Dystopia watch: a roundup of the DOD's new less-lethal weapons

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/20/pre-emplaced-electric-vehicle.html

Note that the military has a lot of places with shoot first, ask questions later policies. For example, a story from my college professor (true? dunno).

General is recognized as he drives onto base and is waved though without stopping. He is waved through without stopping at the airfield. He drives towards the waiting nuclear bombers without stopping. When it crosses a marked line, the guard unloads his weapon on the car to stop it. Guess who got in trouble? It wasn’t the guard.

Years ago, a friend with a base pass and I drove around a base with nuclear storage. We took a wrong turn. Luckily, we recognized the sign and the line that was basically “Cross and we kill you.” Quick U-turn! What if we had gone 100 ft farther? I, for one, would have much preferred the shock and and ask questions to the kill and ask questions method. We were stupid and lucky.


This sounds less like “The Ingredients Powering the DOD’s New Nonlethal Weapons” and more like “fanciful ideas cooked up by contractors that will get them millions of dollars in funding but never result in a practical embodiment that will be effectively deployed”.

Remember foam?


Those green guys should stop fighting each other, and join forces against the white guys in the back, the true oppressors!

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Short pulse EMPs of this caliber won’t electrocute people but they will stop implant devices. We do know these things, they aren’t unknown.

The effects of sound based weapons has been studied but not well enough and honestly they tend to be very impractical based on their low effectiveness, ease of countering, disparity of impact on subjects, energy consumption, etc. a brown note bomb would be something though, drop the bass and a duce.

while i don’t really like any sort of authoritarian control device, i do prefer the non-lethal ones over the alternative and applaud anyone in any of these positions pushing for non-lethal options and de-escalation. it isn’t as effective as policy change but it is better than what we usually get.

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Prediction: like Tasers, “less lethal” weapons will be used far more liberally to torment, intimidate, and frequently kill whomever the operators feel like abusing. The result is that death and disability will be less than when the alternative is don’t-stop-short-of-lethal force, but not all that much less, and the other effects will be dramatically greater.


I am reminded by all the negativity towards less destructive weaponry here of what I read about the Neutron bomb as it was being developed. The idea was to have a nuclear weapon designed to reduce deleterious effects after such as horrible burns and radiation poisoning. One of the side effects was a neutron bomb would leave infrastructure in place for an invading force to use. By all accounts, the reduction in harm would work: tests on animals showed that you are either killed outright, or you are sick for a few days and make a full recovery (or at least it was thought so at the time).

The reaction was that people hated for being “the ultimate capitalist weapon” which killed people but left infrastructure undamaged. Forget the stuff about it being a cleaner, more humane nuclear weapon.


I always wonder when reading about sonic weapons, do they not get that a simple pair of dirt cheap earplugs will render their billion dollar toys useless? Similar with lasers, those things require so much energy if you want to deal some actual damage that you can’t make it man portable at all. Sigh.

I suspect these may be mutually incompatible in practice, but I may be wrong.

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Flight line “line of death” orders really are, “cross the line and we kill you” for a good reason: A military jet on takeoff or landing has zero effective obstacle avoidance and ingesting you will not only kill you but also the plane and everyone on it.

Some years back a Phoenix reporter was wandering around Luke AFB (open house day) and, being all full of his importance as a reporter, didn’t take that “lethal force” warning sign seriously. An MP tackled him roughly at the line and the reporter complained to the base CO, who informed him that the MP was, in fact, in trouble. Not for tackling him, but for not killing him.

Nonlethal weapons in that situation are not a solution.

I would say that qualifies them as lethal.

Why not, erm…


And this is a lot easier to say if you haven’t been on the business end of one of these less-than-lethal-most-of-the-time weapons.

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i would say tricky to implement, and implemented too frequently.

de-escalation should be the primary goal
non-lethal options like the ones being discussed should really only be implemented as a last resort in dire circumstances before having to resort in lethal measures.

these days cops use lethal measures if they feel “threatened” by someone’s skin color, so yes humans very seldom pull off this stuff well sadly. i still prefer these to lethal options and think they should be encouraged in lieu of lethal options.

being against non-lethal weapons is like being against smart guns with smart locks. yes they are still guns and they can still kill people, but they are a far cry better than regular guns. non-lethal weapons are a far cry better then the lethal variety. sadly they will undoubtedly be used in bad ways.

obviously, neither is preferable in a perfect world.

it is easier to say if you have been on the business end of one of these over the alternative. if you have been on the business end of a lethal weapon is is often much more difficult to say.

i don’t like weapons, the deadlier or the more they harm, the less i like them. pretty simple. i like hugs best. :slight_smile:

Maybe not a perfect world, but perhaps one where we stop coming up with new means of harming and controlling humans. There is no safe way of hurting someone. Even the linguistics behind less than lethal designations are harmful, priming people to accept new forms of violence relatively unquestioned.



Fancy language. It’s probably piezo crystals powered by the weight of the vehicle.


If people were angels, we wouldn’t need them. But they aren’t.

People are people. This is about power and control, not human “nature.”


The ‘variable kinetic system’ seems likely to make it into production; if only because it’s a commercially available tacticool paintball gun.

Some of the others do seem more at risk of dying either in project management hell or on contact with reality(I’m sure, say, that the ‘pre-emplaced electric vehicle stopper’ will terrify car and truck bombers once they realize that finding a beater old enough to have a carburetor will give you additional time as the Americans stare in shock at a vehicle without an ECU…)

Unfortunately, the one that is least vaporware seems like a potential problem. Even if ‘micro-­pulverized burning irritant’ is rules lawyered into the status of ‘not chemical weapon’ for CWC purposes; using weapons that look and feel like chemical weapons unless you wait long enough to determine that they were, in fact, not all that toxic after all, is a fairly obvious way to give a suitably jumpy adversary the impression that you are using chemical weapons, potentially inspiring them to respond in kind; which would go downhill quickly for everyone.

Best case, that particular list item is just an ‘MPs purchase hardware used by police forces’ snippet that had enough buzzwords attached to be given futuristic-listicle status.



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