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How Technology Will Change Professional Sports

cyborg

In 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations issued a momentous ruling. From that day forward, double-amputees who used specialized blade prostheses were not permitted in Olympic competition. However, it wasn’t because that double-amputees were at an inherent disadvantage. It was because these high-tech prostheses made runners too fast.

Think about that for a moment. When someone loses their legs, it’s devastating. Their lives will never be the same. Never mind hindering their ability to participate in Olympic-level events. They will be forever handicapped, unable to conduct themselves in an able-bodied society. For most of human history, this was a sad reality.

Suddenly, advances in technology have flipped the script. Existing research on these blade prostheses shows that those using them expend significantly less energy to sustain their top running speed compared to their able-bodied counterparts. Now, a double-amputee actually has an advantage in a race, especially one that relies on stamina.

The implications go beyond helping double amputees live normal lives. This marks a critical turning point for technology and sports, alike. For once, able-bodied athletes are at a disadvantage and that gap is only going to get wider. I’ll go so far as to say that in the next few decades, professional sports will undergo enormous change due to technology.

That’s not an overly bold prediction. Technology and medicine have been enhancing sports for decades. I’m not just talking about the use of performance enhancing drugs, either. There are certain medical procedures, such as Tommy John Surgery, that can give professional athletes a competitive advantage. They’re so common these days that neither athletes nor fans think much of it.

On top of that, advances in medicine have made injuries that once ended careers into extended injuries. Just a few decades ago, an NFL player who tore their ACL was likely finished. Today, such an injury still means an extended stay on the injured list, but players can come back from it. Some even manage to have MVP caliber seasons.

In the future, more advanced treatments involving stem cells or lab-grown body parts will further improve injury treatment. Given the billions in profits generated by professional sports and the massive incentives to keep star athletes healthy, there’s are plenty of reasons to push this technology forward. Before long, star quarterbacks in the NFL playing into their 40s might not be so extraordinary.

However, recovering from injuries is only a small part of a much larger upheaval that’s set to occur in the world of sports. The entire concept of competition may need revising as technology reaches a point where maintaining parity is almost impossible. Unlike performance enhancing drugs, it won’t be possible to test for them or remove them.

Today, it’s easy to appreciate how gifted the best athletes in the world are. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and effort to achieve the mental and physical prowess that allows these individuals to be at the top of their game. To build muscle, you need to spend hours in the gym. To master a skill, you need to spend years practicing and honing your mechanics.

All that work and training, however, has the same goal. The intent is to strain the body to make it stronger and wire the mind to make it more capable. At a fundamental level, it’s just restructuring the body and brain with a mix of brute force and mental effort. Modern medicine and technology can help supplement those efforts, but only to a point.

That point, however, keeps changing and will continue to change. Think back to emerging technology like Neuralink’s brain implants. Instead of spending years learning the mental aspect of a sport, why not just use an implant that mirrors the neural patterns of athletes like Tom Brady or LeBron James? They’ve already done the work. In theory, all you have to do is mimic their neural connections.

That technology is a long way off, but accelerated learning is already an emerging field in the military. It’s only a matter of time before some enterprising sports league attempts to use it. A technology that may be closer and more controversial is biohacking. I’ve mentioned it before, but it has the potential to complicate any competition.

We already know how to use genetic engineering to build bigger muscles without steroids. That same technology could be refined to impart other advantageous traits like better reaction time, quicker reflexes, and enhanced bone strength. Unlike other drugs, it wouldn’t require athletes to take pills. These skills would be written right into their genetics, which means it won’t show up on a typical drug test.

Push this technology even further and the world of professional sports gains even more complications. As time goes on, the forces of medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and machine/human interface will steadily converge. We’ll get to a point where enhancing the human body is akin to upgrading our computers.

Instead of regular natural cells, we’ll rely on entirely synthetic cells that are programmable and capable of achieving more than even the best athletes of today.

Instead of intense mental training, we’ll be able to link our brains to computers to effectively learn the skills we need, whether it involves throwing a baseball or weaving baskets.

Instead of waiting for damaged body parts to heal, we’ll just swap them out for newer, better models that are much more efficient and capable.

Under such conditions, the current system for professional sports just couldn’t work. If every new quarterback could just copy the skills and experience from Tom Brady’s brain, then what’s the point of competing in the first place? If every NBA team has as much talent as the 2018 Golden State Warriors, then how does competition even work at that level?

The questions get even more profound when applied to Olympic competition. If we get to a point where double amputees run faster and those with robotic arms throw harder, then that changes the entire approach. Sure, some may still prefer seeing non-enhanced humans compete, but their feats won’t be as spectacular.

Instead, imagine events where javelin throwers can use robotic arms or swimmers could use bionic lungs. The feats they’ll achieve won’t just be better, in terms of stats. They’ll be a far greater spectacle. Given the declining ratings of the Olympics in recent years, I suspect future events will need those spectacles to maintain interest.

Personally, I would definitely watch the Olympics if it had athletes that utilized cybernetic enhancements, be they artificial limbs or brain implants. It would require a mix of both athletic training and applied science to achieve championship status. It won’t be the same as simply winning the race through sheer grit, but it will still be an achievement worthy of a metal.

What is the future of professional sports?

What is the future of professional athletes?

How will people compete in a world where the human body can be enhanced, programmed, and modified at will?

These are questions that none of the major sports leagues have to answer immediately, but they will start to become more relevant in the coming years. The fact that some of the prosthesis we give double-amputees are better than regular human legs is the first tangible step towards a very different future for professional sports.

