by: C. Sven Johnson

There’s an article in The New York Times, “An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled?” (Link), that feels a little like a tipping point for a much larger issue. While the article is about “techno-doping” (a new term for me) and the new, more capable prosthetics, it doesn’t take much to start wondering where a level playing field ends and human augmentation begins.

I’d venture some athletes from third world countries would argue that U.S. athletes, those with access to world class facilities and medical monitoring services allowing them to more efficiently modify their diet or training regimen, would say they’re playing on a non-level playing field. They might even argue that such unnatural management of the human machine is, in effect, a form of augmentation that’s not too different from the prosthetic legs of the sprinter in this story.

With that in mind, couldn’t one argue that augmentation extends to other areas as well?

I surfed past a headline somewhere today suggesting that Google was making people stupid because they no longer needed to remember anything other than tags that allowed them to search for answers. Is Google’s search software a mental prosthetic for the privileged with internet access? And does access to it and similar technology equate to skewing the international playing field in a more fundamental way than most might consider?

How far does augmentation really extend? And how… shallow?

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