Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tasp or Taze?

In The Ringworld Engineers Larry Niven posits a pleasure Taser. Imagine you are a cop and you are faced with a man brandishing a weapon, maybe holding somebody hostage. The man is clearly in pain, angry, anguished. But also dangerous. And you have to neutralize that. So you point your Tasp at the man and remotely stimulate the pleasure center of his brain. The tension goes out of him. He relaxes, smiles. He laughs at the gun in his hand and lays it gently on the ground.

Or, in Niven’s more innocent scenario: “A dour stranger wanders past, rage or misery written in the sour lines of his face. From behind a tree you make his day. Plink! His face lights up. For a moment he’s got no worries at all.”


Art Durkee said...

The main problem I have with the tasp, which is a problem Niven considers elsewhere, is that it's coercive to tasp someone without their knowledge or consent. I can see doing it in self-defense against an aggressor, sure. But from behind a tree in a park? Who gave them the right to make somebody's day? It's like putting LSD in their water glass without their knowledge or consent, and the results might be as dire. What happens, for example, when you turn the tasp off, or they walk on out of its range? Does their depression return stronger than before, maybe even making them suicidal? The law of unintended consequences comes into play here rather directly.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Well, Niven made a major character an addict, which did sorta interfere with the guy's ambition.

One can posit negative consequences, I see. But the idea of a pleasure weapon struck me as such a nice contrast to the usual pain & destruction weapon that I had to post about it.

Art Durkee said...

True enough. The nonviolent aspect of using the tasp as a defensive weapon is definitely a good point.