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The Symbionic Games

Banksy, Thug for Life

Cyborgs are in our midst, except they are not as flashy as the DC and Marvel films would like us to believe. Instead they come in the unlikely form of our grandparents, enhanced with (or rather supported by) artificial medical aids such as zimmer frames, hip and knee prostheses, hearing aids, reading glasses, and other modern wonders. The geriatrics are the cyborgs of our time.

In sports we also see adaptations specifically catered to the task at hand, of which the running blades are probably the most (in)famous. Here debate has sparked whether or not the mechanical adjustments have led to an “unfair” advantage as the results threaten to surpass basic human performance. Quite an interesting debate as the enhancements once meant to merely replace or supplement lost functionality now start to exceed existing healthy functionality.

By constantly pushing the boundaries of the human body and mind, sports reward and celebrate (individual) achievement and performance – all intended to be within the confines of a subset of rules agreed upon in said sports. The latter is an issue, as in the blind pursuit of achievement not only the boundaries of the human body and mind are crossed.

As prime example: the Tour de France has crowned its fair share of winners, most memorably Lance Armstrong who has won the tour seven times in a row. Seven times he was celebrated by cycling fans worldwide. Seven times they celebrated a lie, as it turned out years after the fact.

It uncovers a great issue: there is no foolproof method to ensure everybody plays by the rules. There are so many different options of improving performance, from chemical stimulants to mechanical enhancements, that it is simply impossible to detect all of it with 100% accuracy. And where do you even draw the line? Does the placebo effect count?

So how about we just allow it? All of it. We can call it The Symbionic Games: a spectacular event featuring humans with mechanical, chemical, and biological enhancements as a true display of symbiosis between man and technology. It at least levels the playing field: makes it fair and transparent. All participants are free to take steroids at will, exchange their human limbs for robotic limbs, use AI to improve their neural performance, improve their DNA, use exoskeletons, however far they are willing to go. Though of course it also helps if they survive the changes.

This leads us back to the start of my rambling: just imagine the resulting stimulus for development in the respective fields and how the acquired knowledge and experience will eventually trickle down into everyday applications. This development will prove valuable to all of us and define the start of a new era for cyborgs. And we don’t have to worry anymore if someone cheated. 😛

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