LET ‘EM PLAY

A recent issue of ESPN The Magazine has an article on athletes with prosthetics and some commentary asking what really is the difference between various sorts of technological enhancement in sport. See ESPN – ESPN The Magazine – Let ‘Em Play and the photo gallery at ESPN – ESPN The Magazine – Photo Gallery.

Hat tip to Gregor Wolbring at ESPN Magazine focus on Athletes and Prosthetics « Nano, Bio, Info, Cogno, Synthetic bio, NBICS.

Therapy or enhancement in sport?

I’ve been wondering whether South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, who runs with carbon-fibre prosthetic legs, would be competing at the Beijing Olympics ever since I saw a news article about him a year to eighteen months ago. It appears now that he won’t be there, even if he makes the qualifying times.

See: Pistorius’s unfair advantage keeps him out of Olympics | Athletics | Guardian Unlimited Sport

Hat tip to Andii over at Nouslife: Pistorius’s unfair advantage -the cyborg prosthete.

It’s an interesting question – how much enhancement should an athlete be allowed? Obviously, things like spectacles and contact lenses are allowed, as are various operations to fix/improve weak spots in a physique (e.g. replacing broken tendons) or corrective eye surgery. But something like taking performance-enhancing drugs or blood-doping isn’t. It seems like it’s going to get harder to differentiate between therapy/enhancement in sport as time goes on.

NPR ran a programme on Pistorius and enhancement in sport back in May last year. You can listen to it at: NPR : Prosthetics in Sports: Disability or Advantage?

We have the technology…

The article Wired: The World’s Most Advanced Bionic Arm précises the work being done to create “an artificial human arm that acts, looks and feels to its user like his native arm, and to do it with astonishing speed by the end of 2009”.

I can hear the Six Million Dollar Man theme music in my head as I’m reading it.

Conversation starters

Firstly, a (mini) colloquium on Media and Religious Authority on Tuesday, which included some of the Virtual Theology colloquium participants from a while back, along with Heidi Campbell. A good time to catch up with people, to meet Heidi in person for the first time, and to start to thrash out some ideas I’m interested in relating to various dimensions of religious authority in comic book and graphic novel genres.

More about it at:

Then Friday and Saturday I participated in the Metanexus/Tyndale-Carey sponsored conference New Perspectives in Science and Theology. Heidi (The Technologized Other: Considering the Posthuman and Prophetic Technorealism) and I (Image-bearing cyborgs?) were the opening speakers on Friday, and I got some good questions and comments after my talk (and over the weekend) that will help to shape a few areas that need tighter definition and reflection. And gave me some ideas for at least one other paper to write.

And that’s what I like about presenting at things like the two events this week. It gives you a chance to start a conversation about your work, and to make connections to other work that you haven’t made before. Doesn’t always make answering the questions being asked any easier though :-)

From the bedside table

Books on the go at the moment.

Writing at the Edge of the Universe
Published by Canterbury University Press (2003), it’s a collection of essays, interviews, reflections and talks from the ‘Creative Writing in New Zealand’ Conference. Covers everything from politics, young adults fiction, comics, hypertext, and definitions of ‘cultural’ within the NZ writing scene. Something to dip into every now and then.
Spin Control by Chris Moriarty
A mix of technology, religion and politics set in a posthuman future. Has a short bibliography of material relating to emergence, transhumanism, and social evolutionism. Oh, and lots of stuff about ants. If only my thesis read as well.
The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
Finally got around to reading this collection of Card’s older science fiction material. Some interesting material relating to theodicy, suffering, pain, human perseverance, and free will, together with other observations about the technological quest for immortality.
For Everyone Concerned by Damien Wilkins (2007)
The most recent collection of short works by Wilkins, much of which is set in Wellington. I grabbed the library’s copy and found it a mixed bag (as with most collections like this). I loved the short story “Reunion” set in Wellington Library though.

Writing At Edge Sm9780553382143WorthingsagaFor Everyone Concerned

New Perspectives In Science and Theology Conference

Tansaa Poster A4New Perspectives In Science and Theology Conference will be held 27-28 July 2007 at the Bible College of New Zealand in Auckland. It’s being organized by TANSAA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa Auckland) and Tyndale-Carey Graduate School, and is a Metanexus initiative.

The conference speakers cover a range of specialties: Physics & Origins of life; Biology; Theology & Biblical Studies; Psychology; Media and Digital Technologies.

I’m presenting a paper entitled “Image-bearing cyborgs?”, picking up some of the strands of hacking, hybridity and hope.

Click on the poster for more details.

Mechanical Fingers

A lot gets written about the ultra-hi-tech prosthetics (Greenflame · The World’s First Powered Ankle) and ‘cyborg’-implants (Greenflame · Mind Over Matter) but this (relatively) low-tech approach to finger replacements looks interesting. See: Gadget Lab – Mechanical Fingers Grant Grip: No Batteries Needed.

‘Plastic’ blood

In another of those areas where traditional boundaries become contested, scientists are working on developing a synthetic blood substitute for medical emergencies. (BBC NEWS | UK | England | North Yorkshire | Scientists create ‘plastic’ blood)

I wonder how this ‘blood’ will be considered by those communities that attach a special significance to human blood.