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Posted: December 16, 2013

The futurist: Technology’s threat to the future of sports

Here's what's at stake

Thomas Frey

Much like the difference between performance enhancing drugs and legitimate drugs, many hair-splitting rulings will have to be made between acceptable and non-acceptable tools and equipment both inside and outside of the body.

Perhaps the most difficult decisions will have to be made when it comes to genetically engineering athletes from birth.

The Super Baby Problem

Earlier this year, consumer genomics company 23andMe received a patent for a designer baby kit that would allow parents to pick and choose attributes for their soon-to-be-conceived kids. This was prior to the FDA cracking down on the claims they were making.

But they were not the first. The Fertility Institutes’ clinic in Los Angeles delivered the first designer baby back in 2009.

Designer babies have long been a cocktail party discussion topic with the understanding that the era of “super babies” will soon be upon us, with the prospects of creating bigger, faster, stronger humans. 

Will these so-called super-babies grow up to become super-humans? And how long before we start seeing these fully grown offspring entering college and professional sports?

Once we are able to see how different they are, and over time the process for creating them will become increasingly complex, we’ll be faced with some difficult questions? During the ensuing debate, we’ll hear questions like, “Are they really still human?” and “Since they weren’t conceived naturally, do they still have a soul?” and “What kind of grotesque things will second and third generation designer baby morph into?” and “How can we possibly compete against soul-less humans?”

On numerous occasions, officials will have to decide if these new lab-generated super-humans should be allowed to compete. Every decision will weigh heavily on whether people will want to continue watching and participating in the sport.

Final Thoughts

While it may appear from the outside that professional sports, as an industry, is conducting business as usual, a number of competing forces are threatening the nature of the entire industry.

Over the coming weeks we will be looking at the changing nature of the equipment itself, future types of sports, competing forms of entertainment, the fickle nature of audiences, sports apps, and the ever evolving economies at the heart of this industry.

One possibility I find very intriguing is the rapid rise of video game competitions, and whether they will become part of the future sports industry.

In the end we will probably end up with far more questions than answers, but there is a whole new generation of kids kicking around on the playground wanting to know if their dreams can ever come true. Somewhere in all this, there needs to be a ray of hope.

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Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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