Monday, August 18, 2008

Stray Thought of the Day: The Olympics and Der UberMensch

So Michael Phelps got me thinking...

One of the things we take for granted is that every Olympics, swimmers bust records, runners bust records, weightlifters lift more weight than anyone had ever lifted before. I don't mean we take the Olympians for granted, but we do assume that in a few races, somebody is going to break a record and swim faster, run faster, etc... than we've ever seen.

Which makes the League ponder...

Is there a point at which we won't be able to continue to beat records? Is there ever going to be a maximum recorded speed for humans to swim? To run? To lift weight? To jump? To throw a javelin?

I assume that in 40 years, the training, diet, equipment, etc... that athletes use will improve to such a degree that what we feel is state of the art today will look to them as the women in petticoats playing golf at the 1900 Olympics looks to us now (gymnastics and track & field wouldn't be added until 1928).

No doubt, these women were considered strumpets for their revealing athletic wear. And rightfully so.

So I wonder if, year after year (and four years after four years), as time marches on... what sort of humans will we be building? Will we see a Michael Phelps in the year 3000 that moves through the water faster than a motor boat? Or will we find some invisible wall and find ourselves competing for 1/1000ths of a second, never pushing beyond some as-yet-unseen boundary?

No doubt the future of gene manipulation (through state-mandated breeding programs, or through some mad science), we haven't yet begun to see how fast, strong, and unbelievable the human body will be by the time The League is an old man.

But, jump-forward to, say, the year 5000? What does it mean for sport when records are no longer breakable? Is that even a conceivable idea? Or is our desire, as humans, to continue to build and grow, advance and see progress so ingrained in us as a species that we will see swimmers who cut through the water like fish? Will they be recognizably human to our eyes from 2008?

Phelps in 3008?


JAL said...

I suspect we’ll have a whole new group of sports for our uberathletes to combat this laser swimming, laser pole vault, laser horse riding and of course, laser tag.

The League said...

Nothing, though, shall beat laser synchronized swimming.

Michael Corley said...

Well, first, Phelps in 3008 kills me.

Second, I think we'll keep improving as long as we try to.

RHPT said...

I actually read or heard a discussion about this during Phelp's run this past week. According to this thing I read, Phelp's achievements had as much to do with technology (his suit, his training regimin, etc) as with his actual talent. So, yeah, I can see that in 2088, people would still be breaking records, but not so much because they're more talented than Phelps, but because technology and research got so much better.

The League said...

But there's also a logical endpoint to all of this... and that's why I keep pointing to the speed of motor boats and the distant future, vis-a-vis the current rate of athletic advancement.

If you follow the logic, there's some point in the future at which (a) either we can no longer find natural means of propulsion which will continue to break records, or (b) someone will run so fast under their own power that they will travel beyond the speed of light.

Those are really the only two options. Either you hit a wall, or you accidentally time travel during the 100M relay.

Does that make sense?

I am sure in 2088 records will still be broken. But in 3000 AD? 4000 AD? And would we still recognize those subjects as human? Will eugenics and gene technology take hold to produce a race of gazelle people? Of fish people to make them swim faster?