Sunday, November 12, 2017

Taking The Sporting Life Out of Sports

            It seems that no area of modern life can escape being technologized.  Take sports, for example.  A company called DribbleUp has already invented and marketed a smart basketball, and is in the process of marketing a smart soccer ball.  The basketball is tracked by an app on a smartphone that uses the smartphone’s camera and pulls together thousands of data points to analyze a player’s techniques and guide him to improve his dribbling technique.  The player learns from watching a virtual trainer on his phone go through drills and then imitating him.  The ball is tracked by algorithms that lock onto the ball and follow it.  There evidently are other balls manufactured by other companies that actually have sensors inside of the balls.  It would seem that such sensors as well as batteries add unnecessary weight to the ball.  DribbleUp is the only company that has created a system for tracking a ball that doesn’t have internal sensors or batteries.

            So you too can become a master dribbler in basketball or a master kicker in soccer by taking the DribbleUp path.  But there is a price that is going to be paid for the acquisition of these skills using all this smart technology.  Sports, in a certain way, traditionally have had elements of an art in them.  Technique was a matter of developing certain flowing blendable continual movements that were appropriate for achieving the ends of a particular sport.  This was true both for sports that had a projectile in them as well as racing sports and sports that involved martial arts.  Developing technique in a sport involved modifying the way an athlete experienced himself.  It involved briefly lifting himself out of the flow of his life through guidance and practice drills in order to then reinsert himself as a practicing athlete with reconfigured methods in the flow of his athletic play.  But the corrections were never meant to be of such a nature as to potentially disturb the coherence of his sense of self, the coherence of his flow of movement.  And this is because each sport was an art, and a good player had to remain coherent in order to maximize the quantity and quality of the organic imprints that he made in playing his game.  To be a good player requires not only that he be able to make the right moves but that he has the coherence of self to be able to make the judgements as to which right move to apply in which situation, and also that he be able to blend these moves or string them together in order to be able to make effective complete plays.

            In DribbleUp, a player learns an aspect of a sport not so much through a flowing blendable continual experience of movement, but on the basis of thousands of data points, thousands of micro-events that not only pixilate his movements, fragment his movements, in order to put them back together in a perfect expression, but also pixilate or fragment his sense of self.  An advanced complex behavioral entity that lacks coherence has lost one of the essential components that could be used to define him as a human being.  Such a person is sliding into behaving like and becoming a robot.

            The app on the phone models for a player a particular kind of athletic movement with a robotic precision.  And yet without sound judgement, without the contribution of a coherent sense of self, how does a player experience that he is making and preserving meaningful organic imprints?  To just be trained to make good mechanical responses, how does a person’s play contribute to him experiencing it as part of a rich vibrant life?  How does the flow of his play, a flow that has been broken down into small parts and pixilated, contribute to his interacting organically with his teammates and bonding with them?

            And then the larger question is whether or not we are moving to a time when our whole life narrative will be broken down into pixilated microevents so we can learn to perform our life processes just right.  All of our life processes, both mental and physical, will be taught to us as if they could be thought of as being subject to the rules of mechanical engineering and computer programming.  Perfecting “our right actions” as if there were seldom or even never creative alternatives.

            The two brothers who have created the DribbleUp apps thought they were doing something truly noble, helping young players who can’t afford a personal trainer to perfect their technique on their own.  But the best way to learn how to improve in a sport is by modeling oneself after a living flesh-and-blood human being in external world reality.  That is the way a person improves his play and stays whole and coherent at the same time.  Is it worth improving one’s play at the price of unconsciously becoming a pixilated avatar or a mechanized robot?  That is the real question.  Perhaps it is similar to the question of whether it is worth ruining one’s health by taking steroids in order to become a super athlete.  In all sports, there have been many stars who started their lives in poverty and somehow found a way to rise above it and excel in their respective sports without using DribbleUp or anything analogous to it in order to develop their technique

            And returning to the discussion of applying DribbleUp techniques to our whole life narratives, it would be like putting our whole coherent lives on steroids, so we can become super livers of life, people who perform mainstream life processes in a new and different and superior way.

            So here’s another pathway to follow in order to lose one’s human side. With enough pixilating technique developers in different areas of our lives, we can become our own avatar as well as a super cyborg that performs perfectly in all circumstances.  Of course, life would become flavorless, boring and meaningless.  But that would be a small price to pay in order to have a perfect seamless existence.

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow

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