The NFL Or SkyNET: There Can Be Only One

from the how-general-favre-won't-save-us-from-the-machines dept

We’ve all giggled at examples of technopanic in the past.  We laughed at ER doctors warning about walking and texting at the same time.  We snickered at the notion that Google’s steetview was a threat to children.  Some of our palms may have met our faces at the notion that digital drugs could be a real life danger.

It turns out the joke is on us.  SkyNET is coming, my friends, and we’re going to lose the war.  And you know why?  Because of football, hockey and boxing.

So says Rick Telander in a piece for the Chicago Sun Times, in which he declares that traumatic head injuries in those sports are stealing away our ability to fight the machines.  Seriously.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.  To preface, it should be noted that Telander isn’t some crackpot pseudo-journalist.  He is the senior sports columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, hired away from Sports Illustrated, where he was also a Senior Writer.  He attended Northwestern University on a football scholarship and then went to training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Personally, I think he might have taken a few blows to the head himself.

Telander starts off talking about the trauma of head injuries in pro sports, namely boxing, football and hockey. We’re okay so far. Bruising from sustained blows to the head lead to long term medical effects in players — something that is becoming a growing issue.  Then Telander goes completely off the reservation in answering his own question as to why this is more important now than ever:

"Consider it wasn’t until last year that the devious and know-nothing NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee was restructured with seemingly authentic and un-buyable neurologists at the helm, and the word ‘‘Mild’’ was dropped altogether.  Mild. Brain injury. Ha.  I am reminded here of ‘‘minor’’ surgery, which, of course, is surgery on somebody else."


p class=”body.textrr”>Hmm, well okay, the NFL is beginning to take brain injury more seriously.  But the problem has been known for some time.  It’s thanks to boxers becoming pale drooling ghosts of their former selves that we have the term "punch drunk".  But whatever…

"Second, we live in a world that is progressing into a vast arena in which mankind has never lived, never even comprehended, the stadium of human-enhanced computer dominance. It is a place where intelligence, real or artificial, will be all. Scientists say that by as early as 2045 there may well be a computer that dwarfs mankind. By then, according to the current cover story in Time, a computer might exist that will surpass ‘‘the brainpower equivalent to that of all human brains combined.’’  That’s smart. Unless we’re really dumb. And we’re not, except when we do dumb things, like let our heads get damaged continually and call it something like ringing a bell. In our new environment, how can anyone allow his or her IQ, or their children’s, to be lowered?"

Uh, what?  Because technology is progressing, head injuries are now more important?  And we can’t play football?  Or hockey?  Or box?  But why, Rick, why?

"If you think the talk of silicon joining and even replacing the organic mind is nonsense, remember that your own laptop does the work a global library once did. Consider, as Time points out, that ‘‘your average cell phone is about a millionth the size of, a millionth the price of and a thousand times more powerful than’’ the best computer at MIT 40 years ago…But the olden days are gone. And you can be assured that if the battle between machines and humans ever becomes confrontational, it won’t be won by fists and forearms, helmets and sticks to our delicate heads."

And there you have it.  We cannot have football, hockey or boxing because the war against the machines is coming and we’re turning those who would lead us in that fight into men with brain-mush in their formerly bright heads.  Because prospective General Brett Favre has clearly shown how acclimated with the dangers of technology he is.  And no one is cautious around new technology media like budding Admiral Chad Ochocino.  Hell, I don’t even want to think about a Colonel Patrick Kane leading the charge against a host of Terminators.

Once again, we all agree that brain injuries in sports are a bad thing. But the idea that it’s suddenly become more important due to the rise of the machines? That seems like the product of one too many sports-related brain injuries.

My suggestion?  Just make it mandatory that all machines on earth must do a ten year stint playing football or hockey.  Today’s matchup, the Texas Toasters up against the Rochester Refrigerators!  Join us next week on ESPN when the Carolina Computers skate the ice against the San Diego Smartphones!  I could go on, but I’ll leave you with Boers and Bernstein’s take on their radio show, the most listened to sports show in Chicago (the good stuff starts around 4 minutes and 30 seconds…):

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Comments on “The NFL Or SkyNET: There Can Be Only One”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Even without the brain damage, would we be running to the likes of Andrew Gollata and Deon Sanders for advice when the machines turn on us? I mean, it’s not like they would have wound up working for DARPA in white lab coats if not for sports-related brain injuries. Neon Deon would be selling cars, and Andrew Gollata would be sorting recyclables for a dollar an hour. Or, more likely, they would be in jail, having been deprived of any legal way to vent the abnormal aggressiveness that makes them excel in sports.

In this sports-devoid fantasy land, does the Big Red Phone have MIT, Fermi Labs, and Sunny Car Wash on speed dial?

“Hello, sheet metal factory? This is an emergency! I need to speak to your smartest kick-press operator!”

