Friday, March 5, 2010

Technological Somnambulism

“For the interesting puzzle in our times is that we so willingly sleepwalk through the process of reconstituting the conditions of human existence.”

Langdon Winner’s statement makes a lot of sense, especially when one considers the impact of the LZR Racer. It seems quite clear that no one really understood just how much of an impact the suit would have. Some quick stats: 23 out of the 25 world records broken and 94% of all swimming races won in Beijing were achieved by swimmers competing in the LZR suit. As of 24 August 2009, 93 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing a LZR Racer. Hence FINA’s abrupt about turn in swimsuit regulations. Didn’t think that one through, did we?

So my challenge to readers of this blog: can anyone think of any other examples of technological somnambulism from the world of sport? Emily has quite rightly suggested the change in Javelin regulations - which have prevented much improvement in distances thrown - after athletes began endangering spectators and it became hard to see where in fact the javelin had connected with the ground... I wonder where else our willingness to plunge ahead with a new technology/idea/intuition has got us into trouble or affected a sport in a drastic way?

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