“I still go to the theater to see live humans act out fiction and fantasies. The largest playhouse in Houston is about 50 yards from a cinema, yet I still attend and enjoy plays. I still listen to orchestral concerts, although I own the ubiquitous smartphone (paired with a good set of headphones) which separates me by a mere finger tap from any piece of music I wish to enjoy. Chances are, many of you do too. I still want to see humans interact with other humans to demonstrate abilities gained through training and talent alone.
“Why? I — no — we enjoy witnessing the heights and complexities of human ability. To see members of our species blow past seemingly insurmountable barriers is the greatest form of entertainment. Hearing a new story or marveling at the creativity of a new artist is an experience that is firmly enshrined in flesh and bone. This exchange between souls is, dare I say, sacred and will never be yielded to non-sentient metallic automatons.
“That said, the presence of Lucasian mechanical citizens will have some effect on the Olympics, primarily in regard to pharmaceuticals. The use of performance-enhancing drugs will surely remain illegal. But illicit doping in a post robotics-revolution society will be pointless and frankly, silly. After all, no amount of steroids could transform an Olympian into the likes of X4-T34G.
“When the day comes that we are surrounded by walking IBMs and Apples, we will come to a greater appreciation of what it means to be human, warts and all. Think of it, the sanctity of sportsmanship (and all human endeavor) resurrected and cherished as a result of an implacable tide of tick-tock.”
”When the games of the 50th Olympiad open in 2092, ethicists are still debating whether it’s a right or a privilege for ordinary people to have disease-causing traits removed from their embryos, but the Olympics have jumped far ahead. Human gene editing makes it possible to customize the perfect player for every sport, with bigger hearts, better lungs, and faster, stronger muscles designed at will. Sovereign corporations sponsor athletes endowed with patented genetic sequences; fans, at least those who can afford it, snap up these sequences to insert into their own embryos. The new argument is whether to let in players whose entire DNA sequence is synthetic, a technology originally developed for military applications.
“Meanwhile, the CyborGames, whose athletes openly embrace mechanical as well as biologic enhancement, are siphoning off the younger, hipper audience. No one knows yet that in 2093, the RetrOlympic Reboot, featuring only athletes produced by random mating, will be the surprise hit show of the year.”
7. And each Olympic event will eventually handle issues of gender differently.
-Ada Palmer, author of Too Like the Lightning
“One big change I think the Olympics will have to face in the next century is how to handle gender segregation in sports. Even here in the early 21st century, binary gender categories are already breaking down. I imagine an Olympics where each event handles gender differently. In events where it makes little difference ― like riflery or chess ― everyone would compete together. Events, where the size or weight offer major advantages, would offer “open” division where anyone could participate, but also events segregated by height or weight, much like boxing today. The smaller classes would have mainly female participants, the larger mainly male, but sex wouldn’t be the divider, the secondary characteristics ― height, reach, stride, shoulder width ― would be.
”I also imagine the future Olympics continuing to be a centerpiece of peacemaking and international cooperation. In many ways, the biggest barrier between us and a Jetsons future where we can pop from country to country for a picnic is the international law, borders, conflicts, how to handle national defense as people zip across borders. Lots of industries that would profit from easier international travel — like tourism and sports — have tried to push countries to borders more permeable, but few organizations anywhere have as much international respect, trust, and clout as the Olympics. So I imagine that the Olympics, and sports fans in general, could be the ones to spearhead a movement to push for easier travel regulations, to make it possible for every citizen of the Earth to hop in a flying car and come to the games, see the torch, and share in the Olympic Spirit.
“As I look forward, imagining the political encounters of the next centuries, I think the Olympics will continue to be a space where enemy nations come together after conflict, where marginalized and oppressed groups push for recognition, where alliances are celebrated, causes discussed, awareness raised, grudges eased, and where countries that don’t yet exist will continue to hold each other to the highest standards of excellence. After all, if Antarctica makes the sixth ring on a future Olympic Flag, the Moon or Mars may make the seventh.”