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March 08, 2005

Comments

Oh, thanks for posting that. I tried to echo it from Suburban Guerrilla last week but my lj was in a read-only mode tantrum.I even had this cool title: "I set my phaser from Stun to Writhe-In-Pain".
Yup, it's a brave new world. Robot soldier are going to use the Pain-Phaser, kinda like the *bad guys on Farscape.

*Obviously, the ones who use pain phasers ARE bad guys. Because it is patently evil.

Well, making people suffer via some "pain ray" that leaves them otherwise intact, is presumably preferable to making them suffer via removing limbs or disabling major organs or burning them with napalm.

It does seem that there'd be an easier &, um, less painful way, but even this yellow-dog liberal can't see the "harm" in exploring such a weapon.

In any event, this is coming from the same Pentagon that thinks SDI will work, so probably there's little to fear. Pain experts out there, please correct me.

(Votermom: The bad guys who use pain phasers use them for the hell of it, right? I'm at a loss why this is worse than a .357 magnum.)

It depends on what the alternatives are. If the choice is between killing them and incapacitating them with pain, I am not going to lose sleep over choosing not to just kill or maim them.

Votermom: The bad guys who use pain phasers use them for the hell of it, right? I'm at a loss why this is worse than a .357 magnum.

It's the torture potential. Now you can cause pain without leaving any evidence that you caused pain. If there's no evidence, then obviously you didn't cause pain at all. Think of the interrogation possibilities.

Anderson: what I don't understand is why 'making them suffer' is a goal at all. Incapacitating them, yes. Preventing them from doing us harm, yes. But making them suffer, no. If the idea is to use this in order to incapacitate people, we already have ways of doing that. Think of tear gas, or some longer-lasting variant.

And, as the article says, there is always the possibility of using this for torture. A few years ago I would have just dismissed that thought, on the grounds that my government would never do such a thing. (Really. I am not hopelessly naive, either.) Not now.

"Think of tear gas, or some longer-lasting variant."

The problem is that tear gas isn't a super effective tool compared to a pointable ray-type thing. Gas disperses quickly, it is tough to get to exactly where you want it, it hits nearby people you don't want to hit, some of the gases are flammable, etc.

It's the torture potential. Now you can cause pain without leaving any evidence that you caused pain. If there's no evidence, then obviously you didn't cause pain at all. Think of the interrogation possibilities.

Let me just say I'd have to see a great deal more about this before I'd be willing to accept it. Anything involving lasers and bursts of plasma when they hit something solid is going to cause physical damage, I'd think.

And, hey, this is happening here in Orlando? I may have to pass this on to the local attack journalist.

According to the article, it's meant to be used on rioters. I would think that that would argue against a pointable thing, actually. And having once been accidentally caught up in a riot and tear-gassed, it seemed to do a very good job of stopping the melee.

But the general point is: pain would seem to me to be one of the least desirable ways of doing crowd control. All the suffering, not particularly good as an incapacitant. And, of course, the potential for abuse.

Anything involving lasers and bursts of plasma when they hit something solid is going to cause physical damage, I'd think.

I agree. I imagine it might seriously damage/kill children and seniors, too, before it damages able-bodied adults.
We might find out more soon, if it really is slated to come out in 2007.

Why are they asking to "cause the maximum pain possible" -- personally I'd feel better about it if they were asking to cause the minimum amount of pain that would reliably incapacitate someone.

Also, a bigger fear for me than governmental abuse is that something like this could fall into the wrong hands.

The goal is most likely incapaciation. Something that makes your nerves not work at all would most likey be fatal because it would make your heart and breathing stop.

Pain can be incapacitating so I can see it being used that way.

Pleasure may or may not be incapacitating but a pleasure ray would be an interesting party favor.

Pleasure may or may not be incapacitating but a pleasure ray would be an interesting party favor

it would be made illegal before it ever hit the market.

Also, a bigger fear for me than governmental abuse is that something like this could fall into the wrong hands.

There's a difference? ;7

Pleasure may or may not be incapacitating but a pleasure ray would be an interesting party favor.

*cackle* That would actually be a neat weapon. Make the rioters so happy they can't be vioent. heh. I love it.

What is pepper spray, other than an organically maximal way to inflict pain? The whole point of pepper spray is to incapacitate via pain.

I imagine it might seriously damage/kill children and seniors, too, before it damages able-bodied adults.

Maybe. I imagine, though, that if it peels a layer of skin off someone, it'll peel a layer off everyone.

