked with many people who simply don’t know how their body reacts to certain foods (glycemic response). Having that data, and seeing what a milkshake does to your body is huge.

And you can potentially track that biological deregulation and measure the effectiveness of interventions and the harm of certain environments/habits through the use of monitoring. It's not as simple as you state.

changes in vital signs will only happen generally during an acute process

Having more continuous data on the metabolome throughout someones life could potentially tell us some interesting things about cancer, aging, and obesity.

We already know, for instance, a bit about the beginnings of glucose dysregulation in the beginning of diabetes. If we could have more samples of "continous" glucose data from a person, then we could catch glucose dysregulation before it becomes either type 2 or type 1 diabetes (or something else). We'd thus be able to more easily keep someone at risk from getting type 2 diabetes through simple lifestyle interventions (which would be a lot easier to study with a lot of continuous glucose data) or if it is type 1 we could administer the BCG vaccine to keep them from losing their pancreatic function. That sounds like a revolution to me!

Also, for obesity, it is known that lactate (and other metabolite) levels predict someones metabolic health and whether they have metabolic syndrome. If we had continuous lactate data or maybe BCAA data (this is probably one I'm not sure they can get easily with current tech) then we could find out when and why metabolic syndrome happens and how best to stop it and reverse it.

I don't just agree with you, I'm taking the first few steps (on the AI side).

I related, scary thing that's lightly regulated is dietary supplements.

Programming and general computing, it's still possible to write and run any code in your PC, but big companies will be trying to control it.

For example the DRM shenanigans in the GPU, or, when you can't write code for your smartphone unless you have permission from its parent company, and even with permission, you still can't write "any" arbitrary code - only some parts of the system are available to you. I'm aware of the exploits and jailbreaks, but those will not be always available.

Just a small note: You _can_ write any code on your smartphone and write any kind of code. You can't distribute in _their_ stores.

International waters. Some regulations but not really enforceable. Less regulated than the air inc orbit and even the moon.

A famous movie director once said the film director is the last truely dictatorial post left. He was wrong. The captain of a vessel in international waters is.

A boat in international waters is fully regulated by its country of registration. For example, it is illegal to possess or consume marijuana in international waters if your boat is registered in the US.

Although you are de-facto right, limitations on the dictatorial power do apply. Both by the international law that guarantees the "freedom" and regulations set by the flag it waves. These exceptions and limitations do not exist in outerspace, thus only the spaceship captain is totally free/unregulated.

Interesting, but a non flag bearing ship is certainly facing less oversight than any spaceship commander.

Id also contend the spaceship is likely controllable remotely, and monitored in both location and status.

Maybe the private submarine captain trumps all

I might be remembering wrong, but I thought un-flagged ships in international waters are considered pirates and can be acted upon in a hostile manner by flagged ships.

Theoretically possible because an un-flagged ship has not the protection of a recognized state. You could do it, but it would be mighty risky and you would have almost zero legal recourse against a bad actor.

A ship captain, whether marine or space, is only as free and unregulated as the crew and passengers allow.

How are cruise ships "policed"? Does anyone know? E.g. a crime happens aboard - does it get sorted out by the country the ship is registered to?

Yes, but nearly all cruise ships are registered with tiny countries like Panama and the Bahamas, in order to have the most lax laws applied to them. Hasan Minhaj did an interesting episode about cruise ships recently on "Patriot Act" if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nCT8h8gO1g

Yes, and most cruise ship have security agents and morgue on board, although I don’t think they generally have actual policemen.

But the point about offshore regulations being hard to enforce is interesting.

Thanks I watched it, Very interesting. Nice mix of comedy and information.

Tldw: within a small number of miles of shore it’s police or federal (USA I guess it’s similar for other countries). After that it’s up to the ship. Cruise companies don’t want crime statistics so are unlikely to do anything about petty crime. There is death on high seas act but that only helps for a blatant murder. Jurisdiction is the flag which is likely to be panama or Bahamas. Your living areas can be searched any time and security can lock you up in your cabin. Cruises seem horrible to me and there are reports in the news of fights breaking out. But the worst thing for me is why be stuck on a ship that has less to do than I can do in my home city?

Theoretically, yes.

However, it seems to be a more or less open secret (from a friend of mine who works in the industry) that investigations won't be conducted as diligently as if the crime had happened on land.

Part of the reason for that is that it's difficult to secure evidence after several days or even weeks and the staff on board or the police in the next port often isn't qualified to do so.

Another contributing factor seems to be that cruise ship operators don't want any hassle or negative press and therefore push for investigations to be dealt with swiftly and silently.

I’m in the middle of reading “The Outlaw Ocean”; really eye-opening to see how much people can get away with in international waters, away from any scrutiny or accountability.

Until said captain notices a long-range, long-duration-time drone keeping tabs on his operations. That could be interesting.

