An Undo button for all seasons

This week, Google introduced ‘Undo Send‘ as a standard feature in Gmail. It’s more like an Undo Godsend for those times you accidentally email the wrong person, or notice a shocking typo just as you’ve sent the message, or suddenly realise your message was way too harsh and you should sleep on it and redraft it in the morning – or is that just me?

In such situations, ‘Undo Send’ gives you a few precious seconds to reconsider. Having used it in the development phase, it’s surprising how often it comes in handy – in fact, I sincerely hope that other companies will follow Google’s lead. ‘Undo’ should be part of every email application, especially at my work where every month or two someone accidentally sends a message to several thousands of users, before presumably being taken into an IT dungeon somewhere and flogged with a mouse cord.

But it’s not just in the realm of email where the ability to reverse things would be invaluable. Here are a few other social situations where Google, with their omnipotence, should be finding a way to allow us to take it back.

Drunk texts

It’s well and good to be able to rethink an email, but the messages which get us into the most trouble are the ones we transmit from our mobile phones late at night. And a few seconds to reconsider is nowhere near enough – we need to be able to expunge them from the record the following day, when we wake up to realise we’ve sent six increasingly desperate messages to that ex we swore we’d never contact again. Better still would be the ability to delete the photos your colleague posted on Facebook of you pouring goon into your mouth at 3am while zooming around the company car park in a shopping trolley.

Speeding tickets

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of getting stung for a few hundred bucks and three points, we could just be like ‘Whoops, my bad, lol’ and hit ‘Undo Dangerous Driving’? I guess this would only be viable if you could also undo the frequently terrible consequences of speeding, too – but Google is working on driverless cars, so who knows what they might have up their sleeve?


Not only are almost all tattoos based on life circumstances a likely future source of pain – Johnny Depp’s Winona Forever tattoo is instructive, even though he later wittily changed it to Wino Forever – but they look increasingly terrible as they fade. With a Tattoo Undo function, any tattoo can be temporary.


Let’s face it – in the affluent West, we’ve no self-control when it comes to food. Thanks to the greatest medical revolution in history, some of the most significant causes of death now relate to our habit of gorging ourselves. Since we seem unable to eat until full and then stop, an ‘Undo Stuffing Face’ function would be helpful after that one dumpling too many, and then the six more we eat after that. It’s certainly far more elegant than the Romans’ solution.

Asking somebody out

Not when it works, obviously, but there are few things more awkward than when you put it out there, and your target’s expression, mixing discomfort and pity, immediately makes it clear that you’ve made a terrible miscalculation. This is probably why most Australian courting rituals now involve sufficient alcohol to allow total deniability the next day.

Leadership challenges

It’s 23 June 2010. You, Julia Gillard, have the numbers to depose Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. You go ahead, but realise that the backlash will poison your time as leader, that instead of salvaging the next election you’ll struggle with a near-unworkable hung parliament, and that Rudd will hang around for years before gaining ultimate revenge. ‘Undo Spill’ would be a handy option at that point, wouldn’t it?

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Sequels are hard, they really are. Prequels are even harder, apparently – just ask Peter Jackson. But Episode I had Jake Lloyd’s bowl cut, that pointless podracing subplot, that strangely garbled Natalie Portman accent, those bizarrely racist aliens and the icing on the crapola cake that was Jar-Jar Binks. Many hardcore fans suggest you don’t even bother watching it anymore. Undo, undo, undo.

That time I went blonde for summer

Not only was it a mistake, but it was a mistake compounded by my decision to apply Sun-In rather than getting a proper dye job. I would have gladly pressed ‘Undo Hairstyle’ not only on my decision to do it, but my theory that it’d be oh-so wryly indifferent to my physical appearance. Instead I looked like a double idiot, having done a terrible job of executing a terrible idea.

Dinosaur parks

There’s apparently some flaw deep within the psyche of certain humans that inexorably tempts them to stock a remote island with genetically-engineered dinosaurs, no matter how many times this has previously ended in disaster. Survival generally requires a terrifying battle against the odds… wouldn’t it be easier just to click ‘Undo Playing God’?

Madge and Harold from Neighbours’ Christmas record, ‘Old-Fashioned Christmas’

Just undo, seriously.

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