Those clever little devils over there at Ratheon have cooked up a brand new crowd-control device that’s sweeping the defense industry circles. They’re calling this new technology “Directed Energy Solutions,” and the idea is to develop weapons that can cause the subject to flee without killing them:
A square transmitter as big as a plasma TV screen is mounted on the back of a Jeep. When turned on, it emits an invisible, focused beam of radiation – similar to the microwaves in a domestic cooker – that are tuned to a precise frequency to stimulate human nerve endings. It can throw a wave of agony nearly half a mile.
This new device has interesting new implications for anything from the rules of war to Constitutional law enforcement to banana republic torture. The author of the above post explores a few of them. What I find most troubling is that it is a method of inflicting pain on a subject without leaving scars: how are you to prove that you’ve been tortured in the absence of identifiable evidence?
But as always where worrisome new technology is concerned, my first thought is how to regulate its use, not how to destroy it. After all, you cannot “uninvent;” once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting him back in. In any event, there was really no chance that this type of technology wasn’t going to be invented, and now that it has been, there is almost no chance that there won’t be those who want it conscripted into the service of law enforcement. So how do we deal with it going forward?
Meanwhile, what about this technology is any more gruesome and torture-prone than tear gas, rubber bullets and batons? Or tasers? All of those weapons are in common use across the U.S. And all of them are demonstrably prone to misuse and torture. What the emergence of this new technology does is not so much call technology into question as it does call police procedure into question.
It seems to me that the first order of business for those of us concerned with civil rights would have to be identifying any characteristic signature of someone using this technology on a victim. I’m not a doctor, but it seems like every single synapse in your body crying out in pain simultaneously would have to have some effect on endorphin levels, or something. It’s important to have proof that the weapon is being used if we are to have ammunition against those who would use it illegally.
The next step would be to resist any efforts to use the new weapon. First as a military weapon, then as an interrogation technique and then any domestic use, be it law enforcement or quasi-military in its application. It’s difficult to think of a scenario where we can resist its use as a weapon of war, but the rest we have some control over. Perhaps, with a new president, we can control the sale of the technology outside the U.S.
It’s a very scary development, this Directed Energy concept, but one that we’ll probably have to face for the foreseeable future. Better get our act together.