Humans are antiquated technology that should be replaced

Regardless of whether you’re a football (read: soccer) fan, you’ll doubtlessly have some awareness that the World Cup is scheduled to kick off this year. And even though the thought of the 2014 World Cup is far from most minds, it hasn’t stopped news cropping up about a World Cup that is even further along the horizon.

The news of Japan’s bid for the 2022 World Cup cropped up on the PopSci front page recently, presenting the exciting possibility that we may be able to watch live football matches in holographic 3D. Japan’s World Cup bid wants to make use of some pretty nifty technology to project three-dimensional players onto the fields of stadiums around the globe, as the matches are being played in Japan.

Send this guy back to the pavilion

(Image: Andy Todd)

The idea of mixing sports and more recent technology has been playing on my mind for quite some time now. Ever since the introduction of the third umpire in cricket, I’ve dreamed of a sports world that relies less on the inaccuracies of human discernment and more on the callous truths offered by technology. And with the globe gripped by World Cup fever, I find myself reminded of just how much I want to see outdated referees boxed up and replaced by the ever-accurate gaze of technology.

Imagine a world without referees

(Image: Derek Kaczmarczyk)

It was only a couple of months ago that PopSci was reporting the announcement of the football that should be at the World Cup. For all intents and purposes the ball looks and functions as a normal soccer ball, but where it differs is in the clever technology beneath the hood. I for one am very excited about the possibilities presented by a football that sports an internal positioning system along with the ability to change colour depending on its position on the field (i.e. onside or offside).

Naturally, the technology would have to be tried and proven under some pretty stringent match conditions before it could be presented as the replacement for hit-and-miss referees. But think of the possibilities. Imagine a World Cup where there was no such thing as an offside goal being allowed to score the winning point or, alternatively, a player being called offside when he is, in fact, onside. Just have a look at the video below to see an example of the questionable decisions made by the human eye.

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear from the title of this blog post and the aforementioned argument, I’m all for the movement towards phasing out human referees, umpires and adjudicators in all forms of sports. Be sure to let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments section below.


6 Responses to “Humans are antiquated technology that should be replaced”
  1. Ken Martin says:

    I thought the whole point of sports was for humans to have fun. If you are going to replace referees why not players too? Oh, wait a minute, we already have with video games! Seems to me that “smart” balls are an enhancement to regular referees like replay footage that helps determine accuracy in goal calling or winning a nose to nose race. Why should any of this technology replace rather than enhance the human participation?

  2. Muffin says:

    Well this also kind of ties into justice and law - isn’t it true that an eye witness account of a situation can override hard evidence even though human memories are totally fallible and unreliable? Just a thought. But yes, I agree - human refs are pretty inconsistent.

  3. @ Ken Martin - At the moment the referee/umpire is still used as the ultimate authority, even though there is a host of technology they have access to that could help them make better decisions. Even in cricket, where the notion of challenging an umpire’s decision has been introduced, this is still a flawed system because it still relies on human perception (i.e. the player). I don’t think human players should be replaced at all, but there have been far too many dud calls by human referees/umpires that have cost a game. Sports is still there to be fun, but when it gets to a professional level where we consumers are paying to watch it and it becomes more of a commercial pursuit than a leisure option, I say let’s make the adjudication as accurate as possible.

    @ Muffin - Interesting tangent point on the often talked about issues with human memory and perception. This seems to be an issue that is raised quite often, and yet the notion of an ‘eyewitness’ is still somehow more powerful than more accurate means. Then again, images can be altered and faked entirely nowadays, so it does become more difficult to rely solely on technology as it relates to legal matters.

  4. Shonky Adonis says:

    I think the idea of tying technology into reffing is a good idea. It’s certainly been proven to work in some sports, such as Rugby League and Rugby Union. I do think, however, it is difficult to introduce into more free-flowing games like Football/Soccer. In Football a stoppage in play so that a decision, such as a penalty, can go to a video ref can be disatrous to one team’s flow of attack. The “smart ball”, whatever it is, sounds like a pretty decent way to assist refs in making their decisions from what I’ve heard discussed here. But I do believe that all decisions in sport should always ultimately come down to a person, rather than a set of algorythms or a databas of exact rules. I think that’d take alot of fun out of the game, not to mention some of the spirit.

  5. @ Shonky Adonis - I agree with you about the importance of keeping the game flowing, which is why I find the CTRUS C1 football (the one mentioned in the blog) is a fantastic step in the right direction. The different colours it can display to indicate on or offside means that players can act somewhat as referees: both those with the ball and those around them. Video decisions do slow down a team’s momentum and, perhaps worse, the game for those of us watching. I just think that we’re at a stage where we should seriously start thinking about new technology that could be integrated into sports to make it more fair, decrease dependency on human perception and keep the game flowing (no video decisions).

    I’m struggling to think of examples of human error that have been received well by the team a decision goes against (as well as their fans). It may take some getting used to, but I don’t see that it will interfere with the spirit of a game: in fact, I think it will add to it. Think of technology that could be used to spot an illegal tackle that is obscured from a referee or linesman, a ‘Hollywood’ fall in order to milk a penalty, or (changing sports) the ability to tell when a batsmen in cricket is really out and should have walked.

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