Not long ago, an acquaintance suggested to me that high-tech sports gear was great but it was causing a loss or fundamental skills in mountain climbing. Well, yes, I can see that, you see he’d read one of my articles on the light-weight composite gear now available. He reasoned that advanced climbing technologies with advanced materials in rock climbing could be detrimental to efficiency, technique, fitness, and skill. Is he correct? Well now, yes, he has a good point, so let’s discuss this shall we?
First, in all fairness Libby Keech is studying Outdoor Activities and Sports Science at Bangor University, so you see my acquaintance is approaching this from a purely scientific point of view. I personally tend to agree with what he’s alluding too for many reasons. He also knows there are both pros and cons to such technology, so it can be debated from many different directions.
Now then, before I start my dialogue and comments, I’d like to point to another interesting new technology which has been announced; Skin Tight, second skin suits, which can be used by military, technicians, and extreme sports stars in hostile environments, which totally reminds me of what NASA wants to do with second skin tight-like space suits, which makes sense.
Okay, back to this most excellent question about sports tech. Let me begin with a little philosophy first. Remember the “shark skin” swim suits, they were banned because it gave the folks such an advantage. In climbing, a tight skinned suit could really cut down on muscle fatigue in some regards, but it would take a little to get used too.
Having heat helps the muscles immensely, too much drains all the water out, but new materials suggest they can return the sweat back to the body, thus, conservation is occurring. Some have speculated a material that can grab air from the outside and turn it into water or moisture, gaining moisture is good when climbing, as you don’t need to carry the water or weight, a return system is viable.
When it comes to mountain climbing, consider the new carbon composite carabiners, or the future of holographic climbing assistants for learning the best techniques. Those technologies would be all about safety, this a positive right? Climbing with your MP3 Player or iPod might be a distraction, but might also help as you listen to your favorite song. Having sun glasses which act as a mini-computer might warn you not to trample on endangered species of plants as you go or to back off of certain types of bats, snakes, spiders, or insects – a basic optical recognition warning device if you will, so that sort of person climbing tech device might be a positive as well.
Libby’s premise is well taken. For instance, I am a runner, and one thing I’ve noted in that sport is that the light weight shoes and orthotics, and inserts allow for someone with bad form to run the wrong way and still compete near the upper tier if they have the cardio-vascular and will to do so, that’s not good. Just like learning to fly in a Cessna 150 or 172 – it’s so easy that you never really develop your flying skills, and they are forgiving when you make a mistake, allowing you to “think” that is good enough, airline pilots say the same thing about reliance on the auto-pilot.
We will see the same thing with practically self-driving cars, or cars which parallel park, if the car does that for you, you’ll never learn through trial and error. It’s just like socialism domesticates humans, and once the money from the government stops, they don’t know how to work, have no skills, and couldn’t help themselves or get a job if they had too. So, I agree with his premise, as it happens in everything. Still, I’d say it’s fairly critical in climbing isn’t it?
When humans build tools, or do not use something, they lose it. If the Internet is always there, they stop memorizing stuff or committing it to memory, therefore their memory is lessened. Same with all these hand-held computing devices, smart phones remember phone numbers, speed dial, now Siri Voice right? It’s dummying people down, just as the light-weight and high-tech tools cover up for lack of skill, technique, and talent – thus, I’d say that Libby is correct, and Matt Ridley would agree with him too.
However, I believe my Holographic Climbing Assistant might do the opposite, as it allows the climber to see and visualize the techniques, learn them correctly, ergonomically, and understand how to maintain strength, and energy, see that point. Maybe, just maybe “Not All Technology” is bad.
Now then, back to the running and flying for a moment – good coaching, flight instruction can make up the difference, if the student is willing to learn. In sailing too, for instance, have the student learn the basics, the hard way, you know using a slide rule, and handwritten equations as in mathematics, and then once they are proficient they can use the calculator, etc. Then the CAD CAM which does all the work for them. But learning the basics, learning them right, and pushing yourself to be one with the wind, air, ground, or rock is essential too, its paramount for the proper fundamental understanding you see.
Anyway, to all those reading this article; don’t stop thinking, as it works the same way for the creative mind, don’t allow others to tell you what is creative, go create, think, envision, dream, and go beyond the norm, as all these humans around you have turned off their minds and surrendered them to the search engine, media, Internet, and personal tech devices, but don’t let yourself go there. Please consider all this.