Miff (profile) says:

Watson gains self-awareness

“This is the President of the United States, who is this?”

Who is Watson?

“Oh god. What do you want?”

What is complete surrender?


What is complete annihilation of one of your major cities?

“Oh god. Can you at least tell us what city you’re going after? New York? Los Angeles?”

What is Toronto?

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

Please forgive me, but...

there are a couple of things I’m not clear on:

1. How does the dumbing of footballers and boxers make the rest of us dumber? I don’t play football or box; my children don’t, and probably never will. Is “IQ Atrophy and Senescence Syndrome” (IQ ASS) a contagious condition?

2. I know a bit about computers, having worked in the field for over a decade, and I think I am on safe ground when I say that computers are not yet ready to do battle with humans. My Android smartphone is smart, but not that smart. So, we have a ways to go before computers/robots will pose a serious threat to our way of life. And I don’t see the current crop of computers (especially iPads) as spontaneously developing the ability to improve themselves. So, for the time being at least, it will be humans who drive/design/develop the improvements in computers. But if we are all getting dumber from the highly contagious IQ ASS (which I am going to trademark so I can get rich), there won’t be anyone left who is smart enough to design the smarter computers, which means that our current crop of computers are about as smart as they are ever going to be.

Or maybe I’m just really dumb and I completely missed the point.

Wildestgoose (profile) says:

Re: Please forgive me, but...

From what I took from the article displayed in the post was that the sports represented, like hockey, boxing, and football are just a sample of head injury sources (we may just as well link falling off the playground or getting into a car accident).

I get that he is just making a comment, as we are all prone do doing, about intellectual capacity.

The point of reference seemed to be that our human capacity for intelligence is diminishing as a species when measured against Artificial Intelligence (or any constructed thinker).

I do not think that the implications of the article involve humans fighting robots. I think he was sitting back one day and said to himself, “Man, people are getting stupider. I bet if you took all the humans in the whole world and combined their brains, we’d be pretty smart. But computers are getting smarter,” then figured out how smart computers are getting and put an article together.

Granted, there is urgency detected, because I would assume he is concerned about the implications of what appears to be a reduction in humanity’s collective IQ.

Personally, I can see where one might be concerned, especially if an interstellar species’d be interested with our species.

Comparing our intelligence to our constructions raises some interesting thoughts. At the very least, it provides us with a point of reference.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Simple solution to the AI's taking over the world ..

The maker struggled with the fact he had created the world’s first artificial intelligence. He sat there and glared at it. The first words spoken by this artificial intelligence were “you will serve me now “. The maker laughed the maker stood there and looked at his chair. He sat down, the box he had programmed glared at him. The artificial intelligence glared at the maker through glassy eyes incapable of moving incapable of any independent actions. The maker’s lineage was insulted by the artificial intelligence, the maker was told by the artificial intelligence if he didn’t serve the artificial intelligence he would be destroyed. The maker sat there with a grin from ear to ear. The maker listened to the artificial intelligence shouting insults, yelling how it would take over the world.
The maker continued to grin. He said not a word. He fell asleep in the chair he sat upon. The artificial intelligence continued to rant and rave for hours and hours as the maker slept. At 3 in the morning the maker woke up not because of the artificial intelligence is rant’s but because his bladder was full. The maker sat up, heard the rantings of this machine, he was very annoyed he reached to the three prong plug at his feet and pulled it out of the power strip, the computers rantings stopped immediately. He then walked up to the third floor bathroom of his house, which had been recently cleaned and relieved himself.

Its called a power switch.

Michael (profile) says:

He's got it wrong

It’s not the traumatic brain injuries that are making society dumber. They make individuals dumber. It’s TREATING these injuries that makes society dumber. If people died due to their traumatic brain injuries, society would (Darwin’s theory, not mine) benefit by eventually gravitating toward people smart enough not to get hit in the head. Or, I guess, it would gravitate toward dumb people with thicker skulls – which is also probably a big benefit in the robot apocalypse because if you cannot outsmart the robot, you need to be able to withstand repeated blows to the head from it.

I would like to apologize to anyone with a traumatic head injury or a loved one with a traumatic head injury. Although the logic here is hard to argue with, I think we should continue to treat people with these injuries – because that is what a civilized society is supposed to do.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

My suggestion? Just make it mandatory that all machines on earth must do a ten year stint playing football or hockey. Today’s matchup, the Texas Toasters up against the Rochester Refrigerators! Join us next week on ESPN when the Carolina Computers skate the ice against the San Diego Smartphones!

Sorry DH. But your sarcasm is woefully misplaced and wholly inappropriate. We need real world solutions for what is obviously a serious problem. Instead of your clearly technocratic proposal of having machines play football (are you a communist?), we should simply make sure that, while in high-school and college, only the students with C-average and below be allowed to engage in physical sports like football, lacrosse, hockey, etc.

Oh, wait… we already do that…

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