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Sports in Science Fiction

September 10, 2011

I am sitting here watching the Cincinnati-Tennessee game and it got me thinking about sports and the future. Literature is replete with sports and science fiction and fantasy are no exceptions; from the Quiddich of Harry Potter to Rollerball to Death Race 2000. There are many examples of writers considering this question from a variety of perspectives. I mention one perspective of this in my new novel, Nanomagica.

It is helpful to consider how sports has changed in the previous centuries. There can be no doubt that sports has undergone some profound evolutionary changes over time; athletes have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger; equipment has gotten better (just look at Tennis racquets); sports medicine has become a major factor; and the infrastructure has become more elaborate and expensive (check out the modern college locker room). We are also dealing with artificial enhancement through chemistry and the implications of drugs in athletic performance and human health.

The question becomes… Where are we going in the future? What role will genetic engineering and nanotechnology have in the future of sports? Consider the almost-perfect body attributes of Michael Phelps for swimming or Usain Bolt for running the 100m dash. These athletes received these gifts through the chance of human genetics. But what if we could engineer these attributes, not at random, but as part of a program to develop athletes from birth? Would parents pay to make their child a super athlete? How long would it be before we had an 8 foot-tall center in basketball or a man who could run under a 3-minute mile? What would this mean for athletics and how people perceive it? How would engineering athletes interfere with free choice? Where will this take the regulation of sports?

Take these considerations even further into the future. What if we were to engineer human athletes to fly or to breathe under water? Would this lead to new sports not possible today?

I want to hear what you think.

Norman

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