Illegal fish catches are transfered at night when transponders are turned off. So there is now monitoring by satellite, not drones, to identify the culprits. That is cheaper than keeping drones replenished, and its batteries charged, the ocean is huge.

Do Congressional-issued letters of marque have jurisdiction on international waters?

Letters of Marque and privateering became illegal internationally in the late 19th century with a naval treaty. Prize warfare conducted by official naval forces is something different, si.

AFAIK, no. No country has any effect there, as international waters don't belong to any nation.

True, but there is also nothing protecting you from what would be "crimes" on land.

Which international waters? Because what we ve seen is governments will interfere beyond their UN 12 miles territorial waters and into their 200mil economic zones, disallowing any experimentation.

We've seen many businesses attempt to exploit the lack of regulation at their peril. Ride-sharing companies come to mind as one example.

I think it is more useful to think of regulations in the context of history and societal values. For example, an oilspill off the shore of California helped galvanize support for the clean air movement.

Perhaps it is possible to hypergrow a business before regulation catches up. I think expecting such an outcome risks the long-term viability of a business, since ultimately its foundation rests upon trust in its brand. Companies (in a competitive environment at least) must earn goodwill from their customers to do well.

I hope all entrepreneurs think about building businesses that can thrive even as regulations shift as society changes. In other words, build in some resilience into your business model.

For example, you don't have to have a crystal ball to recognize when a business model over-relies on certain power imbalances. If you want to extract value from such power imbalances, don't be surprised when there is a backlash. For example, ride-sharing companies skirted with employee/contractor definitions. Flirting with this boundary is risky -- and naively hoping that one narrow interpretation is shared by society and lawmakers is, frankly, over-optimism.

Realism combined with long-term thinking, I think, tends to lead to similar decisions as "strive to do the right thing".

Correction: I shouldn't have said "clean air movement" in particular -- it included the creation of the EPA (during President Nixon) [1]

> The public outrage engendered by the spill, which received prominent media coverage in the United States, resulted in numerous pieces of environmental legislation within the next several years, legislation that forms the legal and regulatory framework for the modern environmental movement in the U.S. [2]

[1] https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/richar...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_Santa_Barbara_oil_spill


Some general responses to "that's not the question": There are different ways to respond to a question; some responses push back on the premise of the question. Some ask about the why behind a question. Both are valuable. A mix of thoughtful responses is the whole idea.

There are plenty of places for more constrained styles of discussions, such as any of the topical Stack Exchange web sites. HN is built for open-ended discussion, best I can tell, based on some years of using it. I regularly see comments meander somewhat; discussion takes many forms.

Anyhow, I'll try rewriting some of my arguments in a few different ways, in case it helps connect the dots:

First, some people have a blanket view regarding regulated industries as 'lesser' opportunities (for starting a company or technical innovation in general). Such a generic belief may lead to the premature dismissal of opportunities.

Second, what may appear to be "unregulated" at one point in time may not be a strong signal as to what happens going forward.

Third, (and I didn't touch on this in my comment above) it might be useful to think of regulation as one signal that a market area is mature and predictable. (Think of this story: if you want to buy a house, which of the following two choices has more variability? House A in an incorporated city of 100,000 people with known zoning laws and a more-or-less predictable economic and political situation? Or house B at the edge of a sprawling city where an influx of people could lead to dozens of different outcomes? Choosing the best house depends on what outcomes you value and your risk tolerance. With regards to regulation, my point is to say that you can often use regulation to your advantage in choosing a business plan.

Fourth, as a general principle, understanding how a range of possible situations affects your objectives is more useful than simply "avoiding regulation". Designing a new method to ingest nicotine that currently sidesteps regulation might work fine until one day it doesn't. You might want to know how regulators might respond to these sorts of situations. Hence my points about history and ethics.

These ideas are all connected and relevant. I hope this is of some value to those who seek unregulated (for now) opportunities.

Questions aren't regulated.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain are regulated when a true corporation appears, but there exist many entities that are wholly anonymous and unregulated because they simply don’t exist outside of software and the blockchain.

A prime example would be Bisq[0], which is a decentralized exchange that also has a profit-sharing token. If it were a company it would be violating trillions of regulatory laws, such as security and money laundering as its exchange token is obviously a security and it has no KYC, but there is simply nothing to shut down.

The government likes to believe that they have a handle on cryptocurrency but the truth is there is a thriving and growing suite of tools that exist to explicitly be uncensorable.

[0] https://bisq.network

I think things like bisq would be pretty easy to shut down of the government wants to, because fiat transfer is always government controlled.

Step 1: make a law declaring it illegal. Step 2: have undercover cop attempt an exchange, then arrest/fine the other party. Step 3: repeat until no one wants to exchange anymore.

Sure, it wouldn’t be fully effective - the illegal drugs are still around, after all - but it will be annoying enough that all legitimate uses will disappear.