Now, research into how to properly make and use a tasp, that'd be effective. Maybe I could volunteer...

"It would be wonderful to find a way of doing this without causing our enemies harm or pain"

How about convincing them that we are reasonable people who would rather work with them for the benefit of all rather than destroying one another? I know that there are people who will never be convinced that the US or the west is anything other than evil, but surely if we help all those we can and oppress none we will convince those who can be convinced. And surely the majority would rather have peace than war, if peace can be accomplished without loss of their own country or culture. War, even war that causes few fatalities, does not bring wealth to a society, it justs redistributes the wealth. Peace and mutual co-operation can strengthen both sides--look at France and Germany now versus in 1946, for example. Ok, I'm done being ridiculously utopian, you may now return to your regularly scheduled realpolitik.

As a torture device for prisoners it sounds ideal. As riot control, it wouldn't take long before everyone knew that a roll of aluminum foil and you're shielded from EM weapons. Tear gas or pepper gas is much harder to block.

"there is always the possibility of using this for torture"

Possibility? How about near certainty?

Ah the agonizer. Now we can be the evil federation. Oh joy.

The problem is that it isn't a choice between using the agonizer or a .357. This is a new tool which will be used in new ways. It probably is already being used for torture by our government. And it will be sold as more humane/less damaging than beatings...

votermom: "Now you can cause pain without leaving any evidence that you caused pain. If there's no evidence, then obviously you didn't cause pain at all."

Actually, even if they do manage to develop the ideal "pain ray" that leaves no physical trace, there would still be psychological traces that could be documented to demonstrate that torture occured. If that's any comfort.

We seem to be doing a bang-up job of torturing people without pain rays. And I don't think "leaving physical evidence" is something our torturers are worrying about.

Though I do wonder whether some Pentagon lawyer thinks this gadget would evade some international standard of decency.

Sounds awfully like an item from Hitler's wish list in March 1945, though.

probably is already being used for torture by our government.

It certainly is already being used to torture the animals they're using as test victims.

For purposes of executing a war, I see it as a particularly hopeful step up. It is instinctual to recoil from something like this, because of our innate feelings about pain, but think about it rationally. . would you rather we execute a 'pain pulse' that causes extreme suffering in a few thousand people, or drop a MOAB that almost assuredly kills them all?

Also, for purposes of the torture debate, this is another example of the danger of arguing a good conclusion from bad premises. If the basis for torture being wrong was that it might leave a mark or might cause permanent physical damage, this technology undoes your argument. Three cheers for torture. If, however, you believe torture is wrong because the calculated infliction of suffering on another human being for purposes of extracting information from them is morally wrong, as I do, then this changes nothing.

Some researchers wired mice so that when they hit a sensor, current went directly to the pleasure center of the brain. The mice would hit the sensor over and over until they starved to death.

The idea of a "pleasure weapon" shows up in some books by Larry Niven. There are addicts who've had surgery to add a skull socket into which they can trickle current for pleasure, and there's a device that does this at a distance. People subjected to the device (as a prank, for instance) sometimes become addicts.

Goodness!

Next thing you'll tell me they're researching weapons that actually maim or even [gasp!] kill people.

Next thing you'll tell me they're researching weapons that actually maim or even [gasp!] kill people.

Lots of folks are missing the point here, I think.

Imagine this weapon in Hussein's hands.

Does it scare you now?

Edward: It's scary enough imagining such a weapon in Bush's hands.

As a torture device for prisoners it sounds ideal. As riot control, it wouldn't take long before everyone knew that a roll of aluminum foil and you're shielded from EM weapons. Tear gas or pepper gas is much harder to block.

Huh. Tin foil hats now actually will protect you from government rays.

Good one, Grommit! Yeah, tasps and neuronic whips. What fun.

It scares me a lot less than a nuclear bomb in the hands of Iran's mullahs.

Lots of folks are missing the point here, I think.

Imagine this weapon in Hussein's hands.

A Weapon of Mass NoDestruction?


Call me a nut.
[waits]
But I'd prefer a temporary shot of pain over a bullet or RPG. YMMV.

Macallan: "Next thing you'll tell me they're researching weapons that actually maim or even [gasp!] kill people."

My point wasn't, oh heavens, they're going to HURT people! I know that. The point is: doing things that hurt people in order to achieve something else is one thing. Causing pain for its own sake is another. Causing pain, per se, is not a military goal. Incapacitating enemies is. So why are we doing this?

