Random Nerds believes that we as a collective internet body are capable of great things. We might even be able to save the world, if we don’t destroy it first.

Half-Baked Ideas to Save the World is where we’ll try and harness that power with probably terrible possibly decent hypotheses and schemes.


When I taught English at a Catholic school, the most uncomfortable day of the year was the day we covered Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale and I had to explain to these kids, for the first time, what pardoners did.

In case you were sleeping that day in European history class, pardoners were officers of the Church who sold indulgences, which in the Middle Ages were these things people could buy to basically pay their way out of the wages of sin.

Blank pages, signed by the Pope — just fill in your name and that thing you did (rates reasonable, all major credit cards accepted), and you still get to go to Heaven when you drop from the plague at twenty-five…


This obviously led to some unexpected backlashes – like the entire Protestant Reformation — but, even in their most corrupt, medieval indulgences sprang from an appreciable idea that, if it wasn’t moral, was at least honest:

Sometimes people just do bad things.

We do them because we’re selfish, or lazy, or because it seemed funny at the time.

Sometimes, we kind of suck…


And the medieval indulgence, once thought to be a relic of the past, just might be an idea whose time has come again.

It’s already apparent that, in 2016, we’re coming back around to trading money for the chance to do something bad consequence-free in a big way. We’re not only buying carbon credits to make up for our ridiculous carbon emissions, but trading them on the carbon market like any other commodity. We’re paying princely sums to conservation efforts for the chance to hunt endangered species, and letting banks get off the hook for their role in the mortgage crisis by paying us off with six-figure fines.

So, why don’t we take better advantage of mankind’s consistent moral failings and universal propensity to rationalize them away with financial self-flagellation?

I’m thinking we need an app, something that would radically disrupt the Sin Industry, hooked up to CharityNavigator’s API (defined in computer science textbooks as “that thing apps can hook up to”). Enter the crime you wish to commit, and the app would automatically Venmo an amount commensurate with your wickedness to a specifically-matched, highly-rated charity; slightly offsetting your small act of evil in a tangible, impactful way.

Big crimes, like murder, would probably still be outside the price range for most people (unless you’re willing to really scrimp and save#). Smaller crimes, though, could be entirely wiped from your conscience for the price of a mocha frappuccino.


Let’s look at some examples, shall we?



Your pre-app, uncomfortable rationalization: Look at those fuzzy little paws! Sure, puppies in pet stores usually come from inhumane puppy mills and are poorly cared for and casually euthanized, but, I mean, it’s not like I’m spending much money supporting that system. At least I’m not buying one of those annoying “Who Rescued Who?” stickers. Those people are the real monsters, amirite?

Your post-app, world-improving indulgence: The Animal Welfare Institute is a 4-star rated charity dedicated to “eliminating pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans” (which may or may not include hugs). Shoot five bucks their way and go back to shopping for Halloween costumes for your genetically-engineered Frankenpup in peace.


There, isn’t that better?




Your pre-app, uncomfortable rationalization: Yeah, yeah, I know an enormous amount of the cocoa Big Candy conglomerates purchase is sourced from plantations that depend on child slavery or the exploitation of poverty, and that Hershey’s is on the bad list. But I need s’mores, and fair trade chocolate is super expensive. You see my dilemma.

Your post-app, world-improving indulgence: Human Rights Watch is a 4-star rated charity dedicated to ending exactly the kind of ruthless crimes against humanity that made your s’mores possible.


Send them some cash and be done with the whole ugly issue before your marshmallow is even finished toasting.




Your pre-app, uncomfortable rationalization: Look, I saw that documentary just like everybody else did. I know that marine parks habitually mistreat and abuse orcas and dolphins that are intelligent enough to teach others, show self-awareness, speak different languages, and basically do all of the stuff humans point to when explaining why we’re too special to live in tanks and do dances for anchovies. But I’ve got these great seats in the Splash Zone, and I want to get wet! It’s not like anyone would even care about these dumb animals if marine parks didn’t tell them to.

Your post-app, world-improving indulgence: The Friends of the Earth have a four-star rating on CharityNavigator. Send them a few bucks and rest easy knowing they’re dedicating their lives to making sure the ocean remains clean and habitable for all of the whales that aren’t balancing balls on their noses while you laugh and clap along.






Your pre-app, uncomfortable rationalization: I get this Presidential race is looking closer than anyone could possibly have expected, and even conservatives are predicting disaster if Trump wins, but picking the lesser of two evils would mean giving in to the Establishment, and that would make me feel all gross.

Your post-app, world-improving indulgence: The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a top-rated charity seeking to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Give them a tip, and rest easy in the knowledge they might manage to get a couple of nukes off the table before Trump decides to drop them all on Vermont.


“You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!” – Apocalypse


There’s something to this app.

Yes, it’s the slackiest of slactivism, and any good a $5 donation would do could be more easily accomplished by just, ya know, not committing said crime in the first place. But in a world where we see a Facebook Like as a significant contribution to a crisis, $5 is a massive upgrade.

Just like its creator, this app finds true strength in its very laziness; that is what gives it power.