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"The world is really so surreal these days that it's necessary for us to blunt it somehow in order to stay sane. The artist functions to short-circuit the buffering mechanism, so that people can occasionally perceive the weirdness of things as they are."
- William Gibson

Tasp  
  A device that induces a current in the pleasure center of the brain, at a distance.  

In the future universe of Larry Niven, mankind encounters a very warlike species, the kzin. Described as looking like an eight-foot tall tabby cat, with paws the size of baseball mitts and long retractable claws, the kzin had a warrior culture that demanded fighting at the slightest provocation. The journey has been arranged by puppeteers, an obsessively cautious species. How to travel safely with a kzin?

The puppeteer addressed himself to Speaker-to-Animals.

"You understand that I will use the tasp every time you force me to. I will use it if attempt to use violence too often, or if you startle me too much; you will soon become dependent upon the tasp; if you kill me, you will still be ignobly bound by the tasp itself."

"Very astute," said Speaker. "Brilliantly unorthodox tactics. I will trouble you no more."

"The puppeteer is right," said Speaker. "I would not risk the tasp again. Too many jolts of pleasure would leave me his willing slave. I, a kzin, enslaved to a herbivore!"

From Ringworld, by Larry Niven.
Published by Ballantine in 1970
Additional resources -

Niven uses the word "tasper" to describe a person who pranks with a tasp:

...Usually a tasp is just small enough to aim with one hand."

"Have you ever been hit by a tasp? None of my business, of course."

Teela grinned derision for his delicacy. "Yes, I know what it feels like. A moment of - well, there's no describing it. But you don't use a tasp on yourself. You use it on someone who isn't expecting it. That's where the fun comes in. Police are always picking up taspers in parks."

The puppeteer is a three-legged plant-eating herd animal; ordinarily, not much of a threat to a kzin. The puppeteers as a species rarely engaged in direct physical confrontation (too dangerous); they tended to use long-range planning and indirect actions. The tasp is well-suited to their purposes; it induces a current in the pleasure center of the brain at a distance.

The author remarks that

Tasp is short and easy to say. Such words give away the fact that they are in common currence throughout a culture, like lamp and pan and pen.
The Words in Science Fiction (by Larry Niven)
The same effect can be more easily induced by running a wire directly to the pleasure center of the brain; see droud for more information about directly stimulating your neural pleasure center with an ecstasy plug.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ringworld
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Ringworld
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Tasp-related news articles:
  - iPlant Brain Implant Advocated For Self-Improvement

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