I mentioned this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. It's fairly obvious that the boys at Area 51 have finally managed to reverse engineer the technology found in Goa'uld hand device.

We've got the U.S. Air Force working on a giant airborne laser cannon, other branches of the military working on agonizers, and the army working on combat robots. It's almost as if we're becoming a sci-fi evil empire.

That wasn't an option, though, Sebastian.

The choice was: have the weapon (and possibly have someone like Hussein get ahold of it) or not have it at all. The fact the the Iranians are as close as they are to getting the nuclear bomb should suggest Hussein-like monsters WILL get their paws on this maximum pain raygun.

Imagine this weapon in Hussein's hands.

My immediate imagining was this weapon in the LAPDs hands.

Call me a nut.
[waits]
But I'd prefer a temporary shot of pain over a bullet or RPG. YMMV.

It's a false choice -- assuming this weapon causes no permanent damage, the authorities would use it in many situations when they wouldn't use a bullet.

Interesting to hear you'd rather get whacked with this weapon than play a bit of D&D tho -- are you more of a board-game person?

Is the new definition of "conservative" mean "being in favor of torture weapons"? Not exactly what I'd have expected to have been favored by either Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, my all-time favorite conservatives. Tolkien would have expected this from Saruman or the Numenoreans in their downward spiral.

Riot control can be accomplished by choices other than bullets or the worst imaginable pain, I think.

Hey KenB my favorite Role Playing Game right now is World of Warcraft but I don't have a personal favorite Rocket Propropelled Grenade.

So why are we doing this?

The U.S. has had for some time a large research effort into non-lethal weapons, something I think should be applauded rather than a cause of worry. The only means now to control violent riots are bullets, fire hoses, chemicals, and physical force. All of which cause pain, but also can cause much worse.

The point isn't pain for pain's sake, but a non-lethal means to stop and disincentive advance by large mob. This weapon, like the baton can be abused, as can any weapon. Unlike the abuse of gun however, hopefully nobody dies and there will be lots of people left alive to sue the government.

Good point Mac.

"But I'd prefer a temporary shot of pain over a bullet or RPG. YMMV."

Are you sure? Imagine Alberto Gonzales shipping a few of these out to Guantanamo. I'm sure they'd find out by experimentation how long it takes to kill someone with a "harmless" nocipceptor stimulation device. Still find it preferable to a bullet?

Imagine Alberto Gonzales shipping a few of these out to Guantanamo.

Looks like you're doing plenty enough imagining for the both of us.

But I'd prefer a temporary shot of pain over a bullet or RPG. YMMV.

So would I. But I think a weapon like this is going to be so useful and easy to use that we may end up seeing it utilized far more than rpgs or bullets, especially against those in custody.

You might want to note, Mac, that this causes maximum pain possible. The fact that it leaves you undamaged will be, I'm sure, not much consolation to those experiencing it.

You might want to note, Mac, that this causes maximum pain possible.

You might want to note that "maximum pain" is a headline and the writer's characterization, rather than the actual intent of the weapon.

So let me try one more time: I support research into non-lethal weapons. Every so often I hear vague reports that the military is testing this or that recreational rug for use as a weapon; usually I oppose it, but only because in most cases these reports are about things that violate the chemical weapons ban, which I support. But the idea of replacing shooting people with using a weapon that makes them drop their guns are stare at their hands and say, 'oh, man, I've never really looked at fingers before', or start giggling and eating enormous quantities of MREs, is fine by me.

What is not fine is trying to figure out how to cause the maximum possible amount of pain. As KenB asked earlier, "Why are they asking to "cause the maximum pain possible" -- personally I'd feel better about it if they were asking to cause the minimum amount of pain that would reliably incapacitate someone." I'd feel better too - for one thing, it would indicate that their goal was to, well, incapacitate people, not to make them suffer as much as possible.

There are other incapacitating weapons out there. The question is, why this one?

You might want to note that "maximum pain" is a headline and the writer's characterization, rather than the actual intent of the weapon.

From the article:

The contract, heavily censored before release, asks researchers to look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible. Studies on cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death.
I suppose that you might have some inside information that isn't revealed in by the writer, or another source of information than New Scientist. If so, this would be a good time to reveal the true intent of the weapon, because it sure sounds like maximum possible pain is the actual intent.

