Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Toys are supposed to be things that amuse, teach and are generally harmless. When I was a child, a simple box of pointed sticks taught me hand-eye coordination and the skill of carefully unraveling a jumble of them. I developed patience and a steady hand with the game. Other games helped me see the benefits of strategy and evaluating other players. All of it was engaging and I thought of it only as play, never as a means of educating me.
Technology has raised the level of toys to be more physically and mentally interactive with others. It has also been blamed for everything from hyperactivity in kids to addiction in adults. "Experts" are quick to offer their professional services to "cure" these disorders and I must admit it turns me off. Too little evidence, too much eagerness to make a buck.
When technology is used in ways we never imagined, and I'm not referring to augmented reality here, but to provide something with real danger potential, we need to carefully consider where we're going. All breakthroughs are not beneficial and, perhaps, some need to be regulated. Therein lies a modern-day conundrum. We've seen this in recent advances in human engineering of embryos where people are talking about creating "designer babies."
The brilliant engineer-designer, Elon Musk, has created rockets, cars, and tunneled his way to LA (his own tunnel I believe). His latest creation causes me grave concern; a consumer flamethrower. If you'd like to see a demonstration, Youtube is the place.
Reasonable in price, $500 each, they use propane gas as their fuel and can direct the two-foot flame just as you would a gun or rifle.
Musk raised over $10M for this device and took orders immediately before the unit's release. To date, 20K have been sold, although only the first thousand have been delivered.
How is he marketing it? Obviously, not as a flamethrower because that might cause legal shipping issues. So it's "not a flamethrower." Then what is it? It's not a super shooter or water squirter. This thing shoots flames; flames that will envelop anyone or anything in its path. Might it be modified as the bump stocks modified rifles to be automatic?
Could this device have an acceptable consumer use? I suppose it might be used to clear brush, but couldn't that start a forest fire? What else would you use it for? California, a usually environmentally conscious, consumer-protective state, has decided that no warning will be placed on the units for customers in CA.
For all his incredible ability to be prescient regarding space travel and prospects for the future, Musk discusses this item with a smirk on his face. Where's the mirth in a potential consumer-killing machine? I fail to see it.
The times in which we find ourselves living now should give all of us pause when we see something like this new invention. Terrorists will have a new weapon. Will the gun lobby come to their defense saying it's within anyone's rights to have these new "weapons" that aren't weapons but playthings?
Give it some long, hard thought and then you decide what benefit this breakthrough is to all of us.