89. In Harm's Way

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A new invention, called "Arm Yourself," is in arcades in Japan. It is a mechanical arm-wrestling machine. In the old days, fairs and carnivals usually had a "Test Your Strength" contest that required a player to swing a small sledge hammer as hard as he could to ring a bell and get a prize. The Japanese invention also challenges a player's strength. Players can set it to four different levels: Baby, Girl, Man, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The mechanical arm operates at half-strength for the first 10 seconds: "Baby," for example, would be "Half-Baby," or 50-percent full-strength, for 10 seconds initially.

"This gives the human time to evaluate his mechanical opponent, and usually allows him to win," says the inventor. But after 10 seconds elapse, the mechanical arm instantly achieves full strength, so that weak Baby suddenly becomes strong Baby. "That comes as a surprise to the human," said the inventor. "If you watch the human compete, you will see a look of surprise come over his face at the machine's sudden burst of strength. It's funny to see!"

Unfortunately for some players, the look of surprise is followed by the look of pain, as the steel and plastic arm breaks their flesh and blood arm! Two players recently went to the hospital. The inventor said that he wouldn't put a warning sign on the machine.

"It's not the machine's fault," he said. "Humans often think that they're smarter, faster, and stronger than they actually are. I think it's a good lesson that they are learning. Many refuse to combat the machine at the Baby or Girl level because they think that they're equal to the Man or Arnold level. They don't know their limitations. They're proud and foolish, and some of them have to pay the price for their pride."


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