Re: Should we be developing nonlethal means of self-defense?
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 17:00:46 EDT

Jeff Davis wrote:

>Great post Glen. Truly extropian. What really impresses me about it is
>the dynamic optimism (to use an extropian mantra of sorts). With the
>lethality issue disposed of, people can readily agree to work together to
>potentiate the value in the idea. This, in contrast to the paralytic
>divisiveness and acrimony that characterizes the g*n modality.

Thanks Jeff, that is my hope.

> I had a similar thought about non-lethal warfare--enemy soldiers
>incapacitated and captured rather than, well, you know,...mutilated and
>killed. That thought originated from the idea that, after all, soldiers
>are really just pawns, essentially innocent victims, so that a military
>technology which was effective without being lethal would be very appealing
>from a moral standpoint. However, that's an idea for another thread.

I agree that from an ideal viewpoint being able to simply incapacitate would be preferable to killing in war. However, it would be even more difficult to do than personal defense due to the scale, duration, and intensity of conflict. Ideal would be a weapon which could cause your opponent to lapse into a coma until you gave them a counteragent or until a really long time has past (days, weeks, months). The only agent I can think of like this at present would be a very long acting barbituate (perhaps mixed with other agents to inhibit metabolism of the drug). Of course, in a weapon of war your aim would be to minimize death, not rule it out. Of course, the problem of using such an agent is delivery and penetration of defenses. Useful thing about high energy weapons (kinetic or otherwise) is that the same effect is used to penetrate defenses and inflict damage.

>The object is security. Security for individuals individually, certainly.
>But, no need to stop there. Security for many individuals, when added up,
>becomes security for the larger community. This makes a good thing better.
>So the "security device" in the possession of any one individual would in
>fact be only one of many such devices--in effect a security system composed
>of large number of devices--spread widely across the population. Perhaps
>you can guess where I'm going with this. The effectiveness of the device
>can be multiplied many times over if, instead of being a single isolated
>item, it is in fact a single "node" of a substantially larger system. And
>I do mean "node"--as in networked.
>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

I agree, but suspect it will take a long time to work out the kinks in such a system. Also, I think such an effort in a free society would minimize, but not eliminate, the ability to commit a crime.

>The device shoots a mixed bag of many little pellets, each of which has a
>hollow core with either anesthetic, a bit of dye, or some sticky smoke
>generating capability. The device is also a camera, so when it is
>triggered, it takes a video picture of the target/assailant,which it
>broadcasts along with a GPS location of the device, to all of the nearby
>nodes/devices which immediately beep like a pager alerting their owners of
>problem "nearby". Once triggered the device activates an audio channel
>which allows the owner to talk to any and all who might be available to
>help. Also, when the device is triggered, it creates a huge cloud of
>smoke--probably projected from "the barrel" which swirls between the owner
>and assailant and around the owner, like the ink cloud of an octopus while
>at the same time giving out with a howling banshee of a screaming sound.
>Now imagine that everyone has one of these, and that they are all networked
>into a larger system which include community security cameras, home
>televisions, all local computer networks, automobiles, and, of course, the
>police. I'm talking the high tech version of the old "hue and cry".
>Granted, such a device is likely to be severly limited in "stopping power"
>once an attack has been initiated, but I wonder if it wouldn't created an
>environment where such attacks would be substantially pre-empted.

Interesting ideas, and may be useful in some situations. My main concern, of course, would be reliability and maintenance of stopping power. On this point I am adamant; for a nonlethal weapon to be adequate it must be equivalent to lethal weaponry in stopping power, otherwise it is not something that I would accept. When it is the life of myself and others on the line, I need the best guarantee that I will succeed, even if it means increased risks of accidental lethal shootings. I can see how raising the hue and cry would be useful in civilian situations against common criminals.

>It goes without saying that anyone who wants to should take this idea and
>run with it. For example, the cloud of smoke could be tear gas, nausea
>gas, or some super stink bomb--powerful enough to disrupt the attack--yet,
>happily, harmless. Improvements anyone?

I think it will require more than disrupting an attack....I want my assailant down for enough time for me to make more permanent arrangements (hog-tie, call the paddy wagon, etc.).Really what we need is either a means of rendering an attacker paralytic, unconscious, or otherwise completely unable to act. I also hope someone can come up with some improvements. Thanks for the imput, Jeff.

Glen Finney