Yeah, many cryptographers forget about the XKCD “hit him with this $5 wrench” approach that governments can take.

Wouldn't this approach fail if there becomes a mainstream cryptocurrency, let's say Libra for lack of a better example. Where you can keep converting and switching wallets (laundering) or just buy something that has no ties to you and it would be hard to track?

Like you rightly pointed out, the govt control over fiat, but that control is continually being threatened every day

A hypothetical Libra-like thing will be even easier to control. There is a single developer org - and it can be trivially compelled to add trackers, blacklists, backdoors or whatever government wants.

It looks like bisq is basically a clone for localbitcoins. To do a trade, you still have to send USD back and forth via paypal, ACH, etc. It seems like you'd run into the same money changer law violations that have been used to nail LBC users in the past.

I do however agree with you that cryptocurrency is a genie that the government doesn't quite understand yet. I think that cryptocurrencies are going to do for finance what the internet did for the way people communicate with each other. The entire financial system is going to be replaced.

Major difference is they do anonymous cross-chain swaps using multisig escrow. So you can change bitcoin into Monero (a fully anonymous coin) without any intermediary. This makes it extremely valuable if you operate in an economy that never converts to fiat, or does so as little as possible.

This is interesting. Any recommendations as to what to read to dive deeper into this topic?

I have lots I can recommend, but what are you most interested in learning about? Do you have any prior understanding of blockchain protocols? For example, I can link to interesting papers and documentation on Bitcoin, Monero, etc.

Yea, I generally understand how Bitcoin works. More interested in learning about anonymous cross-chain swaps using multisig escrow.

When did they add monero validation? Last time I used it all non btc transactions were using a human arbitrator.

Nice try, government. We're not giving you any more ideas.

To actually answer the question: I'm glad that ad-blocking remains unregulated for the most part. I'm scared that copyright owners could start making a case that the ads are an integral part of any given content (licensed to them at the very least if they aren't first-party ads) and removing them counts as copyright infringement.

Instead, publishers seem increasingly interested in native ads and referral links since you can't block them.

Digging holes. It'll depend where you do it but I think most regulative entities don't have explicit regulations on size or direction of excavations.

Same would probably go for heaping all that earth on a mound, I doubt a lot of places will have explicit building regulations on an earth mound

Digging holes can be very dangerous. Here's the OSHA guide, explaining various legal requirements: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha2226.pdf

As far as I know, moving more than three cubic meters of soil requires a permit in Germany. Once you go too deep you also require a permit from the local mining authority. Not to mention the Balrogs you might wake.

Do the Balrogs issue permits to wake them? How do you prove you submitted the permit - and got approval - before you wake them? Sounds like you're playing with fire.

You do not directly get a permit from the Balrogs. Contact your local evil Maia authority.

It's best to make sure you have a servant of the Secret Fire with you at all times.

You might be surprised. There are many municipal regulations around the location and size of excavations, even on privately-owned land. Primarily to avoid damaging any pre-existing underground infrastructure.

Most of the ground on this planet isn’t municipal.

Diggning a hole is: tons of paperwork, why are you doing, risks, licences for every machine you are going to use, studie that probes that you aren't going to damage any underground tube, cable or even if you are going to affect to the natural water-flow. Then you also need to explain how you are going to close the hole...

Yeah, I occasionally work in construction. In .au you have to have a Civil Engineer on site for anything like 2meters or more deep and so on, council approval, engineers reports, water course layouts, surveyors, soil experts, excavators required skilled labor (in the sense proof of competency & licenses) I don't know what OP is getting at.

There’s still no regulation on what you can do with machine learning (At least until your deepfakes constitute unlawful use of someone’s likeness, or you use your classifier to make hiring decisions or something, or something like that.)

That’s like saying there is no regulation on what you can do with a database until it begins to violate some other law. Or like saying there is no regulation on what you can do with human imagination until you imagine something unlawful.

Machine learning is a technique of mathematics. What do you even mean there’s no regulation of this subset of mathematics? If the law were to say a triangle can’t have three sides would it make it so?

There are some constants you can change with laws though. Like Planck's constant

Unless my knowledge is completely wrong, Planck's constant is a universal and un-changing number. That's why the kilogram is based off it. How could you change that by law?

It is not a unitless constant like pi though. Like the speed of light, Planck's constant has units which is problematic (how can you define the meter in terms of the speed of light if the speed of light depends on the definition of the meter?) Thus, you simply assign a value to the constant to break the unit dependency.

> Like the speed of light, Planck's constant has units which is problematic (how can you define the meter in terms of the speed of light if the speed of light depends on the definition of the meter?)

I don't follow your thought process here. The speed of light has units, that's true. Being a speed, it has units of distance over time. But the question "how can you define the meter in terms of the speed of light if the speed of light depends on the definition of the meter?" is totally incoherent; the premise is wrong. The speed of light does not depend on the definition of the meter, making it very easy to define the meter in terms of the speed of light.

