Re: Should we be developing nonlethal means of self-defense?
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 08:25:35 -0700

Jeff Davis, <>, writes:
> We have cell phones, pagers, GPS position locators, digital cameras, voice
> activated systems, and voice recognition systems, and probably some other
> technological capabilities that would be useful in the crime PREVENTION and
> interdiction system I'm thinking of. You see, it's one approach to seek a
> means--in the form of a device--to disable an attacker at the moment of
> attack--I have no argument with the utility of such a capabilty--but I'm
> thinking what if we could combine a limited version of this capability
> within a system whose larger strategy would be to create an environment
> where an attack would be so difficult that it would be prevented before it
> happened.

This seems to be a promising approach. Consider David Brin's idea of ubiquitous surveillance. Suppose every person is wearing some kind of omnidirectional video transmitter which is broadcasting at all times. Any criminal who assaults him will have his crime telecast.

After watching the Waco movie it was striking how much effort the FBI put into controlling the flow of information. That was one of their main efforts over the duration of the siege. One of the things that happened was the FBI sent in a camcorder so that the Branch Davidians could record personal messages to the outside world (they thought). However the movie would have greatly increased sympathy for the group and so it was never shown during the siege.

I believe the outcome would have been very different if the Davidians had been able to communicate freely with the media, and even more if the Davidians had been able to broadcast video showing their perspective during the attack. The FBI agents would have been infinitely more cautious.

Cameras wouldn't be a perfect defense; obvious countermeasures include wearing masks or otherwise hiding the identity of the attacker. Police officers have been known to cover their badge numbers with tape during certain enforcement operations. But evil thrives under cover of darkness, and shining light on the situation will go a long way towards preventing violence.