Monday, January 14, 2008

Cyborgs out of the Olympics!

Cyborg Oscar Pistorius isn't going to the Olympics. The IAAF ruled that his carbon fiber feet constitute unfair advantage. This is actually what I expected, tho' I admit that I didn't think the ruling would be so soon. Even if Pistorius' legs do not constitute an unfair advantage (and I, personally, don't think that they do because the technology is currently pretty crude) if he was allowed in one of the things that would happen is additional research into such technologies. Indeed, para-athletics are used for precisely such research, and to showcase it, but right now it's relegated into the ghetto of "special Olympics" or whatever. And moving this sort of thing into "normal" athletics will - and already has - given it a higher profile and probably helped the company that makes the prostheses more money.

I mean, I regard this all as hypocrisy. The distinction between elaborate high-tech training programs in advanced countries routinely give their athletes a technology based advantage over athletes from poor countries. But this sort of thing challenges the macho body image of traditional athletics in a way that personal nutritionists and computerized performance evaluations do not. But the ruling, itself, I do not find surprising as an attempt to preserve the traditional image of athletics.

Still, the genie is out of the bottle. We are entering the initial days of the cyberpunk world. I wouldn't be too surprised if in the next couple of decades some people start to intentionally replace at least some body parts with mechanical parts that enhance performance.

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