Would You Watch a Robot Olympics?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be enhanced by a concurrent skills competition between the world's top robots. Would a Robot Olympiad be a silly stunt or a major step for 21st-century technology?

What's the Latest?


The machines have already started taking our jobs. Are they now after our sports as well? Who in the world will stop them?

We can probably count out Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who last week said he wants his country to host a robot skills competition alongside the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Whether Mr. Abe is in league with the machines is still to be determined, but it's already apparent that the prime minister intends for the games to showcase Japan's status as a leader in robotics and other futuristic technologies. 

What's the Big Idea?

The conspiracy theorizing above is a joke, but Abe's plan for a robot Olympics isn't. Many outlets have reported that the prime minister intends to form a committee tasked with organizing the event. It's too early to know what the competition will look like (Abe wasn't exactly detailed in his declaration) but contests such as RoboCup and the DRC could potentially serve as models. As The Independent notes, Switzerland is set to host the first Cyborg Olympics in 2016.

More than just a sports showcase, the summer Olympic games are a worldwide television event that draws billions of viewers every four years. Could a competition that replaces flesh and blood with robotic parts ever invigorate audiences to any sort of similar degree? No one actually believes that to be part of Abe's vision, but with robotics expected to take a huge leap in the 21st century it's not too outrageous to think about just how far-reaching the technology can become. Still, it's difficult to imagine a robot Olympics rivaling a human one 80 or 800 years from now, let alone the eight until Tokyo. Sports just don't have as much appeal when sapped of the human drama.

One thing's for sure: if the 2820 Fresno Olympics feature a robots competition, NBC will no doubt find a way to screw up its coverage.

Keep reading at Slate and IEEE Spectrum

Photo credit: Kjpargeter / Shutterstock

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • There are 2 different approaches to governing free speech on college campuses.
  • One is a morality/order approach. The other is a bottom-up approach.
  • Emily Chamlee-Wright says there are many benefits to having no one central authority on what is appropriate speech.

USA ranked 27th in the world in education and healthcare—down from 6th in 1990

America continues to tread water in healthcare and education while other countries have enacted reforms to great effect.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The American healthcare and education systems are known to need some work, but a new study suggests we've fallen far in comparison to the rest of the world.
  • The findings show what progress, if any, 195 countries have made over the last twenty years
  • The study suggests that economic growth is tied to human capital, which gives a dire view of America's economic prospects.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett breaks down what qualities will inspire others to believe in you.
  • Here's how 300 leaders and 4,000 mid-level managers described someone with executive presence.
  • Get more deep insights like these to power your career forward. Join Big Think Edge.