Oscar Pistorius is an 18-year-old sprinter from Pretoria, South Africa, whose ambition is to compete for his nation in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. His best time in the 200 meters is 21.97 seconds, about two and a half seconds off the world mark. To compete at the elite level, he obviously has quite a lot of work ahead of him, even to qualify as his country's representative. But he doesn't lack the will to do so. Pistorius was born without feet and has fought hard--with the help of skilled prosthetics engineers--to get into a position even to consider running against the world's best able-bodied athletes.

In "Born to Run," a Web-only feature on IEEE Spectrum Online (/nov05/2189), author Marlowe Hood, of Agence France-Presse, writes that Pistorius's quest has touched off a huge controversy in the world of track. The high-tech solution to Pistorius's disability has drawn criticism as being an unfair advantage.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

Keep Reading ↓Show less