Go Blade Runner!

17 Jul 2007|Lee Shupp

Oscar Pistorius is a South African runner who happens to be a double amputee. Known as “Blade Runner,” he runs on carbon fiber legs, and he is very fast. So fast that the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) is considering banning him from track meets, claiming that he may have an unfair technological advantage over other runners. The problem for IAAF is that Pistorius is attracting much media and attention to the sport, while other runners are now threatened by the increasing possibility that they may be beaten by someone with no legs.

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Blade Runner inspires me. I think he’s awesome. I love his fearlessness, his focus, and his refusal to be limited. Although he claims to be only at parity with other runners, I’ve noticed that many people with so-called “disabilities” are very intelligently turning disabilities into advantages. I love this aspect of innovation: taking a perceived weakness and turning it into an advantage. (Example: Apple, since they cannot compete with Microsoft in creating a gigantic ecosystem with myriad partners, creates a closed system with “best of breed” partners, using its smallness to its advantage.)

The Blade Runner raises some interesting questions about innovation:

What should the IAAF do? Should it ban Blade Runner? Should it test the carbon fiber legs for equity with human legs? If so, whose?

What about steroids and other ways of enhancing performance? Hardware is obvious, chemicals much less so. There has been much discussion about which chemicals are ok, and which are cheating. Where are the boundaries?

Should we have two sets of Olympics? We could have an “Enhanced Olympics” where all modifications, physical and chemical, hardware and software, are allowed. We could have a “Natural Olympics” with no modifications allowed.

Which version of the Olympics do you think would draw more attention?

It is fascinating to watch disruptive innovation change all the rules.

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