Sport regulations for the transhuman race.

Technology and running records are moving at blisteringly high speeds, so much that it’s difficult to keep the rules up with them. When sports first began way back when, we were doing all sorts of crazy things to outdo our opponents. In the ancient Olympics, the winners (and the high-performing losers) were taking all kinds of exotic medicines and herbal treatments. Drinking bull urine and eating raw bees to achieve a higher level of athletic kleos was received with appreciation once spectators made the connection that an insect-based diet fueled higher jumps and farther throws. But this dates all the way back to 2500 BC, when they were pole vaulting with bamboo and solid ash. It was only until the early 60’s that they realized that fiberglass construction was more physics-friendly, providing a conservative bend that caters to the compression caused at take-off. Athletes began attaining increasingly impressive heights. The rules could have prohibited the use of fiberglass poles, but they didn't. Slowly, wood made way for bendable fibers and in order to stay competitive, you had to run with the latest technology. and everyone started using them. You had to in order to remain competitive.

Now that technology has forever lapped biological evolution, We’re in a moment of athletic adaptive confusion, resistant to fully embrace technology due to an ingrained resistance to change. Our human instinct is at a face-off with itself.

Rules have picked up a strange sacredness even though it is the most natural for rules and nature change all the time. One of the things that makes our universe, and our biological framework so special, is the ability to evolve. There’s a delightful variety of ways to call yourself human these days and a plethora of options that keep the skills in sport interesting. What is inherently human about sports is the fact that we are testing ourselves as a species, taking measures, recording data, discovering numerical ways to define who we in fact are. Sports began as a free-for-all; there were few rules. But that was because we had yet to familiarize ourselves with our biological selves to the degree that we can these days thanks to technology. The great (and highly human thing) about us is our ability to from a coherent set of rules. Is it relevent if that are arbitrary or not?

In order to determine how human we are, it is imperative that we test our limits . We know who were are better because of technology, so there is no reason why the trajectory of discovery would stop. It’ll be getting exponentially faster, actually, along with our sprinters and technology It’s constantly astounding to see what our bodies are capable  of. Under one common definition, “nature” refers to the fundamental laws of nature. Under this definition, however, everything humans do must be regarded as natural, and therefore humans cannot harm nature. Under a second common definition, “nature” is what is free of human interference. If so, then it looks like everything humans do is unnatural. Either way, “nature” alone cannot help make any moral distinctions.Valuing nature is fickle sentimentality, as opposed to a well-grounded rationality. What is not biological is not unnatural. You might not know it, but your beloved all-American, all-natural athlete might be sleeping in his hyperbaric tent (which is impossible to test for) and kicking off his practice routine with autologous or homologous hemoglobin transfusions and the use of synthetic erythropoeitin (EPO) to increase the number of red blood cells.

Oscar Pistorius would be like any other congenital absence of the fibula amputee except that he’s running 200 meters in 21.8 seconds (world-record-holder Usian Bolt does 2.61 seconds faster). With Pistorius’ spatula shaped prosthetics buttressing up his otherwise hotly-toned,able-body, he won the nickname ‘Bladerunner’. But like all new things face aversion, the world balked at a bionic man’s carbon tendons because they allegedly gave Mr. Pistorius an overall net advantage in the long and short run.  Technology has, in the blink of an eye, surpassed our biological default. Some balk at the idea of biomememtic brains, claiming them to be nothing more than a simulcra of humanness. But if you’re balking at that, then you’re owning rusty parts, and you are an out-of-date machine. They banned them because these prosethetics aren’t available to everyone, but what about in the very near future when we can opt to modify our structures, optimize our gait and whatnot? Once you can improve yourself without first amputating yourself, the world is going to green light such measures because the whole race is growing. But at the moment, there’s a lag, a segregating stench that prevented Bladerunner from a head-to-head with Bolt.

