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."
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...):