It would be wonderful to find a way of doing this without causing our enemies harm or pain: for instance, something that caused all their weapons to vanish, leaving them staring in bewilderment at their suddenly empty hands or sitting on a road wondering where their tank went. Maybe a device that made them freeze in place, the way people used to do on Star Trek, allowing us to gather them up and remove them to a secure location before unfreezing them.

I am really busy at the moment (just passing by), but reading this I have to link to this BBC article:

The US military investigated building a "gay bomb", which would make enemy soldiers "sexually irresistible" to each other, government papers say.

Other weapons that never saw the light of day include one to make soldiers obvious by their bad breath.

The US defence department considered various non-lethal chemicals meant to disrupt enemy discipline and morale.

The 1994 plans were for a six-year project costing $7.5m, but they were never pursued.

The US Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, sought Pentagon funding for research into what it called "harassing, annoying and 'bad guy'-identifying chemicals".

The plans were obtained under the US Freedom of Information by the Sunshine Project, a group which monitors research into chemical and biological weapons.


Macallan: the article quotes the contract: "The contract, heavily censored before release, asks researchers to look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible." -- A nociceptor is a "pain receptor: a nerve ending that selectively responds to painful stimuli, causing the sensation of pain" (Encarta dictionary), or (if you prefer a more complicated definition) "a receptor for pain caused by injury to body tissues; the injury may be from physical stimuli such as mechanical, thermal, or electrical stimuli, or from chemical stimuli such as the presence of a toxin or an excess of a nontoxic substance." (Dorland's medical dictionary). So 'peak nociceptor activation' is maximum pain.

"What is not fine is trying to figure out how to cause the maximum possible amount of pain."

Perhaps the author cherry picked a single sentence in a research solicitation and reworded it for "editorial" effect?

Macallan: it's not a solicitation; it's a contract. And do you have any reason to believe that the author of the article rewrote the part I mentioned, which is in quotes?

Hmm, "maximum pain." I imagine that would be "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

So, we can rest assured, Alberto Gonzales would disapprove use of such a weapon since it would be torture even by the definition found in the Bybee memo.

Perhaps the author cherry picked a single sentence in a research solicitation and reworded it for "editorial" effect?

Maybe it doesn't really mean what it says.

I'm willing to promote the 'look at their finger' weapon if it exists as a better alternative. But I don't think the LSD gun is likely to work as well.

Macallan: it's not a solicitation; it's a contract. And do you have any reason to believe that the author of the article rewrote the part I mentioned, which is in quotes?

The author rewrote the research parameter as "maximum pain" and characterized that as intent. The research parameter, "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation" is presented without any context. In fact, in order to make a non-lethal weapon that didn't cause maximum pain would you need to know what are the optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation? If you didn't know that how could you calibrate the weapon?

I argue the notion that electronically-induced maximal pain would leave no physical traces. It might not leave external scars, but there would be biochemical changes - endorphins, maybe; heat-stress proteins, almost certainly - that would be possibly be detectible.

Anyway, it does look as though the latest brief interval of the US trying to set an example of a Better Way to the world has flickered out.

The author's paraphrase of "evoke peak nociceptor activation" as "cause the maximum pain possible" is accurate, and one obvious reason for paraphrasing it is that not everyone knows what nociceptors are. (I do, but that's because it's part of my job.)

You would have to know how to evoke peak nociceptor activation in order to know how not to cause maximum pain (I mean, literally: to avoid causing that degree of pain which is the maximum possible, you'd have to know what the maximum was), but you wouldn't have to know that in order to design an incapacitating weapon that didn't cause excessive tissue damage.

Is it normal debating procedure to say that the source being discussed is lying, and reality happens to be what's convenient to the debator's argument whithout having to provide alternative citations?

If so, I gotta change my tactics.

War is indeed hell, but this does not look to me like a very good battlefield weapon. Unless they presume some sort of permanent incapacitation, ray is turned off, enemy picks up their guns. The affect a brigade long enough to safely capture them would require a lot of portable power. Maybe it goes thru walls.

An example of a good battlefield weapon would be one that permanently blinds while leaving them otherwise unharmed, making them deadweight on their fellows. Multi-directional dispersion difficult, tho. Hmmm. A heat device tuned to eye fluid? I am sure Pentagon R&D is doing its very best.

2007? Maybe this can be called the anti-Sistani or anti-Mariyah(?) weapon. Designed to make sure Americans aren't driven out by massive protests in Iraq. Darn Sistani called out a couple 100k, forced elections and saved Sadr. I would not be surprised if a crash program had not been started.

