When I was a kid, I went to Catholic School. Among the various methods of punishment and coercion they would use to keep us in line was a threat to put us in the spanking machine. They never actually used it on any of us (I finally realized that it didn't exist, kind of like Santa Claus), but it was among their favorite (and weirdest) final threats.

It turns out that the spanking machine has a long and interesting history. In the mid-1770’s, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote a book called The Rationale of Punishment. In it, he put forth that a “spanking machine” would be able to punish people with more equality than a human.

Automating corporal punishment is a concept that has found a home in both fiction (there was even a comic strip in which Richie Rich was spanked by a machine) and fact (the US Army created a spanking machine of sorts to teach soldiers how to fire a weapon (check out http://i88.photobucket.com/albums/k173/corpuncom/machines/th_6713x.jpg).

The noose, guillotine, and electric chair are arguably direct philosophical relations of the spanking machine; each designed to automate the process of punishment, removing it from the vagaries of human action.