What happens when there are no more world records left?

Hello Tyler

I'm a British blogger and avid reader of your superb blog. I have a question for you and your readers.

In the wake of the World Athletic Championships (and Bolt's spectacular achievement) I've been wondering: what will happen when the last world records are set?

For example: nobody will ever run the 800m in one second.

Which means someone, somewhere will set a record in that event that never gets broken.

Similarly, nobody will ever throw a javelin five miles. There's got to be a limit point.

What happens after that? What happens when all the Final Records, as it were, have been set?

Of course, we won't know it when it happens. We'll keep striving to break them. But at some point we'll look back on the preceding twenty years and remark on the fact that no new records have been set. In the meantime, incrementally, everyone has caught up to a similar level as everyone else.

What happens then? Does track and field die?

Of course a new record may beat an old record in asymptotic fashion, but at some point this ceases to be exciting.  One partial solution is to redefine the unit of achievement: how many 100-meter races in a row did the person win against peers?  There can be a "Grand Prix" of accumulated race performances.  Another partial solution is to introduce weights or enhancements, to redefine the terms of the competition.  In short, I expect entrepreneurs will always find ways around this problem.  In chess the gaps between the top fifteen players have narrowed considerably, yet the public doesn't seem to have lost interest in the game.  Alternatively, individual basketball scoring performances still interest the fans, even though Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game probably will never be topped.  It's enough if the activity itself is fun.  What else will happen?


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