To take a trivial example, the speed of light is 300,000,000 meters per second and 300,000 kilometers per second. If we relabeled kilometers "flags", then the speed of light would also be 300,000 flags per second. But while 300,000,000 and 300,000 are different numbers, 300,000,000 meters and 300,000 flags are the same distance. You can't change the speed of light by defining a new unit of length. You can only change the coefficient of that unit that gives the speed of light. But coefficients are dimensionless and therefore aren't speeds. When you multiply the coefficient by the unit, you get the same constant speed as always.

I can't tell why you think it's "problematic" for a physical constant to have units, but I feel safe in saying that whatever you have in mind, it's wrong.

> But the question "how can you define the meter in terms of the speed of light if the speed of light depends on the definition of the meter?" is totally incoherent;

I agree, I messed that up. What I meant to say was: "how can the speed of light have an unchanging numerical value if the definition of the meter is not an unchanging definition?" Prior to 2019 the meter was not defined in terms of speed of light over time.

My point is that, unlike dimensionless constants like pi, constants with units can have arbitrary numerical values depending on the definitions of the units. And if you make a law that changes the definition of a unit, you therefore change the numerical representation of the corresponding constants.

In other words, if you defined a meter to be "the distance light travels in 1 second", then the constant c would now be 1 m/s.

> I can't tell why you think it's "problematic" for a physical constant to have units

Because the definitions of units can change[1]. The definition of the meter changed earlier this year, and thus the speed of light constant, c also changed. Before May 9, 2019, c had an infinite number of digits using SI units. Now it only has 9 digits. Planck's constant, along with a bunch of others changed as well during the units redefinition[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_redefinition_of_the_SI_ba...

Again, I'm not arguing that the speed of light can change, but that those constants are only unchangeable in their symbolic forms. Laws can and do change their numeric representations by proxy of defining units.

> What I meant to say was: "how can the speed of light have an unchanging numerical value if the definition of the meter is not an unchanging definition?"

As I and you have already stated, the speed of light cannot have any purely numerical value, because it is a dimensional quantity.

...and? What's the problem supposed to be? I've never seen anyone be confused over the idea that the speed of light is 300,000,000 when measured in meters per second, but 186,000 when measured in miles per second.

> ...and? What's the problem supposed to be?

Read the whole thread, start to finish and the context should make it clear.

> I've never seen anyone be confused over the idea that the speed of light is 300,000,000 when measured in meters per second, but 186,000 when measured in miles per second.

Right, because unit conversion is not confusing. But what can be confusing is unit re-definition, which doesn't happen very often and can seem counter-intuitive at first ("how can a government seemingly change the value of a natural constant?!").

You can change the units if you want, but it's still a physical constant, and it could be stated in purely physical terms. For example, according to Wikipedia, the second is defined thus:

"Since 1967, the second has been defined as exactly "the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom" (at a temperature of 0 K)."

Therefore, the meter may be defined as "the distance light travels in a vacuum in one of those cesium-133-related periods, times 9,192,631,770, divided by 299,792,458".

> Therefore, the meter may be defined as "the distance light travels in a vacuum in one of those cesium-133-related periods, times 9,192,631,770, divided by 299,792,458".

Right, but the constant c didn't have that exact value until 2019. Prior to 2019, c had an infinite number of digits. Thus, the numerical representation of constants with units can change as the definitions of the units themselves change.

I'd argue the opposite- it's like saying that water is legal but it's illegal to drown someone. Nothing in the field of machine learning is in itself illegal, as opposed to things like hard drugs and heavy weaponry, which are in and of themselves illegal for private citizens, regardless of what they're doing with them.

While we're at it, whenever anyone talks about machine learning they're not talking about a technique of mathematics, they're talking about a technique in software development (albeit that has some mathematical roots.) It's not popular because we're all passionate about discovering mathematical truths, it's popular because we can use it to make computers do cool things. :)

The math itself can't be regulated, but using it can be.

Many well known examples in the encryption field.

Private license plate tracking.

At some stage license plates will have to disappear, but then you move to facial recognition for cars and other meta data, they probably have unique sounds for instance.

I'd try and do a app like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_barcode_games

You should know how to monetize it.

(Obviously facial recognition works equally well here, but there is some regulatory attention, although none that would stop you)

I'd also look at things like using neural nets to detect race and/or underlying genetic structure from visual, audio and other metadata.

I am not sure why this comment was marked dead without any responses, and hence I am "vouch"-ing for it. Can someone point to laws related to license plate tracking?

It seems to me that having a huge database of known locations of vehicles could be used to do some cool (but likely immoral) things, specially coupled with the fact that several state agencies all over the world make it free and easy to retrieve licensing and ownership information for vehicles. It'd also be relatively much easier to do compared to facial recognition.