The author's paraphrase of "evoke peak nociceptor activation" as "cause the maximum pain possible" is accurate

Actually, you have no way of knowing that. Why was "evoke peak nociceptor activation" sought as a research aim? You don't know and I doubt the author does either; there could be non-nefarious reasons for seeking that data.

Macallan: I just meant that the phrase "evoke peak nociceptor activation" does in fact mean "cause the maximum pain possible". That doesn't require a knowledge of what the aims of the contract were. That's why I said that in principle, it could be that the researchers wanted to know what the maximum was in order to avoid it. (Simply causing as little pain as was needed to incapacitate would not require knowing the maximum, but avoiding the maximum per so would.)

I just meant that the phrase "evoke peak nociceptor activation" does in fact mean "cause the maximum pain possible".

Yeah, I understood that. Just wanted to clarify that research aims are not necessarily the same as program intent -- which the author and headline, intentionally or unintentionally, were implying.

But I don't think the LSD gun is likely to work as well.

This is in tinfoil hat territory, but I remember some discussion about the widespread availability of anti-depressants below market prices in Iraq, and linkages to previous CIA research into insurgency repression. As I said, tinfoil stuff, but I'm wondering if anyone else remembers this.

"widespread availability of anti-depressants below market prices in Iraq"

I remember Riverbend talking about the first half at least twice. Did some searching thru Baghdad Burning, but was unable to find a quote to bring back. Don't remember any conspiracy-mongering from her, cheap prescription drugs just seemed part of Iraq socialized medicine. And Valium is cheap.

Going go to Sistani.com and find the jurisprudence. Alcohol bad, pot bad, chemical good?

Rioters? Will this weapon be available to domestic law enforcement as well as the military in occupied lands?

The gay bomb thing is pretty funny, don't y'all think?Kind of a general purpose Orgasmitron. Except that I'm hetero and support women in combat so would like something a little less, I don't know, politically correct, and a little more multi-directional.

Actually, it would be cool to aim the weapon at Norfolk, Virginia and watch the U.S. Navy and the Robertson cult go at it in a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" bacchanelia (sp.?) It'd be Truman Capote meets Gary Bauer, with a little Ensign Pulver thrown in for yucks.

I'd like a weapon that makes the enemy, heck, make everybody read Proust instead of slaughter each other, but, hey, maximum pain is so much funnier.

"make everybody read Proust instead of slaughter each other, but, hey, maximum pain is so much funnier."

Having read Proust, would be a tough call. How long would the max pain last? Suffered with Albertine & Guermantes for three months.

Thanks Bob comforting to know that either I haven't slipped into complete senescence (or that we share the same delusions ;^) Will try to find some stuff about it in lieu of working.

with a little Ensign Pulver thrown in for yucks

I am now wondering about the hidden homosexual subtext of McHale's navy...

I like the idea of a pleasure/euphoria ray.

Blast the Enemy with THC Vapors! - and, if you want suffering? Just withhold the pizza.

Bob, I am disappointed you find Proust painful.

Let's change it to "Atlas Shrugged". ;)

Incidentally, I wrote about this article five days ago, although admittedly with a different take.

"I remember Riverbend talking about the first half at least twice. Did some searching thru Baghdad Burning, but was unable to find a quote to bring back."

LJ, Bob, I remember this entirely clearly, as well. It was quite some time ago, though; at least four months, most likely significantly more, I think.

LJ, Bob, I remember this entirely clearly, as well. It was quite some time ago, though; at least four months, most likely significantly more, I think.

That tracks with my recollection; I'd say October at the earliest, more likely the end of summer.

[Of course, now someone's going to shag a cite from last week proving us all wrong but hey, life is hard sometimes.]

Ok. Let's pretend that the country sponsoring the pain phaser research is North Korea. It's stated aim is for riot control. Does that in anyway affect anyones' view of the research?

Random question, especially for anyone who supports this research: Would you volunteer to be a test subject for this device? Suppose you were offered $300 for allowing yourself to get zapped with it for, say, 5 seconds, filling out a questionaire on what it felt like, and being monitered for ill effects for the next 72 hours or so (the monitering might also involve minor pain such as blood draws.) Would you do it? If not, why not? What if $3000 were offered? I have no particular point to make, by the way: I'm mostly asking out of morbid curiosity...although I do think that the protocol I've described would not pass an insitutional review board.

