Flash! Star Trek-like Agonizer to be used in L.A. jail

Flash! Star Trek-like Agonizer to be used in L.A. jail

You know when there was that transporter malfunction and Captain Kirk and some of the Star Trek officers ended up in a mirror universe and Spock had a beard?  This was a bad place…the Federation was evil, Spock was evil, Sulu was evil.

One way they were evil?  They used pain-giving devices called Agonizers (and ultimately, Agony Booth).

Well, Raytheon, one of the first makers of home microwave ovens, developed a “pain beam” for the military.  No, not in Star Trek…in real life. 

What it does it fire an invisible beam at a person, causing unbearable pain.  If you step out of the beam (or they turn it off), the pain stops.  They can point it very precisely…even a single body part.  Gee, I wonder what body parts they might target? 

Well, I guess this is better than shooting somebody in a riot…maybe even better than tear gas. 

It’s also not designed to cause pain for punishment…it’s to make people move, stop what they are doing. 

Still…there’s something bothersome about using a weapon on prisoners in a jail that we apparently have so far decided not to use on our country’s enemies (one story I read said that the military was concerned about bad publicity microwaving people on the battlefield).

In Gene Roddenberry’s vision of our future, humanity has pretty lofty ideals.  It certainly doesn’t always live up to them, but the desire is there.  The mirror universe (as written by Jerome Bixby) is there to show us what could have happened if the Earth and the Federation had made different choices. 

I think Roddenberry would have been happy to see cell phones (reportedly directly inspired by Star Trek), and some of the other technology (like medical sensors) that we’ve developed.  He’d be blown away by our computers. 

But would he have thought real agonizers in an L.A. jail were a good choice?

What do you think?  Feel free to let me know.

Pasadena Star-News article

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle


2 Responses to “Flash! Star Trek-like Agonizer to be used in L.A. jail”

  1. Mani in the Middle Says:

    I’d rather be hit by a Taser or a microwave pain ray than a bullet, and would also rather use either for self-defence over a pistol or shotgun.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mani!

      I agree with you there, as I mentioned in the post. You would hope that is the likely use: we would have shot the person, and instead, agonized them. One of my concerns is when the Agonizer might be used instead of, say, verbal negotiation. I don’t think that would be likely or typical…I think most law enforcement people are good people, just as I think about the general population. But I can see a possibility of abuse….using it for orientation (“we want you to know what will happen if you don’t follow the rules”), or for punishment.

      It’ll be a long time before you can use it for self-defence…in it’s current format, it’s much too big to carry around. They would like to make a handheld, though. I can’t see how it would very well for self-defence, though. Someone comes at you, and you hit them with unbearable pain for a few seconds. What are they going to do to you afterwards? I can see the use in the jail: it can back somebody off of a position, break up a fight, that sort of thing. However, that’s going to be followed up by professionals who can restrain somebody and put them into a cell.

      A Taser incapacitates somebody, so you could run away. My impression is that this doesn’t…get out of the beam, and although there might be some residual pain, you are able to continue the attack.

      Part of it for me is also just the symbolism…but that may be more of a thing for Star Trek fans.

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