James Stanley

Knives: they cut, and they don't ask no fucking questions. Yet.

Wed 27 December 2017

I recently watched Captain Disillusion's video Miss Ping Debunk in which he explains how an old knife-throwing video was made, and why, and by whom. It's a good video. It also has a joke advert in the middle:

This week's Captain Disillusion is brought to you by knives... They cut, and they don't ask no fucking questions.

I enjoyed this line, but I wonder how long it'll remain true.

We already have laws in the UK (and, I assume, in most other "civilised" countries) about how long a knife can be before you're not allowed to have it on your person without a convincing excuse.

We already have technology available that can retract a tablesaw blade as soon as it touches skin.

I'm sure it wouldn't take too much imagination to build a "smart knife" that automatically retracts the blade as soon as it touches skin. With electronics getting smaller and cheaper every day, it wouldn't have to be substantially large or expensive.

According to the Washington Post there were almost 330,000 hospital visits in the US in 2011 caused by knife accidents. These could almost all be avoided in a future where the users had paid a little extra and opted for smart knives.

But why stop there? After smart knives became widely-available, it wouldn't take much to amend the existing legislation to outlaw the sale of legacy knives completely!

There's a very clear trend towards tools and systems that are not under the control of their users. Printers won't print anything that looks like money. Quadcopters won't fly near airports. Cars can automatically call the police on you if they think you've done something wrong. Mobile phones can be used remotely to listen to your in-person conversations.

Having machines help make decisions for us is great, but if we're not careful we'll end up in a world where the machines are telling us what to do, and not the other way around.

I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

Maybe Richard Stallman was right all along.

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