By the way, I think that the "pain phaser" would not be useful as a riot control device for the same reasons as someone described earlier in the thread that it would not be useful as a combat weapon: Using it on a crowd would require an enormous amount of energy and could probably be sustained only a short amount of time. When that time is up you now have an extremely angry crowd of rioters. Additionally, pain is, of course, a biochemical process. The substances that produce the sensation of pain can be used up if a cell is stimulated adequately (that's how capsaisin works). So you might have an extremely angry crowd that is temporarily immune to pain...Not the ideal situation for quelling a riot.

Let's pretend that the country sponsoring the pain phaser research is North Korea. It's stated aim is for riot control. Does that in anyway affect anyones' view of the research?

Given how North Korea would deal with a riot today, this would be a step up. I'm trying to imagine a government that routinely starves its citizens to death spending money on non-lethal weapon research. Having trouble getting my arms around that one.

Mac,

Heh.

I'm trying to imagine a government that routinely starves its citizens to death spending money on non-lethal weapon research.

I don't know; I can easily imagine Kim Jong Il believing that death is too easy for some people, preferring instead to cause them to suffer. After all, "non-lethal" is not inherently a moral improvement over "lethal"; consider the "non-lethal" punishment of being tortured for the rest of your artificially prolonged life.

consider the "non-lethal" punishment of being tortured for the rest of your artificially prolonged life.

I think the technical term for that in North Korea is "resident".

I think the technical term for that in North Korea is "resident".

Exceedingly droll. The whole topic of creating weapons to inflict pain, and of being tortured for life, is so amusing.

People are scary.

I'm alarmed by the uses research are put to, at times, and far less often by research. I'm extremely concerned with the uses of torture; I'm considerably less concerned with theoretical possibilities of what tools might be used. The tools really aren't the point.

And inflicting pain is, in my view, vastly more moral, per se, than mutilating someone or putting their life in danger, if there's a choice.

Knives can be used in the most horrible of ways. So can paper clips. And pliers. And electricity. And a bathtub of water. And a baseball bat. And a rock. There's not much point trying to ban these things, so I'm not much concerned with banning other implements that can cause pain. I reserve my energy for monitoring the way they're used.

But I'd rather agents of my government, if need be, stop a riot or other violent activity with non-damaging pain than that they shoot people with bullets, which cause more than pain.

Incidentally, that people have black senses of humor, and joke about death and more gruesome topics, is an entirely unalarming aspect of normal psychology; it's not an indication of sociopathology, and Viewing [Anything] With Alarm isn't inherently a sign of deeper morality and sense, either; it may (or may not) simply be a sign, instead, of deeper moralizing, or of self-congratulatory self-approval.

But is creating weapons to cause pain, in fact, more immoral than creating weapons to damage and kill people? Is causing brief pain more immoral than shooting someone with a gun, stabbing them with a knife, breaking their bones with a club? I'm skeptical. The case for the morality of lethal weapons over non-lethal weapons seems to me a dubious one to be moralizing about. It's impossible to argue against the use of non-lethal weapons without arguing that, in practice, more people should be, instead, killedand maimed. How moral is that, exactly? How self-righteous should one be in favor of unnecessary killing, precisely? Who would choose to be shot in the chest, rather than hit with some sort of pain inducer? Step forward, please.

"Would you volunteer to be a test subject for this device? Suppose you were offered $300 for allowing yourself to get zapped with it for, say, 5 seconds, filling out a questionaire on what it felt like, and being monitered for ill effects for the next 72 hours or so (the monitering might also involve minor pain such as blood draws.) Would you do it? If not, why not? What if $3000 were offered?"

For $3000, I'll take five seconds, maybe. For $10,000, definitely. Will you volunteer to be shot in the chest? Head? Which would you rather have happen to a loved one?

But is creating weapons to cause pain, in fact, more immoral than creating weapons to damage and kill people?

Is that the choice? What kind of weapons to create? Are weapons the only defense?
What disturbs me is the way research about pain is turned into research about weapons. It's depressing.

"Is that the choice? What kind of weapons to create? Are weapons the only defense?"

Against what? Generally speaking, yes, in war and in law enforcement, it is wiser and more prudent to use weapons beyond just one's own body, although, of course, how much or little one trains one's body makes a difference, as well.

But, generally speaking, if we're down to Weapons Are Evil because Hurting People Is Bad, one should also wish for a pony (copyright Holbo/Waring). It never hurts to ask, and you're as liable to get the pony as the elimination of either weapons or people hurting each other, for causes both good and bad, in the near future.