Big question is, how would you do it at scale? You can crowdsorce data, but then it's hardly precise or frequently updated data. Sort of a thing that vinwiki does now. Govt has a head start on it with speed cameras/traffic light cameras etc, but there only so many of them.

The wildest idea I can think of is using reverse camera on every car and recognizing the plate of the car which is tail gating you. Now, that's more interesting, but how much of a fleet you would need to track down a random car.

Not something car manufacturers would do either, even with their love of telemetry.

I don't recall the exact article, but I believe they "crowd source" the data via repo-men & tow trucks with automatic scanners. https://drndata.com/

I am sure this is forbidden in the netherlands at least. You may not track personal information without agreement. You may track people and data in your own house though. If you own a company, tracking is allowed, but you have to notify people that you are doing that.

(About provate property: https://www.security.nl/posting/406881/Juridische+vraag%3A+m... )

In Spain is almost the same, you are dealing with personal data, if you automate that you have to notify people of that and they can request you to delete the data.

I can't imagine why college campuses and other places where vulnerable people live don't already do license plate tracking. (OTOH, I think organized crime already knows how to circumvent it, and petty criminals often don't drive, don't drive with plates, or don't drive their own cars. But there is still a range of usefulness for e.g. stalking.)

> I'd also look at things like using neural nets to detect race and/or underlying genetic structure from visual, audio and other metadata

I don't see the use in sufficiently cosmopolitan cities, which are the only places with the camera density to do this. I think there's a better case for (using audio recordings) predicting social circles, because close associates tend to pick up both tonal patterns and vocabulary patterns.

Most cars have GPS and are connected to the internet [1]... and broadcast unique IDs over the air (TPMS)... we need a way to disable all of that.

1. https://www.businessinsider.com/ford-exec-gps-2014-1

Paramotors are deregulated in the U.K. (and US I believe). It’s one of the very few forms of flight where a license isn’t required. You have to adhere to air law (like flying close to certain objects) but there are no licenses required to fly.

You’d be stupid to do it but you could buy a machine on eBay and start flying (or try to at least)

I wouldn't say they're "deregulated" in the US. There are still a number of rules that pilots have to comply with (for instance, no commercial use, limited fuel capacity, limited areas where flight is allowed, etc). Sure, a license is not required, but the US will find a way to complicate things with red tape even if a license isn't required.

"Limited areas where flight is allowed" is actually very permissive; in class G airspace you could go anywhere. If you take a VHF radio and ADS-B out transponder with you and have done the radio exam from the PPL, in theory you could call up the Tower at a class B/C/D Airport and ask to land. At deltas they might actually let you.

Watching some videos of people flying these things on YouTube, it's almost like they want the aviation agencies to crack down on them.

I've seen; low level acrobatics, low flight over people, guys taking off with no training and no instruction.

Reckless airmanship leads to deaths, but the paramotorists often blame it on the equipment, because without any agency investigating, there is only speculation.

There is an electric paramotor, with four drone like blades. That thing looks awesome; instead of the sounds and vibration of a 2-stroke engine strapped to your back, it's silent when you let off the throttle to glide. And no worries about will that lawnmower start up again.

For some people there are more important things than a small risk of death. I suspect these risk-takers make up a disproportionate number of paramotorists

Well air law could be argued to prohibit doing that, as it just states that you shouldn't do anything dangerous (at least EU), Id argue flying without the proper knowledge definitely falls under that. However air law can be argued onto anything, i.e. in Germany you aren't legally allowed to throw a paper airplane without special insurance, which is generally not covered by most insurances.

I saw this guy flying one of these beyond the trash fence out at black rock. Just skimming along the ground then heading back up into the air. Looked like a lot of fun.

I read 'perambulators' and was very confused for a while.

I am personally seeing more and more electric skateboards here in the Bay Area. Not sure if they got cheaper or enough people bought and stuck with it so now I see more. Or Baeder-Meinhof.

I think they are stupid, but people queue for an escalator while a perfectly fine stair is empty right next to it. And while e-scooter as an industry like Lime and Bird is getting regulation all around the world, not sure about these skateboards, maybe with the exception of top speed.

This is a big one. Electric vehicles in general have a huge degree of latitude.

Not exactly early, but hopefully growing: gardening, minimalism, exercise, reading, writing, playing instruments, sports, cooking, dating, arts, crafts, and other similar activities. I'd say sex, but I don't know if I can distinguish the kinds that aren't regulated.

There are tons of regulations around gardening (illegal plant/seed imports in many states, regulations on how your yard looks, sale of produce); playing instruments (when/where/how loud); sports (depending on context); cooking (for public consumption or distribution, even if free); sex (although most of those are going away).

Sex regulation isn't going away. Look at SESTA/FOSTA

In the US, regulating sex was a priority that predates the government by a couple hundred years.

If you mean the geographical region corresponding to what is today the US, we can be confident that regulating sex was a priority for the last many thousands of years.

