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Sports Athlete

Sports Athlete

26 March 2023

Will AI replace Sports Atheletes?

For tens of thousands of years, we've enjoyed watching sports. It's as old as figuring out we can run.

You can argue there is nothing more human than sports. Sports manifests the randomness of our physical differences, our immense desire to compete, and our motivations (and pain...) in pushing the limits of our physical capabilities.

For fans, it's the tribal connection and euphoria of watching our team compete.

This deeply ingrained aspect of human nature renders it unfathomable that AI could ever replace sports athletes.

While machines may be able to mimic or surpass human prowess, and they surely will, they lack the fundamental human qualities that make sports such a compelling and universally relatable experience.

In short. We love sports.

Emotional Connection

The emotional connection sports fosters among fans is unlike anything else on earth. A sports fan will go to the other end of the world, sleep in a car with 3 buddies, and work overtime for a year, just to pay for it all.

The narrative of the underdog, the heartbreak of a last-minute defeat, or the exhilaration of a hard-fought win, all tap into our shared (human) experience. One hundred thousand fans in a stadium, celebrating a goal or win together, is one of life's greatest experiences. For many it's the ultimate.

This experience goes back thousands of years, and it's this euphoric feeling that keeps fans returning to their stadiums, glued to their screens, and cheering on their favorite teams and players across the world. Artificial intelligence, with its logic and cold precision, simply cannot replicate the raw emotion and passion that is intrinsic to sports.


Sports is a unique platform for cultural expression and exchange. International competitions like the Olympics and the World Cup, foster a sense of global unity, as nations come together to cheer on their players, celebrating their shared love of the game and unique cultural identities.

The prospect of robots or AI taking the place of human athletes at such events is not only improbable, but also universally undesirable, as it would detract from everything that defines these competitions, and has done for as long as we know.


The unpredictability and fallibility of athletes further contributes to the excitement and drama of sports. While AI robots may be able to do things human athletes could never do, and could play a game 'perfectly', they lack the capacity for error and improvisation that makes sports thrilling (and equally frustrating) to watch.

In a contest between two AI athletes, the outcome would be determined by the most advanced programming, or the most efficient design. That's a bit boring.

In contrast, human sports are shaped by an array of unpredictable factors, including strategy, psychology, determination, and luck, which keep the outcome in suspense, until the very end.

Could we ever see Robot Sports?

It's worth saying that the emergence of robotic sports is not a far-fetched concept. Indeed we already have it now, with shows like Robot Wars and Battle Bots, and you can argue FPV Drone Racing falls into this category too.

But as technology advances, there will surely come a time when we see very advanced robots and yes, humanoid robots, competing against each other.

This could manifest as robots playing existing sports, but entirely new robotic sports are likely to emerge, capitalizing on the unique capabilities and strengths of powerful AI-driven machines, or the fact that humans aren't at risk, so new 'too-dangerous-for-human' sports (mountain ridge jumping? podracing?) become a possibility.

It's tough to predict whether such things will ever attract more than a niche audience as they do now though. The thrill factor of new entertainment may catch on, and perhaps one day we'll see a true Robot Olympics... but thus far, robot sports have tended to attract people who appreciate the novelty, or technical achievement on display.

Regular sports fans tend to like... regular sports.

Some sports with a history of high-technology, such as Formula 1, could see AI enhancements for drivers, but they wouldn't be much fun without the driver.

So the prospect of robotic athletes replacing human athletes seems highly unlikely. The deep emotional connection, culture, and thrilling unpredictability of human sports are qualities that simply cannot be replicated by AI. As such, the enduring appeal of traditional sports is likely to prevail, regardless of technological advancements in robotics and AI.

Other Jobs within the Sports Industry

Many related jobs within the sports industry are also secure in the face of AI. The entire ecosystem of coaches, trainers, sports psychologists, broadcasters, marketing, and sales professionals, and countless others who work together to bring the experience that fans have come to love, are nearly all well insulated from AI.

These jobs are insulated from AI displacement because most require human creativity, empathy, in-person presence, or adaptability skills, that artificial intelligence, at least as it stands today and the foreseeable future, is simply ill-equipped to replace.

AI is and will increasingly impact behind-the-scenes in multiple areas of sports - strategy, training, scouting, health and administration, but it won't replace what we see on the field.


Robotic sports will emerge, and these are likely to attract niche audiences.

Sports athletes and the industry that supports them will however remain extremely safe from AI disruption, for a very long time, because of the uniquely human elements that drive their appeal. That appeal is not going away.

This resilience, rooted in the emotional bonds, history and shared experiences that sports creates, ensures the continued relevance of human athletes and the sports industry, for many years to come.

Conclusion: Extremely Safe | Time Period: Indefinitely

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