I, only finding pacificism alluring about one day every six months, these days, if that frequently, would contend that striving simply to eliminate weapons can be profoundly immoral. If one could, say, have snapped one's fingers, and chosen to have armed all the prisoners in German concentration camps, or chosen to continue to make sure none were armed, which would be the more moral choice?

Tools aren't the issue; intent and usage are the issue. And the difference between defense and aggression, between people putting their life on the line to protect society and their loved ones, and those who assault them, is profound. Ignoring the difference is not, in my view, moral. It is, instead, a profoundly immoral false moral equivalency, I believe. Do you disagree?

"It's impossible to argue against the use of non-lethal weapons without arguing that, in practice, more people should be, instead, killedand maimed."

IMHO, there is a fallacy in this argument. Specifically, the assumption that old weapons will be abandoned because new weapons are made. Guns, bombs, and missles will not be abandoned in favor of pain phasers. Most likely, non-lethal weapons will be used to briefly immobilize opponents, making them easier to shoot (bomb, etc). When machine guns were first introduced, it was argued that they would make war more humane because fewer people would be required to man the guns. Somehow, it didn't work out that way. I doubt that the pain phaser will work out any better.

"IMHO, there is a fallacy in this argument. Specifically, the assumption that old weapons will be abandoned because new weapons are made. Guns, bombs, and missles will not be abandoned in favor of pain phasers."

That's not a fallacy: that's a straw man; no one is making such an argument. No one here has, have they? But presumably you can offer a cite/link to whomever it is you are indeed arguing with on this point. (Poor Babylon 5: JMS choose to use precisely PPGs for his, um, PPGs, and nonetheless, people are calling them "phasers"; despite our differences, I feel his pain.)

Quoting from Gary Farber | March 9, 2005 02:54 PM:
"It's impossible to argue against the use of non-lethal weapons without arguing that, in practice, more people should be, instead, killedand maimed."

I took this to mean that you support research on a pain weapon on the grounds that such a weapon would be used instead of a lethal weapon. I think that that argument is flawed for the reasons I mentioned above. If I misunderstood your argument I apologize.

Is causing brief pain more immoral than shooting someone with a gun, stabbing them with a knife, breaking their bones with a club?

If we can assume the pain will, in fact, be brief. I've not seen enough to support that assertion.

Also, a lot would depend on the question: is there any non-lethal weapon that does not cause maximum suffering. The choice between being shot and undergoing intense pain is only relevant if those are our only two alternatives.

Given how North Korea would deal with a riot today, this would be a step up. I'm trying to imagine a government that routinely starves its citizens to death spending money on non-lethal weapon research.

Actually, I have a bad feeling that they would really like something like that. While North Korea might not be doing a lot of research, I imagine China would appreciate something like this and is probably working on something like this right now or if they aren't, will be soon. I'm sure they would subsidize installations outside embassies in North Korea and probably set it up for embassies and consulates in China as well. Some have noted that there was the workings of a a href="http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/44289.htm">set-up for the Shenyang incident, so it would probably have benefited all (excluding the refugee seekers, of course), to have them doing St. Vitus' Dance just before they got into the gate. Maximum pain would make sure that they couldn't inure themselves to it. The world gets scarier every day.

Am I practically the only person in this thread who read this sentence?

Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed.

Any "would you rather we shoot/maim/kill them" questions are employing a false dichotomy. The weapon is intended for use on rioters. Civilians, many of whom may simply be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not enemy armies, terrorists, or assorted others against whom we typically employ lethal force.

If we're going to compare this weapon against other alternatives, the question we should be asking is whether it's more effective, moral, or humane than, say, tear gas, rubber bullets, fire hoses, pepper spray, et al. Rubber bullets sometimes kill people, but so can excessive pain and fear.

And I, like others, am extremely wary of a tool like this in the hands of today's American government. Five years ago I would've been uneasy but accepting of its potential utility. Now, I wonder who will be the first to be tortured with it in Gitmo or by the CIA.

This is not an administration that deserves the trust of anyone well-informed about its track record of abusing power and turning a blind eye to human rights violations.

Catsy
I don't really take the 'intended for use on rioters' (kinda sounds like something you'd buy at a hardware store or Toys R Us 'not a toy, use with the supervision of an adult') as being really meaningful. When you got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Set up a couple of these in front of the corporate headquarters, because any crowd of more than three people who arrive unexpectedly are going to be potential rioters, right? Those homeless in front of the Starbucks? Zap! Noisy seniors in the assembly? Bzzt! Why the heck didn't anyone think of this sooner?

