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By Joel Klebanoff

Smart Guns Et Al.

Smart guns. I know that's not a grammatically correct sentence, but I wanted to get this week's lead topic out there as soon as possible. Anyone who, upon seeing a single use of the word "gun" anywhere in one of my columns, is inclined to immediately post a wild, venomous outburst in the attached forum can get to it right away while the rest of you read on. (Note to self: Never write a column about the poems of Rudyard Kipling or movies starring Cary Grant because, if I do, I'll have to mention Gunga Din. Some readers wouldn't get as far as "ga Din.")

Yes, any mention of guns, no matter what I say about them or how insignificant the reference, is likely to induce considerable discussion, with intense forum postings coming from both sides of the issue. To be honest, "discussion" is an overly polite word for what that sort of thing typically ignites. With that in mind, when Victoria, the editor, directed my attention to the story that initiated my thinking about this topic, I immediately emailed her a reply to suggest that she, knowing full well the reaction I would get if I wrote a tirade about smart guns, was trying to agitate feces (although I didn't say it in quite those words).

When I saw the title, "Inside Smart Guns," of the June 16, 2005, ExtremeTech article that Victoria sent me, my initial reaction was "'smart guns,' now there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one." But then I read on. I have to admit that I wholeheartedly agree with what the developer is trying to do. He wants to develop a gun that will fire only if it's being held by its rightful owner. That sounds like a good idea to me. Now, if the gun, regardless of whose hand it was in, would also refuse to fire on benign, unarmed humans, the developer would really have something. Both of those restrictions would provide a tremendous benefit when a home invader quietly breaks into your home while you're sleeping and finds the gun that you are keeping in the house for your protection.

Why stop there? I would also like to see the smart gun employ wireless networking to, at the point of purchase, consult vast online databases and not allow itself to be sold to anyone who has committed a violent crime, exhibits homicidal tendencies, or is a member of the National Rifle Association. OK, I can't think of any rational reason whatsoever for preventing ownership by NRA members, but I'm a lonely guy and I operate on the principle that hate mail is better than no mail--as long as the gun owners don't find their way to my home.

Whenever they're in the vicinity of a police officer, smart guns should also glow with a sufficient intensity such that they will be clearly visible through the heaviest of clothing. That would simplify the frisking process and eliminate any embarrassing and potentially titillating moments that frisking might cause.

Think further about what a really smart gun will do: Before its owner fires it at an inappropriate target, the gun will engage the owner in a deep discussion of philosophy. After spending hours debating metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics, the owner will likely lose all interest in firing his gun and, instead, fall into a deep, peaceful sleep and dream about millions of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

I know I'm rather demanding, but even that's not enough for me. Something else that I'd like to see is a gun that won't allow any of your enemies to fire it at any of their enemies or vice versa. If we could extend that to everyone's enemies and all weapons, we'd have this whole world peace thing licked.

If the developer finishes perfecting the smart gun and is looking for something else to work on, I've got some suggestions for other items that might benefit from a few smarts:

Smart cell phones: They won't switch on in the hands of loud-mouthed jerks who are in public places.

Smart voice mail: It will be able to distinguish between people who I want to talk to and those who I don't want to talk to. Rather than offering to take a message from the latter group, it will tell them that I recently died and let them know where they can send their memorial donations. All telemarketers will hear this message. In contrast, potential clients calling to offer multi-million-dollar contracts will be placed in the first group, and in addition to taking a message, the smart voice mail system will profusely flatter them and offer to bow and grovel before them.

Smart computers: It's probably too much to ask a smart computer to never crash. Instead, whenever a smart computer displays the blue screen of death, it will also call a beautiful, scantily clad masseuse who will come and give me a relaxing back rub while I wait for my system to reboot. (Note to political correctness squad: Yes, I said "beautiful, scantily clad masseuse," not "nondescript, gender-neutral massage therapist." This is my column. If you want to share your boring fantasy, get your own column.)

Smart customer service interactive voice response systems: Another name for what I have in mind is "well-trained humans."

Smart alarm clocks: Rather than waking me up, they'll call the person I'm supposed to see that morning to let him or her know that I'm sleeping in and will be late for our meeting. Actually, my problem is not waking up, but getting going after I wake up. First thing in the morning, I move at quarter speed, at best. A home version of a smart intravenous caffeine drip might be useful in dealing with that.

Smart television sets: They'll block all programs that are not worth watching. Unfortunately, that would leave their screens blank most of the time.

Smart mirrors: They'll make me look good. The only problem I envisage is that the required distortion would make shaving difficult and potentially life-threatening.

Smart cameras: See "smart mirrors" above. At least a smart camera won't create the shaving problem that a smart mirror would engender, but it will make my passport and photo ID cards rather useless.

Smart exercise equipment: They'll do my workout for me while I slouch in a comfortable theater seat, watching movies and eating popcorn.

Smart traffic lights: Obviously, they'll always be green for me. To hell with everyone else, unless of course they're holding an unsmart gun, in which case I'll gladly yield the right of way to them.

This article originally appeared as part of a weekly series of "Tech Tirades" in MC TNT from MC Press Online. The first year's worth of Tech Tirades does not appear here. Instead, you can find them in BYTE-ing Satire.

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