If you mean the cultural entity from which the US descends, we can be absolutely certain that regulating sex was a priority for the last many thousands of years. (We are generally happy to trace US regulations back to pre-colonial England; I don't see why we wouldn't do the same here.)

Some aspects of sex are definitely regulated, at least in some places. Look at laws making sodomy illegal, or laws defining penalties for adultery. Also laws about prostitution. Or "alienation of affection"[1] laws which, while not strictly about sex, often come up in the context of extra-marital affairs. Also, age of consent laws. And sex-offender registries, etc., etc.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alienation_of_affections

all of what you mentioned are regulated. certainly gardening (can't even import/export seeds), reading and writing are heavily censored nowadays, everything else has health/safety regulations sex trade is certainly banned in the US and heavily regulated everywhere

Naively I would say cybernetics. To my knowledge I don't think there are many regulations governing the types of things that people can implant in themselves. If you try to market a device as a cybernetic or make health claims about it then the FDA will come after you, but self implantation of hardware is likely not regulated much.

Are you using the right word?

cybernetics is "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine."

I have seen it use to mean classical control theory, machine learning, UX design, and general computers -- but this is the first time I see it being used for implants.

I guess you can say "cyborgization"?

Well what I mean is human augmentation with machines. I'm actually not sure what the proper word is.




There are absolutely huge regulations around what people can put in others though, even tattoos and piercings.

Cybernetics has nothing at all to do with cyborg implants.

Self implantation of hardware would mean the exercise of medicine without licence for it even if it's in yourself.

Something to consider in addition to unregulated industries, are industries where the regulatory burden can be isolated to a few buy-in technologies. An example is that the regulatory burden for an electronic product is greatly reduced (not eliminated) if the product runs on an approved power supply rather than directly from the AC mains.

Also, any business becomes regulated if it gets big enough to have investors or employees.

Is this a question of whether some law is on the books or is it a combination of regulation and enforcement?

For example, there are regulations in most states about ebikes, their motor capability and whether they have throttle.

But these are also very regularly entirely unenforced (nyc not withstanding)

It seems often interesting phenomena may have _some_ regulation but it is not remotely enforced. In my mind this meets the threshold of cool unregulated stuff.

Interesting—‘selective enforcement’ [1] or what I’ve heard described as ‘will to enforce the law’.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_enforcement

Yes, the status of marijuana in many states leads to selective enforcement which is often biased against minorities. [1]


Persuasion and behavior modification. Particularly in regards to labor regulations.

In Italy we have the "circumvention of incapable" norm against that. But your argument is about political damages in general.

Offensive cyber weapons and their relationship with international arms control agreements, or the lack thereof. Old school, stateless arms brokers like the infamous Viktor Bout are being disrupted by digital as much as hotels and taxis. Code doesn’t need fake air transport documents or any mothballed Soviet aircraft at all. Oh, and pretty much all of IoT as we’ll come to know it. Regs are coming fast and hard for crypto.

I don't have source data now but in Germany it is forbidden share/sell working exploits codes. In Poland it was introduced not long ago that it is criminal offence to have any offensive cyber tools. I guess there is also quite some regulations on export of tools from US, just like encryption tools.

So there are regulations, but they are unenforceable.

Good point. Thx for this comment.

Lucid dreaming is still unregulated.

“Thou Shall Not Dream the following:”

All manner of world record attempts. Speed record attempts seem particularly lethal.

Apologies for the listicle: https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-deadliest-attempts-break-worl...

There was a Last Week Tonight bit that Guinness helps some sketchy actors break records for PR, but won't certify records that might point that out.

For some definition of completely unregulated: the open ocean / international waters, use of the radio spectrum from those locations, space, virtual reality, software in general (though that's changing), and in much of the world education and religion.

Are there any legal restrictions on broadcasting from international Waters?

Nope, which is why a lot of pirate radios operated from just outside territorial waters.

Honesty. Acts of kindness. Ad blocking.

In many countries, honesty is regulated. Possibly also in the U.S.A., under the guise of employment law.

Not cool, its still widely permitted to burn stuff in your fireplace or garden in most parts of the world. Gathering wood in the forest or ordering a truckload of coal or taking your trash to burn for the annoyance of everyone else.

Can't speak to the rest of the world, but in the US, there are plenty of places where burning stuff in your fireplace (or wood burning stove[1]) or in your yard/garden is regulated. Regulations range from what you can burn, to when you can do it, to where you can do it (example: outside fires not permitted within 50 feet of a building, or something along those lines). Sometimes there are outright bans on all outside burning during certain periods of time, when - due to weather conditions - there is a heightened risk of wildfires.

[1]: https://www.epa.gov/burnwise/ordinances-and-regulations-wood...

In my country there are many restrictions even to do a barbecue in the summer because you could cause a forest fire. That and also you can't do fire in a city because urban fires are even worse that forest ones.