In the Olympic Battle at Bejing that never was, we can assume Bolt would be donning the same custom-made Puma running shoes he did when he broke the 100m and 200m record in 2009.  With those exclusive gold Theseus II’, Bolt got his very own Odysseus’ bow, made from synthetic leather with an airmesh upper construction for maximum breathability with sprint-enhancing technology. But rule 143 says that shoes “must not be constructed so as to give an athlete any unfair additional assistance, including by the incorporation of any technology which will give the wearer any unfair advantage.All types of competition shoes must be approved by IAAF.” OK. Perhaps Bolt’s especially engineered kicks gave him just a pinch of advantage, but not the unlawful amount that curved carbon tibulas gives.

But all this is already old news.

After rigorous testing, the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided the Cheetah flex feet gave Pistorious no leg up in the competition so they lifted the ban in 2008 so now Oscar can bionically devastate his able-bodied adversaries in their golden mesh shoes if he does qualify for the 2012 Olympics. People made a fuss over the prosthetics, claiming that the spring in the carbon allowed Oscar to exert less energy but they ultimately decided in his favor.

There will never be a concrete system that keeps the essence of the sport alive. It’s a bendable model, one that evolves in order to keep things standardized. Sports measure performance within limits. But without even acknowledging much of it, limits are shifting every which way, not just where Pistorius would have his pair of legs. Disadvantages are no more- they are opportunity. Since we’re measuring performance within limits, a simulacra of standardization is needed. Sometimes rules are arbitrarily placed and there’s nothing wrong with arbitrary rules; there’s problems with inconsistent, insincere ones that make the sport arbitrary due to inconsistency. We’re in a moment of athletic adaptive confusion, resistant to fully embrace technology due to an ingrained resistance to change. Our human instinct is at a face-off with itself. What it means to be human is to be fluid and adaptable and structured. Our sports have evolved and become increasingly complex with the advent of new body enhancement methods which gives the athelete more variables to work with.

There’s some who believe that merging the athlete with technology undermines the essence of sport. I’m not going to name names, but it’s been said that performance enhancement technologies are nothing more than a Promethean pipe dream that promotes the recreation of nature, including human nature, to cater to our purposes and desires. Ethicists are born with an idea that they know what human nature is, and when something is bad, that’s because it goes against what it means to be human. It’s actually helping to further embrace the spirit of competition. "By using these agents to transform our bodies for the sake of better bodily performance, we mock the very excellence of our own individual embodiment that superior performance is meant to display...pose a threat to human dignity” and “diminish our humanity,”

Sports evolve by minimizing the arbitration involved in the process of crowning victors.

“cheating” and “natural” are both terms whose definitions are a product of our social construct, which is constantly changing.

While we want to respect the human instinct to evolve and improve, and we are task and upward mobile intelligence speaking. The human body can only take so much. But the steal...never stops; nor does technological innovation.  Once bionics really blow up, technology will have its inevitable grip on every single contender, even the athletic purists, who insist on no gadgetry or quirky business. You can go to your Walden retreat and train for the next pentathlon with some uncontroversial fresh air but the real winners will be knee-deep in silicone, microchips, & graphene.

The real belief to tackle is the concept that we lose our innate human capacity of seeing ourselves as slaves to a common fate (death, but but the time singularity arrives, that fate will be passee) We will only lose our capacity to it once the fate has faded into nothing more than an option.

The instinct to prevent people from making alterations to themselves is inherently a contempt for otherness. We seek to suppress the abnormal in hopes of promoting regularity but instead, it stunts growth. Historically, societies have done this a lot. They continue to do it and it is simply embarrassing.

In “Maxims for Revolutionists”, George Bernard Shaw says “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” But sports are all about the reasonable man; it’s a judicial system with an evolutionary margin and the unreasonable man soon becomes silenced. Our biological bodies can only be pushed so far, but the never stops, and we never want our strength to stop either. Bring it back to the ancient free-for-all; there’s enough variables to complicate the sport enough to legendary, epic degree, one that we can relish more than you can imagine.

Sam FronsComment