I don't really take the 'intended for use on rioters' as being really meaningful.

Neither do I in terms of what it is likely to end up being used for.

My point was that people who are trying to defend this weapon by arguing that it's better than being killed or maimed are employing a false dichotomy, because it's noted right from the outset that the intended purpose, the starting point of acceptable usage, is against civilians against whom lethal, maiming force is inappropriate.

I think the most effective use for the agonizer is as a conditioning device. Use it on someone whenever they show the least sign of disrespect and you will soon have a sniveling submissive wretch who will do ANYTHING ordered.

Catsy
Very true, I'm was being a bit (no, a lot) flippant. But I guess my point (if you could call it that) is that we are moving towards something like this everyday. Something about the state has the monopoly on using force, I suppose. I've suggested that this is because individuals themselves have more destructive power themselves, and this is sort of an arms race. I'm not really sure how the state of the future keeps control over people. Here in Japan, it's done by slowing the judicial process to a crawl and promoting a ideal/myth of homogeneity as well as taking steps to avoid the concentration of young people (who are generally the most likely to rabble-rouse). Didn't mean to make fun of your point.

How long before an advocacy group - or just a corporation looking for a new consumer niche - starts agitating to sell this on the open market? How long before the design is pirated and agonizers are available on the black market?

The impact on domestic violence and street crime is appalling to contemplate.

The worst part of this is the use of it can't be proven (unless, per my earlier comment the agonizer does leave biochemical traces that can prove use). Knives, guns, bludgeons, light tubes...yes, they do permanent damage; yes they can maim or kill, but the use of them is pretty damned obvious. It is possible to take the perp to court. Fear of getting caught is a disincentive to give in to violent impulse (not always a sufficient one, granted, but still...). What happens when there's no fear of getting caught because there's no proof the agonizer was used?

Oh, gods, I hadn't even... can you imagine what a horrible technology this would be in the hands of terrorists? Forget setting off a dirty bomb to scare people... how about turning a crowd-control pain emitter on a shopping mall, or any other gathering?

There are some Pandora's boxes that really oughtn't be opened.

Shopping mall, hell, what about an airliner on takeoff or landing!

"It's impossible to argue against the use of non-lethal weapons without arguing that, in practice, more people should be, instead, killed and maimed."

This is not true, any more than opposing a neutron bomb is anti-historic preservation and architecture. Leaving no trace changes the incentives. "Up to 2 kilometers away" changes the incentives. A nuclear weapon kills more people than a chemical or biological weapon, yet we accept the possession, if not use, of one; the other is banned. Why? Maybe it's irrational; but maybe it's because the deterrent effect of a nuclear weapon can be useful or necessary while chemical weapons and biological weapons serve only to blister people's lungs and start epidemics.

How would we even test such a thing? You can't just do it on cells indefinitely, and I doubt you can just do it on animals.

On another note, does this remind anyone else of the torture curse in the Harry Potter books?

The cruciatus curse. And yes.

I note that it is exclusively the province of Dark Wizards, and is in fact one of the three unforgivable curses--the wizarding world's equivalent of a capital crime.

I think that the opposition to chemical and biological weapons is rooted in the previous bans on poisoned weapons and the like as well as the experiences in WWI. There was an interesting thread about this at Yglesias that was was part of the great crossblog Homer conversation. I believe that there were accepted rules of war for Christian countries that were not required when fighting infidels.

Interestingly, Karl I of Austria, who authorized the use of poison gas on the Italian front in WWI (Franz-Josef had refused to) was beatified last year.

Catsy: I hadn't thought of this until after reading your comment, but your point about this being used for riot control brings up another question: Why does the US need more riot control weapons? When was the last time there was a riot in the US that required the use of anything more than mass arrests to break it up? (Not that I'm taking mass arrests lightly, but they seem to me to be a less invasive way to break up a riot than tear gas, rubber bullets, or pain weapons.) Is the Bush administration expecting mass riots by 2007 for any particular reason? Perhaps because of something Bush is not planning to do in 2008? Hold elections, for example...Well, maybe I'm just getting paranoid and need to have my tin foil hat adjusted. Still, I'm glad I live in a border state.

I nominate this for the most disturbing ObWi thread of the week. It's getting realy really creepy ... *starts looking her own tin-foil hat*

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