And about gathering wood in the forest, if you aren't the owner of the forest that is stealing.

1. General compute: this will become a big deal as quantum supremacy approaches, with more ability to compute there will be a general consensus in how to deal with individuals with incredible computing power. Since, it is very clear how that can be weaponized.

2. Consequently, companies like Amazon as challenged by Andrew Yang should be regulated upon inspecting their earnings. This might be more common in the future.

It's trivial to have quantum proof cryptography and is already possible today. I don't really know what you're talking about.

I don't particularly find these cool but you may.

A) Nootropics & performance enhancing/herbal supplements B) (regulation is attemped but limited on) Research Chemicals aka designer drugs

These are still fairly "wild west" but will not always be. I had a friend who manufactured herbal supplements and made a killing before selling his business and retiring. His factory was... interesting.

"made a killing" is an unfortunate choice of phrase in this instance.

Would love to know more not sure if you can share

Medium to high-power lasers. Every part of a firearm that's not the receiver. More military hardware than you'd think. Indian reservations. Bir Tawil.

Even consumer grade laser are regulated, they have legal limit in the power they can have. What you are going to use... It's completely regulated.


I just realized: Why aren't remote controlled robots more of a thing? Like surgeons who can do remote surgery, but for everyday tasks in a remote location. Vacuuming, doing laundry (because the tenant is elderly etc). I guess it's just too expensive still.

Replying to myself, since I find the idea of a cleaning person working from home amusing. I can imagine renting the robot from Home Depot, then hiring a third party to operate it.


While I was going to just laugh and move on, this is a weirdly unique opportunity to point out that Deldo is a thing: an emacs mode for teledildonics


Wouldn't be a teledildonics thread without someone mentioning qdot.

Another capability of emac that vim has no hope of catching up...

for which we are all truly grateful. You don't choose, the editor chooses you.

Why would/should it be regulated?

Why do you ask? OP's question isn't asking about things that should be regulated, just asking which ones aren't. We should have a similar discussion about things that are regulated that shouldn't be.

Or things that are unregulated or already regulated that would improve with model regulation and what that might be

arent they subject to all sorts of medical safety regulations?

Pretty much any sort of non-institutional educational topic is unregulated. Language-learning in particular is an interesting area, as you have a wide variety of individuals and companies providing different products.


Simple AC transformers. (ba boom cha!)

IT process frameworks. Make a new one up! We have Scrum, ITIL, TOGAF etc. for some inspiration.

You can become a Certified ScrumMaster (tm) in 16 hours, after getting a score of 36/50 in a 1 hour exam which you can take unlimited times.

No education level required. No high-school? No problem. Become a CSM today... for 2 years.

Scrum = pyramid scheme

One of the very few certifications that count has to be from Offensive Security [1]. Back in the day when I was considering a career in InfoSec, this was a huge motivation to learn new things.

[1] https://www.offensive-security.com

Why would an education level be required?

> IT process frameworks. Make a new one up! We have Scrum, ITIL, TOGAF etc. for some inspiration.

Totally agree. As unregulated as these are, they do have a chicken-and-egg problem. I can come up with a totally new framework/certification but getting people to accept it is going to be very difficult.

What about things like credit card rewards? Lots of companies just keep competing by giving better offers and cashbacks etc.

Also another thing is funding for startups. Smaller companies don't stand a chance against giants like Amazon because of the way they crush startups or just acquire them.

I used to work in the physics industry (cryogenics specifically). There was/is practically zero regulation at the scale we were at & lots of room for innovation. The market is pretty small though so you have to be at a company that is good at selling to academia.

I don't think CRISPR gene editing is regulated, except by convention in the scientific community, and by the ethics boards of individual labs/universities. But there may come a day when we realize this tool is too dangerous to leave unregulated.

Well, you can't run a human trial without IRB approval, you can't run an animal study without IACUC approval, and you can't introduce a therapeutic without FDA approval so I'd say that's pretty tightly regulated.

You could do it on yourself, if you were able to afford the necessary research and equipment

You could if you wanted to die an unpleasant death.

E-Scooter, car sharing and bike sharing are still not regulated everywhere

In London they are both illegal to ride on the pavement and the road, so essentially illegal. But it's completely unenforced. I assume it will be deregulated in the next couple years.

Can confirm. I live in Hungary and I can still ride my scooter even on the road.

I believe meditation is not regulated? Can one advertise the healing powers of their flavor of meditation willy nilly?

Same goes for some forms of alternative medicine, such as crystal and Reiki healing (I think)

Is exercise regulated? Seems like a similar category of activity.

I guess you could add that to the list of unregulated “stuff”

Some of these practices are forbidden by religious law, so unless you're not in touch with anyone religious it will be socially (passive-aggressively) regulated.

Smart things, like smart plugs, bulbs, locks or everything that is remotely controllable and manageable via App or Cloud.

