Content warning: torture.

Torture is deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on someone with the purpose of punishment, extracting a confession, or getting information out of them. Even though torture is illegal under international law, many governments continue to use it. 

Today I'm borrowing jacobjacob's delightful format to pose a challenge of my own: 

Tell me 50 ways to (help) protect people from torture.

Bonus points for solutions making use of math/programming/machine learning. Boring solutions that only make a small dent in the problem are fine. Outlandish solutions are also fine. Please stay within the realm of physical possibility, though. If you are unsure if the idea is physically possible, it's also fine.


  • 50 answers. Shoot for 1 hour. 

To beat the challenge, you need to come up with 50 ideas. 

However, the 1 hour limit is a stretch goal. It’s fine if it takes longer to get to 50. 

If you had some great ideas but didn't make it to 50, you didn't beat the challenge, but I still want to know the ideas!

  • Post your answers inside of spoiler tags. (How do I do that?)
  • Celebrate other’s answers. 

This is really important. Sharing babble in public is a scary experience. I don’t want people to leave this having back-chained the experience “If I am creative, people will look down on me”. So be generous with those upvotes. 

If you comment on someone else’s post, focus on making exciting, novel ideas work -- instead of tearing apart worse ideas. 

Reward people for babbling -- don’t punish them for not pruning. 

I might remove comments that break this rule. 

  • Not all your ideas have to work.

It may be hard to predict the effect an intervention will have on society. Did you know that Richard Gatling, inventor of the machine gun, thought his invention would decrease the number of war deaths? So, I just want anything that sounds plausible. It is OK if the solution only works in some scenarios, or helps indirectly. You can ask yourself,  what are people already doing about the problem? How can they be helped? On the other hand, what was never tried before?

  • My main tip: when you’re stuck, say something stupid. 

If you spend 5 min agonising over not having anything to say, you’re doing it wrong. You’re being too critical. Just lower your standards and say something, anything. Soon enough you’ll be back on track. 


Now, go forth and babble! 50 ways of fighting torture!


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4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:43 AM

I think the question is really underspecified. Who are we defending from torture? Most people in the world are not at risk of being tortured in the first place. What's the goal?

I think it's still doable, and might have a go at it myself. For example, you could say things like: 

Pass better human rights legislation or come up with anti-pain drugs that make it hard to impose suffering on people. 

Yes, and it should be actionable for an ordinary citizen like me. So the strategy should also explain how do I get into power or persuade people in power to pass better human rights legislation.

It's doable, I've done it myself, though it took me more than an hour.

The goal is to defend people who are at risk. Mostly third-world country prisoners and dissidents. Here's some reports about my country, for example.