Blog post

Lessons from Lance – the future and Digital Doping

By Mike Rollings | February 20, 2013 | 1 Comment

Human Behavior

Recently several of us Gartner analysts were discussing the future of digitally enhanced humans. This covers a wide range from drugs that enhance cognition to prosthetics that enhance our physicality. With Lance Armstrong’s public fall from grace it is easy to see how artificial enhancement has infiltrated and tarnished professional sports. But I’m wondering about how devices make us appear more knowledgeable and how they may misrepresent our true capabilities. Is society okay with that? Is there a different standard?

Think of it, it exists today in Words-With-Friends where the app suggests that a better word is possible than the one you just spelled. But it is also sci-fi like where someone may have access to insights via digital prosthetics that make your work appear better than someone else. You diagnosed a problem simply because you accessed data via Siri or some other service.

It opens an interesting can of worms and begs the question “If doping is wrong for cyclists to enhance their performance, is digital doping wrong?” You can hear many of the same arguments tossed out for digital doping:

  • Everybody is doing it
  • All of the top performers do it, so it is a level playing field, right?
  • I only did it once, but didn’t like it
  • They didn’t tell me I couldn’t use performance enhancing products

I’m curious, where do you stand on this idea? Do you think that digital doping is okay?

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1 Comment

  • Paul H says:

    Take 2…

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    I was actually thinking along similar lines on the day you posted this. At the time, I was riding my digitally-enhanced commute route and watching the new Google Glasses marketing video. My immediate thought at the time was that it would be an interesting disruption to the learning and teaching space.

    If we’re sticking with the knowledge domain, then I’m not entirely sure that devices can really make people seem more knowledgeable than their true capabilities. Rather, I think their use of performance-enhancing technology is still a measure of their true capability; they have to be digital-literate to use the tools at hand to gain a competitive advantage.

    Perhaps we ought to reframe out understanding of capabilities. Do we expect that we hire and develop our future staff on the basis of their recall, or on the basis of the fact that they can navigate through quagmire to a desired outcome using the tools at their disposal? Do we really expect future students to have to memorize the sum of human knowledge before being able to add to it?

    From a social perspective,I guess it depends on whether you need or want to know the route taken by someone to get to a particular outcome. Did they Google, or did they Hack? Both could be seen a knowledge modifiers in the same sense as doping, but is one seen as reasonable use and the other as reprehensible? What does the sliding scale look like?

    Anyway, if modifiers are seen as uniformly bad then I’m not sure where that leaves the business model for subscription-based research services! 🙂