It is not regulated what happens in the case that the vendor isn't able or willing to support those devices anymore. Keeping Apps up to date and new apps if new Mobile OSes arise or keep the light on in general. Right now it all depends on the goodwill of the vendor.

If the provider decides to not support anymore for whatever reason you have a smart brick!

(Gosh, I saw this post a few days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.)


Regulations exist for a reason. Complaining about regulations is like complaining that eating bacon 3 times a day isn't healthy. (Or, to put it another way, the people who complain about regulations are basically complaining that they can't screw people over. No sympathy here!)

Furthermore, this kind of thread implies that you're trying to do something unethical.

So what is it that you're really trying to do?

Regulations exist for many reasons, and it's more often due to either illogical, emotional demands of a voter base or a powerful incumbent using regulation to prevent competition, than it is any idealized notion of justice or safety.

I'll venture you're in a stable, post-industrial democracy such that you can treat regulations as having inherent justness or rightness. Imagine if the question had been asked by someone explicitly not in such a place, and was instead asked as "I live in northern Afganistan, what stuff won't get me in trouble with the sharia law interpretation of the regional warlords?" or "I live in North Korea, what stuff won't get negative attention from the party officials?". Would you say that every regulation in North Korea or in ISIS-controlled territories are about stopping people from "screwing people over"?

Regulations aren't inherently good or bad, it's just any rule enforced with the threat of government violence for non-compliance.

New and interesting things often start out completely unregulated. As people start to understand the disruptive potential, regulations will eventually emerge. It's a way to identify early opportunities, nothing more.

The thought of specifically seeking out unethical opportunities is actually kind of funny though.

Regulations are not laws of nature, they are bendable and enforce the will of some humans on other humans. I think u are confusing the two

Really interesting post. My suggestion: Hacking the stock market with AI's, algos, and current results from neural-science research, and large, accurate historical datasets and analytic models. There are lots of regs that mandate "prudent man" behaviour for agents and brokers, and myriad regs around capital required to execute or margin trades - but the domain of research-gathering prior to trade execution - is essentially wide open for "outsiders". Company officers face restrictions on when they can buy or sell company stock - but non-insiders have wide latitude, and in most cases are free to make buy/sell decisions whenever, and at any rate they wish to pay for. You are free to invest and speculate - and lose - your own money. And the neural-science on this is interesting. Most wealthy speculators in commodity markets, mostly lose. Most gamblers at casinos mostly lose. If you have wealth, you are able to give it away (or piss it away), without restriction, unless your family members can get you declared "mentally not competent". Also, environments where very complex regulations exist, allow and encourage "regulatory arbitrage" - structures can be created which take advantage of various regime differences. But the fact remains, few regulations exist which can effectively prevent someone giving away, or destroying their own wealth. (I recall a fellow in Sweden, who was ordered by a divorce court to turn over half his wealth to a former wife. He withdrew over $100,000 in life savings in cash, and carefully burned it all.) People face few restrictions in disposing of wealth. Charities exploit this fact relentlessly. Also, there are few restrictions on attending school, or gaining education - except in truly horrible societies, such as religiously deluded cultures, which for example, prevent women from gaining education to maintain breeding stock. But civilized societies encourage education, and often subsidize it. The existence of unlocked libraries (in ancient times, they were almost always locked), and our western-cultural concept of freely available science information, remains the greatest unregulated open space. It is also where the greatest opportunity resides. Western culture is unique, in that it "deregulated" knowledge acquisition, and scientific inquiry in the early 1600's. And there remains a risk of "re-regulation" of science inquiry. Imagine a world run by book-burning god-believers. You don't have to imagine. You can study the historical examples. Quite possible that science knowledge may be restricted and access regulated in the future. But for now, gaining knowledge, using that knowledge to get rich, and then giving away the wealth accumulated, remains an essentially unregulated activity.

tDCS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZyT_TiPSHw Make the device look cool and you could sell it to millions of gullible chess players and exam-taking students around the world.

Not sure if they fall in the e-bike category, but "electric scooters and hover boards."

Software engineering.

As far as I'm aware, natural medicines are still largely unregulated.

"Lawyers" everywhere.

Political damages.

C++ programming.

It is so effective, it should be illegal.

Almost all spot markets of anything.

Metals, minerals, lithium you name it. Feds only regulate their financial products derived from the current value of them (“derivatives”).

For craziness in spot markets check out cannabis and hemp.

Some is tightly regulated, some is still black-market and one is like "newly allowed" and driven by fad-market (CBD).

Fast and loose. Good times!

Why do you just seek out areas that lack regulation, as if there’s no such thing as an opportunity within a regulated field?

It's more of an exercise in trying to identify emerging areas that might be interesting to investigate. I definitely wouldn't limit myself to those types of ideas though.

Putting up ads on your house or property is widely permitted, for the annoyance of everyone passing by.

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