London 2012: the first Transhuman Games? (@CCA_Glasgow, 24/1/2011)

On 24th January, 2011, at 630pm @UWScreative will be hosting an ‘inspired by London 2012′ event at the CCA in Glasgow, host city for ICSEMIS 2012.

The event is FREE to attend and open to all. It will bring together a scientist, an artist and a philosopher (me) in conversation about the way in which athletes bodies and minds are being transformed by technology.

Today, elite sports find themselves in increasingly unchartered waters. More than ever before, athletes are using technology to optimize their biology for performance and many of their methods are not even tested for by the authorities. From genetic tests for sport performance to the use of superhuman prosthetic enhancements, this subject reaches parts that present-day anti-doping rules cannot reach.  These technologies have changed elite sports, as we know them, but the next decade promises even more of an overhaul to what we think being good at sport means.  As we approach the London 2012 Games, this debate will consider the ethical implications of new technology in sport, asking what distinguishes the cheat from the innovator. We will ask whether the debate about the ethics of athletic performance is all but over, as the winners’ podium makes space for the transhuman athlete.

Going beyond the familiar debate about doping and anti-doping, this debate will consider how far biology has been pushed by technical systems and what Jacques Ellul called the technological society. It will include Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, who works with the World Anti-Doping Agency on genetic technologies and live artist Francesca Steele (pictured here in an image by Simon Keitch, who became a body builder as part of her most recent performance work.  Along with me, we will consider how we ought to regard the future of sport and how it will function in an era of transhuman enhancements.

The event is presented by the University of the West of Scotland as part of ‘Knowing Sport: The science behind the medals’, a public engagement initiative of ICSEMIS 2012 (Glasgow) supported by PODIUM and Research Councils UK, Inspired by London 2012′.

Speaker Biographies

Dr Yannis Pitsiladis is a Reader in Exercise Physiology at the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences in the College of Medicine, Veterinary & Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow and founding member of the “International Centre for East African Running Science” (ICEARS) set up to investigate the determinants of the phenomenal success of east African distance runners in international athletics. Recent projects also include the study of elite sprinters from Jamaica and the USA and the study of world class swimmers (e.g., why are there very few black swimmers?). He is a Visiting Professor in Medical Physiology at Moi University (Eldoret, Kenya) and Addis Ababa University (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). He is a member of the Scientific Commission of the International Sports Medicine Federation (FIMS, and a member of the List Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). He is also a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Francesca Steele has performed and exhibited work nationally and internationally since graduating with a BA in Fine Art from Northumbria University. She was awarded the Belsay Hall Fellowship in 2006, and has spent time as an artist in residence in various sensitive research, medical and rehabilitation settings including The Centre for Life and PEALS, in Newcastle and Horticultural Healing (a rehabilitation project for clients with acquired brain injury) in Plymouth. Francesca has performed at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead and Arnolfini, Bristol amongst other UK and international venues. Her work has been featured in a range of publications, most recently Marina Abramovic and the Future of Performance Art (Prestel 2010). Currently Francesca bodybuilds specifically as part of her arts practice. The preparation for her current work began in October of 2008, since that time Francesca has trained as a bodybuilder. She won the title of Miss Plymouth in September 2009 and Miss West Britain (Trained Figure) at the National Amateur Body Building Association (NABBA) competition in April 2010, in May of that year she placed in the top six at the British Finals. From these experiences she has continued to develop her arts practice, through video and live performance work. Notably Routine, which was performed at The Pigs of Today are the Hams of Tomorrow (January 2010) and then the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow (March 2010).

and here’s my sport biography 🙂

Professor Andy Miah, PhD, is Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the Faculty of Business & Creative Industries at the University of the West of Scotland, Global Director for the Centre for Policy and Emerging Technologies, Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, USA and Fellow at FACT, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, UK. He is co-editor of Sport Technology: History, Philosophy and Policy (2002), currently on sale in the IOC Museum. He is author of over 50 papers on technology and sport and is author of ‘Genetically Modified Athletes’ (2004 Routledge), the first book to address this new science of human enhancement. He often gives pro-enhancement arguments, the most enjoyable of which was giving one such address to the IOC President Jacques Rogge and the Queen of Sweden at the Nobel institute in Sweden.