I’ve obviously been fascinated with the concept of cyborgs and the Olympics. Today’s Blog Posts From The Future post, Superlympic Events Bring In More Money Than Their “Non-Super” Counterparts, was directly inspired by my previous posts here:
- Blade Runner, Cyborg To Run In The Olympics
- The Future of “Superhuman” Sports
- Stop Discriminating Against Cyborgs! They Are (Mostly) Human Too.
I’m curious if anyone else is as fascinated by all of this as I am?
Being a white male, I’ve arguably never been (seriously) discriminated against or persecuted. Also I’ve never really done anything in my life that I’m that embarrassed of. I’m pretty much an open book and have nothing to hide.
I also feel that if someone wants to hurt you and take advantage of you there are more than enough ways they can do that.
So all the hubbub about facial recognition is lost on me. Really the only reason I can see you would be worried is if you’re paranoid or have something you’re hiding. That’s overly simplistic and I’m being a little bit cocky.
But having said all that I’m very glad that Al Franken and the government are questioning Facebook and others over concerns of this new technology. Not because I actually want the government involved, but because I want someone asking the hard questions and really making tech companies pause and think about what they’re doing.
In the end I have no problem with this technology, I’m a tech optimist. But I want to make sure we go down this road with our eyes wide open. Which is the central point of The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World, by Nick Harkaway. You should all go read it.
I would like to go on the record for our future cyborg overlords that I have always fully supported equal rights for cyborgs. I think the conditions in which they are already being treated is discriminating and shameful.
I, of course, am referring to what may be the first recorded case of cyborg assault:
It was reported that Steve Mann, cyborg and human, was assaulted by McDonald’s employees in France. McDonald’s then denied the claims, to which Steve then provided more evidence to his assault (seriously, why would you call a guy with a camera on his face a liar?)
So when the cyborgs rise up because they are tired of being persecuted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I find this really interesting. And yes, I’m kind of obsessing about the genetic aspects of this summer’s games. First I wrote about cyborgs and then horse clones. I know most of my colleagues are fascinated with this being the first ever social media Olympics, but I’m more interested in the implications on the future.
We are at a stage where we are augmenting athletes with prosthetic devices that are on the verge of allowing athletes to preform better than their non-prosthetic wearing counterparts.
We’re now cloning the genetically best horses and allowing them to compete along side non-cloned horses.
I’m not making a moral statement about any of the above changes. I don’t think it’s wrong to augment disabled athletes, but I am interested in where does that lead. If we’re already calling them superhuman, what are we saying? I get that right now we are saying that these athletes have overcome amazing challenges in order to compete at the level and that makes them super.
But as someone trained in communication, sociology and anthropology, I also know what effect language has on people. How long before we’re creating real superhuman athletes? How long before we’re genetically manipulating those clones?
Again, not saying that we should or shouldn’t but we do need be cognizant of what we’re doing? This moment is a tipping point that will have bigger ramifications than most of us realize.
America used to only send college students to play in the Olympics. No professionals were allowed. And then something happened: the US lost at Basketball. We lost because other countries let their professional athletes play and we did not. We didn’t make that same mistake again. We put together the “Dream Team” and the Olympics have been different ever since.
This is a fascinating article not just because of the future implications to the Olympics, but because of even larger implications. But let’s just talk sports.
To be clear, I don’t use the term cyborg as a way of implying that Oscar is any less human because of hiss disability and I totally appreciate his desire to be considered a runner, not a disabled runner.
But this is why I use the term cyborg: because, with his prosthetics he is. Take this quote from Dr Bundle who published a study on Oscar:
“This is an intriguing moment in the history of the science of sports,” said Dr. Matt Bundle, a University of Montana professor who co-authored a study about Pistorius as part of the runner’s appeal after being banned from Olympic qualifying in 2007. “An individual is able to use a mechanical device in a way that surpasses the human leg. It’s an important time to note that that’s impressive.”
Compared to this from Wikipedia:
The term cyborg is often applied to an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology, though this perhaps oversimplifies the necessity of feedback for regulating the subsystem. The more strict definition of Cyborg is almost always considered as increasing or enhancing normal capabilities.
While the article mentions that Oscar is not looking for technological enhancements as an advantage over other runners (and I really do believe him) it doesn’t mean that other’s won’t. And it’s not a stretch to image where this could go.
If drug enhancements are illegal but technological ones aren’t, what’s to stop people from “disabling” themselves in order to receive enhancement? Or countries who care little about their individual citizens <cough>China<cough> from “modifying” their Olympic hopeful children from an early age.
This is a historic event and it’s not going to be easy to sort out.