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Gender Equality, Artificial Ovaries, And The End Of Menopause

There are certain situations where, if you take away modern medicine, social institutions, and various life hacks, there’s an inescapable gender disparity. I know that by saying that, I’m inviting all sorts of nasty comments. There are those who claim that just hinting at inherent gender differences is to empower the patriarchy, oppress women, and probably strangle puppies in the process.

This piece isn’t directed at those people, nor is it directed at those who want to fight Round 2,697,206,077 of never-ending the gender wars arguments that the internet has made exceedingly easy to wage. I write this with the intent to inspire hope, excitement, and maybe a few sexy thoughts beyond those I share every Sunday.

When it comes to helping men and women operate on a level playing field, technology has been the great equalizer. It’s because of technology that we’ve helped women gain a greater level of control over their fertility. It’s because of technology that men who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have children can now do so. A huge chunk of modern society is built around having greater control over our sexual health.

For men, that control has gotten pretty darn robust. Thanks to advancements in modern medicine, as well as tireless marketing efforts from pharmaceutical companies, men can enjoy continuous sexual function well into old age. Say what you will about the greed of pharmaceutical companies, but the collective sex lives of men are better because of it.

While that’s great news for men who want to stay sexy into their golden years, this does widen a particular gender disparity that is rarely discussed, if only because it evokes distressing thoughts about what our grandparents do in their private time. While modern medicine allows men to keep humping like they did in their youth, women face the biological equivalent of a brick wall as they get older.

It’s called menopause and like reverse puberty, it’s a fact of life for women. It typically happens in a woman’s late 40s or early 50s. It’s effects vary from woman to woman, but its signature trait is that a woman stops menstruating. That means they no longer have periods, they no longer ovulate, and they can no longer have children.

At the moment, it’s basically a fact of life. If a woman lives long enough, this is what they deal with. It’s like graying hair, wrinkly skin, or liver spots. At a certain point, their reproductive systems cease functioning. While they can still have sex, the various biological changes associated with menopause can make that difficult.

In terms of the gender scorecard, this definitely deducts some points for women. Whereas men have a way to keep their dicks functioning well into their elder years, women’s options are much more limited. Sure, there are a few medical ways to deal with it, some of which can be purchased at a local pharmacy for less than twenty bucks. However, the biology is still behind the curve.

What if a woman wants to continue having children late in life? What if a woman couldn’t have children in her youth, but later wants them even after her fertility has declined? Whereas men can still father children into their 90s, women seem to be out of luck.

However, and this is where I offer a glimmer of hope to those dreading their unsexy elder years, that may change thanks to recent advancements in biotechnology. According to MIT Technology Review, our ongoing research into regenerative medicine is drawing us closer to the day when we can actually regrow a woman’s ovaries. Here are the basics of this amazing and inherently sexy work.

The work, carried out at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, suggests a potential alternative to the synthetic hormones millions of women take after reaching middle age. A paper describing the findings was published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

When tested in rats, the pieces of tissue, known as organoids, were better than traditional hormone replacement drugs at improving bone health and preventing weight gain. The treatment was also as good as hormone drugs at maintaining healthy tissue in the uterus.

In essence, this is like treating your organs as rusty car parts that need replacing. Ovaries, like any other organ in the body, tend to break down as time goes on. We’ve already grown some basic organs in the lab. Growing ovaries, though, has far greater implications than simply keeping your body humming along.

Ovaries, as anyone who sat through a health class knows, are the organs that produce the various hormones and androgens that make up a woman’s biology. It plays key roles in just about everything having to do with female sex and reproduction. Once it shuts down, it’s like the main generator of a building going down. Sure, some parts have backup power, but that’s not enough to keep it running.

The ability to regrow fresh, healthy ovaries completely changes that dichotomy. In some respects, it puts the women out ahead of the men in terms of sexual function in their golden years. Unlike little blue pills or even bionic penises, these re-grown ovaries are entirely functional organs. It’s like resetting, rebooting, and re-energizing a woman’s sexual function.

This doesn’t just mean that women can still have healthy children well beyond their golden years. It means they can also avoid the various downgrades to their sexual function that often comes with menopause. They don’t need to take pills or constantly replenish hormones. They’ll have entirely functional organs inside them to do that for them.

Now, ignoring the possibility that creating new ovaries may also lead to creating enhanced ovaries, this does more than just improve the sex lives of older women. In many respects, it puts them on the same level as their elder male counterparts.

Their sexual function and their reproductive function don’t have to decline with age. Like older men, they can still have sex for fun. They can still have sex to make babies. Their options are just as open. If you’re a fan of gender equality, then this is an advancement that’s every bit as vital as advances in male birth control.

While I’m sure this will still generate some unpleasant mental images about our parents and grandparents, the incentives are already in place and too great to ignore. Sure, there will be some women who opt not to get fresh ovaries, just as there are some men who don’t mind having a less active penis later in life. However, the fact that medical science will give people these options is a true game-changer.

Technology has always changed our society in immense ways, but technology that affects our sex lives and our reproductive health tends to have bigger impacts than most. What happens to our family structures when our grandparents are still having children at the same time as our parents? What happens when getting older is no longer associated with succumbing to menopause and sexual dysfunction?

These are the kinds of questions that don’t have easy answers now, but those answers may end up finding us sooner than we expect. Since I’m in the business of erotica/romance novels, it may very well affect me at some point. Then again, having more people who stay horny into old age might be good for business.

 

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Filed under gender issues, Second Sexual Revolution, sex in society, Sexy Future