As the Olympics once again start their quadrennial celebrations of human achievement and athletic accomplishment, we look forward to a few weeks of extraordinary stories and celebrations. On the basis of past experience, it’s likely that some competitors will be cheating (by which I mean that they are knowingly breaking the rules). I hope they’re found out.
But, at one level, ALL of the competitors are cheating. If the idea of the Olympics is that there should be a fair and equal starting point for everyone, this is just not possible. Sitting on my sofa watching the games, there is just no way I could have even come close to winning one of the medals. At least not one that required the use of one’s lungs. I have asthma. Always have. I have a mild case, and don’t get attacks. But exercise is never nice for me. No endorphins, no fun. Just pain in my chest. It’s no excuse, I know, for the little exercise I do actually do (my waistline tells that story only too well, sadly). But I wasn’t born with the natural abilities to compete at Olympic level.
But what if genetic modification, or augmentation of my body were allowed? What if drugs could sort out my asthma, and give me an opportunity to compete? Would you rather see some Jamaican run a 9sec 100m because of the slight genetic advantage he has, or someone run it in 5 seconds with the mutant legs of a cheetah? OK, extreme maybe, but the point is that the playing field is not level now. So why not just let anyone do whatever they want to do to their bodies, and allow us to be amazed and entertained by the results?
This is not as far fetched as it might sound. We now understand more than ever about our genetics and DNA. We have machines that can be attached to our bodies and controlled by our minds. And we’re actually evolving rapidly too.
Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about profound changes that genomics will bring in business, technology, and society. His TED Book, Homo Evolutis, explores those changes and he gave an astonishing TED talk on the topic. In brief, he argues that throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? Technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.
Watch the video below or at this link. And then, seriously, think about what you might like to see at a future Olympics.