Monday, May 19, 2008

Witz DOESN'T Pick: Bionic Olympian

Perhaps you've heard of 21 year old South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, or maybe you've heard of him by his sprinting nickname, The Blade Runner. A few days ago, the Olympic Committee overturned a previous decision and will allow Oscar the opportunity to compete (if he manages to qualify) in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The big deal about this is that Oscar had his lower legs amputated when he was only 11 months old and now uses carbon fibre blades as legs when he races.

When I first thought about writing this post, I was going to go with the old, "Witz Isn't Sure If He Pickz..." format, but in my heart I knew the truth of the potentially bad person that I am. I don't think that Oscar should be allowed to race in the Olympics. I WANT to say that he should, because it's such a good story and all that, but I think it's important to go back to the part where THE GUY HAS BIONIC LEGS!

The man's nickname is THE BLADE RUNNER. Like, the movie-- like, where some people were human and some people weren't and-- ok, so I never actually made it through all of Blade Runner-- but machines were involved. They call him The Blade Runner because the man races using these carbon blades that are called CHEETAH (cheater, perhaps, hmmm) BLADES. They are specifically designed like the back legs of a cheetah, are lightweight, and restore 95% of the energy they exert. Last time I checked, my legs are heavy, have muscles and bones and blood, and restore 0% of the energy I exert. And that's my problem with this. The guy just simply doesn't have to deal with all the crap that people with lower legs have to deal with-- cramps, tears, muscle fatigue, lack of cheetah legs...and while I realize that not having lower legs is a problem that I personally don't have, it's not like he's replaced them with umbrellas-- they're blades specifically designed for the task he is undertaking. The only argument I've read from the other side is that the blades are more susceptible to wind and rain than regular legs, so he exerts more energy to start running. So what's a good measure of they're effectiveness vs. their deffectiveness?

Well, how about the fact that Oscar is competing for a spot in the Olympics? A UK article states,

"Despite his ill fortune, he was a keen athlete at school and took part in rugby, water polo, tennis and wrestling. Pistorius took up competitive running in January 2004, aided by his special limbs. Within eight months he had won gold in the 200 metres at the Athens Paralympics."

I think it's probably accurate that Oscar's dedication and ability to rise above his disability helped him become the athlete that he was and that he is, but isn't it a little possible that the opposite is true? That he was and is such a competitive and successful athlete because he has robot limbs? Everyone's all, "It's amazing how good he is!" at the same time they're saying, "His Cheetah robot legs have NOTHING to do with it!" It's tough to think they're entirely unrelated.

So here's what I think: I think he should be allowed to compete-- only take another look at the picture above and note what's standing next to him-- Put your legs on, sir. Not your bionic cheetah legs, but your bulky crap-legs, which are not unlike the bulky crap-legs that millions of people on this planet surely have. We don't let Iron Man play center field for the Brewers, Robo Cop is not part of any biathlon teams, and Stephen Hawking isn't racing in the Indy 500.

Finally, I think it's important to note that this Olympic Committee ruling is a major step in the direction of our ultimate doom versus the robots. There is a decision on the books where a part machine man is competing against others. This will be used as precedent for other partial and eventually total robots to infiltrate our social networks, our athletic networks, and finally, our government. From Robot Head Alarm Clock to Bionic Athlete to world domination. Robotic Dictator. That's what the D stood for in R2D2. Robot2Dictator2. Doomed.

I'd Give My Left Leg for a Cheetah Leg...and My Right Leg for a Tiger Leg, and My Two Arms For Rocket Launchers/Grappling Hooks, and My Left Eye For A Bionic Eye and-- and-- and...,


Anonymous said...

I disagree: I pix Pistorius. I'm a big Pistorius fan, going back a few years. (Yeah, I'm serious.)

I looked up some biomechanical studies on the ankle joint at some point and basically the ankle joint can act as a spring with more than 100% efficiency (work out / work in) because one can add in energy in addition to the energy that is being stored and rebounded by the ankle. Anything mechanical can only be <100% efficient, even super alloy Z carbon fiber.

He got reinstated because he got biomechanics people to argue that his whole system is less efficient than a human body with lower legs.

Witz said...

I can only agree with you on those points, but ankles also sprain, break, and roll. Feet cause things like shin splints, general wear on the body, and can falter and fail. Despite the "system" that is functioning, the shear fleshy existence of the lower legs and all the problems they bring with them are the difference in my mind...

Lindy said...

Witz, I think you are officially picking out your cubicle down under in the afterlife. :-)

But, you probably already know that.

You talk about how Pistorius no longer has to worry about lower leg problems while forgetting that his upper legs now have twice the problems! Most people don't have to fasten things to the top of their legs. Things that rub, dig in, break skin, and wear on the joints and muscles twice as much.

If you are truly worried, Sam Waterston has some Robot Insurance to sell you...

JKow said...

I'm a little unsure about your life aspirations based on the closing of this post: it sounds like you'd like to become the Cyberdemon from Doom 2.

btw, i'll put all my money on Darth Vader in the Dead Lift event in the 2048 Olympics.