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‘unintended consequences’ Category

  1. don’t tase me, bro

    December 3, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    In 1992, when I was 17, I traveled with my father to the US for a few weeks. We had a family friend living in Huston, whom we wanted to visit. He was away and due back a day of so after we arrived so he gave my father the alarm access-code so we can help ourselves in. We arrived at the house late at night, something went wrong with entering the code, and the alarm went off. Almost instinctively my dad rushed me to the car and we drove off to check into a motel for the night. My dad explained that we were likely to end up in jail if the police got to the house, regardless of our explanation. Back then I thought it was a bit extreme; surely we can reason our way out of it, like we would be able to back in Israel. Looking back at it, it was probably a reasonable choice given the circumstances.

    Today, if we were caught, in addition to being arrested we would surely be additionally tased for bad measure. The near-daily news of people being tased for no good reason reminded me of my story above. Some taser cases and videos can be found on top hits from reddit on the topic; Andrew Meyer coined the “don’t tase me, bro” catch phrase while being tased after making a bit of a fuss asking John Kerry some questions; here’s the comic. Some people die after being tased, though the marketing says that the tool is supposed to be non-lethal. But when you give people a “non-lethal” alternative to verbally or physically dealing with other people, it is a natural outcome that it turns from an alternative to a norm. This is the situation today, with cops tasing without much thought and it seems as though the chances of being tased is largely random, mostly depending on how the cop feels at the moment. With the general sense of paranoia and justification that anything is permissible in the name of security and anti-terrorism, all you have to do is act out of the ordinary, like being slow to hand a cop your proof of insurance; Schneier calls this “The War on the Unexpected“.

    This arbitrary taser treatment given by trigger happy cops is scary, and certainly does not contribute to a general feeling of security it was meant to promote. The long term effect is the continuous erosion of trust in police and the “system” — not that it is in any good shape currently — which will be difficult to recover from even if tighter controls are placed on taser use. When this happens the unintended consequence would be that police lost the “touch” of actually dealing with people, and even worse, they would use their lethal weapons (guns) more casually than before. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear in the near future of a case where a cop claims that he/she reached for the taser, but instead shot the poor speeder in the chest with a lethal bullet.


  2. exposed: online, people sometimes lie about themselves

    December 23, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    Todd Shriber contacted, what may be considered, random people online soliciting them to hack into his former college and give his GPA a face lift. He gave them all his personal information, including SSN, and some pictures of local squirrels the “hackers” required as “proof”. They, in turn, put the e-mail correspondence online, of course.

    Turns out the idiot works as a communications director for a Montana congressman. He was later fired after his extracurricular contractual endeavors were publicized in sites like reddit.

    So, two things. Firstly, not everyone who talks shop is an expert… this applies to real life too. Secondly, if people still have not realized that other people are not who they say they are (in real life too!) they deserve this kind of treatment. The more this happens, the more people be careful what they say or write, mostly in consideration of their future. In our world, where everything is recorded and archived, nothing is forgotten. Memory is cheap. Remember this when, in five years’ time, your potential employer asks you about the time you got drunk, busted, and jailed on new years’ eve, as you detailed with pride on your now moldy myspace page. Old-school cool becomes new-school stupid.

    Oh, yeah, some fucker stole my bike; the joy of living in Cambridge. Somehow, uncharacteristically to the island, no security cameras covered the scene.


  3. I never heard it coming

    March 15, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    Classic unintended consequence…

    “It was during her first trip out of the driveway on a warm August morning that Sant’Anna learned about one of the dangerous drawbacks of driving a hybrid: It’s so quiet that pedestrians can’t hear it when it’s starting up or idling, and they often walk right into the path of the moving vehicle.”

    Article here.

    I can guarantee some “unbiased” policy maker is going to demand banning hybrids… “they are killing machines I tell you!”