Monday, September 27, 2010

Segway Boss, Dr. Frankenstein, and Getting a Grip

"Study: Segway Injuries on the Rise"
Health, CBS News (September 27, 2010)

"A new study about the safety of Segway transporters was released Monday, hours after Jimi Heselden, Segway's owner died after riding one of the motorized scooters off a cliff into a river.

"The study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that injuries while riding Segway transporters are significant and on the rise.

"During the course of three years, researchers studied records of 44 patients who entered The George Washington University Hospital's emergency department with injuries sustained from Segway accidents...."

"...Only seven of those patients wore a helmet, which is not required by law while riding a Segway...."

Okay: injuries involving Segways are on the rise.

Is use of Segways on the rise, too? Good question: one that's not addressed in the article.

However, Segways -
  • Use scary stuff:
    • New
    • Technology
  • Are considered 'cool' by plain, ordinary people
    • Not just the 'right sort'
  • Actually do something about reducing urban congestion
    • What good's a crisis with a practical solution?
      • Solving problems isn't as angsty as complaining about them
No wonder Segways are a dire threat!

The Lemming has explained his sort of 'apathy' before.

Sensible Article, Silly Proposals

"Segway boss James Heselden dies after riding scooter off cliff in northern England" (September 28, 2010) (It's tomorrow in Australia by now)

"THE millionaire boss of the UK-owned company Segway died after he rode one of the firm's two-wheeled scooters over a cliff near his home in northern England, police confirmed last night.

"James William Heselden, 62, from Thrope Arch, died about 11:40am local time when he rode one of the Segway scooters off a cliff and into the River Wharfe in West Yorkshire, northern England.

"He was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was pulled from the water....."

Any death of this sort is a sad occasion: the Lemming will get to an article about Mr. Heselden at the end of this post.

Now, taking the standard-issue attitude of hyperventilated safety consciousness - with a liberal hefty sprinkling of technophobia - the Lemming proposes:
  • Segways Kill!
    • And should be banned
  • Cliffs Kill!
    • And should be leveled
  • Rivers Kill!
    • And should be drained
At the very least, this is proof that the River Wharfe is dangerous and should be drained, that West Yorkshire is a hazardous place for people and should be evacuated - and, of course, everybody everywhere should be clad in bubble wrap and locked in padded rooms?

The Lemming doesn't think so. But then, the Lemming is 'apathetic.'

Safety and the Lesson of Dr. Frankenstein

As is well known - or assumed without consideration in some circles - there are things which humanity was Not Meant To Do. Like:
  • Develop new crops
  • Fly
  • Get vaccinated for smallpox
  • Install lightning rods
We're long past the time when an author could sell many copies of a book warning of divine retribution, should the heathen habit of using lightning rods be continued.

Smallpox is extinct, thanks at least in part to vaccination programs. (WHO) Today there are still folks who are scared of vaccines, for one reason or another. A not-entirely-overlapping population are scared silly about new crops and farm animals.

As for airplanes being the work of the Devil: I haven't heard a joke about that for decades. My guess is that most folks have learned to live with the idea that people can fly through the air now.
Enter Frankenstein
Frankenstein, the fictional scientist who appeared in Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley's "Frankenstein | or The Modern Prometheus," is probably better known as the mad scientist of quite a number of movies.

Whatever the author's intention, Frankenstein and his creature seem to have become a sort of symbol of hubris, and a cautionary tale of what happens when we dabble in that which we ought to leave alone.

The Lemming is on the same page as the ancient Greeks: I think overweening pride is a bad idea. The problem is deciding where the line is, between pursuing an ambition and getting in over your head. I like the quest for knowledge: it's what a person does to get that knowledge, and how it's applied that can get us in trouble. And that's another topic in another blog.

Getting back to Frankenstein and that 19th-century bit of science fiction: it seems that quite a few folks - and not just the usual suspects - still think that there are things which Man Was Not Meant To Know. And that new things are dangerous.

Like riding Segways.

I don't doubt that Segways are dangerous. A stick is dangerous, even if it's not particularly sharp. You really can 'put your eye out' with one if you're not careful.

That doesn't mean that the Lemming thinks sticks should be banned.

Or Segways, or automobiles, or buckets. And, yes: buckets are deadly. ("Injury - a Risk at Any Stage of Life," CDC; "Baby Drowns in Bucket at South Side Home," NBC Chicago (September 19, 2010))

The Lemming thinks part of the reason that we don't see outcry against the dangers of unlicensed buckets is because buckets are a very old technology.

Segways, though, are still where automobiles were a few generations ago: largely in the hands of early adapters; and feared by folks who don't care for change. In the Lemming's opinion.

Jimi Heselden: We'll Miss You

"Tycoon who gave away £23m killed in scooter cliff plunge"
Yorkshire Post (September 27, 2010)

"TRIBUTES have been paid to a 'remarkably selfless' Yorkshire millionaire and philanthropist who died while out riding a two-wheeled electric Segway scooter which plunged off a 30ft cliff and into a river.

"Jimi Heselden, a former miner turned wealthy entrepreneur who owned the Segway company, was found in the river Wharfe at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, not far from his home in Thorp Arch.

"Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and Mr Heselden had died at the scene...."

From the sounds of it, James 'Jimi' Heselden was one of the 'good guys.' A man who knew how to make money - and how to handle it afterward.

But then, the Lemming thinks that charity is a good idea.

And that's yet another topic.

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