TED Conversations

Arthanari Chandrasekaran

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Is there anything that a human being can never possibly do?

We humans are so overwhelmed with the millions of actions that we perform everyday. We call ourselves multitaskers and have todo lists and sometimes are concerned about over todo lists being overloaded.

But there should be zillions of things that human beings can never be able to do or are incapable of doing.

We might not have thought much about them. So thinking in this new perspective might create some new connections in your brain.

All the best.

  • Feb 2 2013: Rather than answering this question, I want to say the reason why human beings can do something is that something—our brain, history, nature and God—always enables us to manage to do that.
    We do see a lot of miraculous happenings around the world, but we also acknowledge that quite often those are beyond our understanding.

    If the things—could be anything—which have been enabling us to do something no longer work in us, that would be the key point of answering this question.

    By "a human being", I think you mean more than just a person.
    It’s not merely about what a person is really capable of right now.
    We, humans are not just on our own, ironically.

    (fyi, I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I'm not talking about some religious opinion. I hope you understand what I mean)
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    Jan 14 2013: I'm disappointed with the comments below that limit their answers to the physical limitation of out bodies, as out species has spent the last 150,000 years extending those with science. We can't walk on water, but we've invented boats, etc.

    What humankind can do is limited only by the physical laws of the universe, and our own imaginations.
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    Jan 18 2013: I think it is very difficult, if not impossible, to take off the filter of personal bias.
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    Jan 15 2013: Yes. To live a life without sin, hate, lust or greed.
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    Feb 12 2013: Arthanari,

    A human being can never know everything. And, related, a human being can never be fully flawed or, conversely absolutely perfect.

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    Feb 10 2013: Humans try to do things to attain maximum in their field of interest. Climber wants to climb highest peaks, space sceintists wants to see the whole space etc. Similarly every wise person in the world try to be as wise as possible.
    Though we are taught that plants are lower form of life as compared to human species, ironically all the wise people in the world try or teach us, to be like a tree.
    Gives only ,never takes.
    Survives on minimum ,Water and minerals
    Makes its own food, no dependance
    Sambhav (equinamous)- free of twin opposites
    Takes all the set backs and bounce back , cut it chop it - it sprouts again .
    we can only try to be like a tree can never possibly attain all its qualities.
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    Feb 6 2013: To live in peace and harmony.
    Well actualy people would be able to do anything if they will not destroy themselves before that...
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    Jan 30 2013: Well, at first, everything was impossible. If you ask a man from the 9th century: "Do you know that in the future people will write letters by a machine, called computer?", he'll laugh and say you're weird or crazy. So, impossible things won't be impossible one day.

    I think so, too. And I hope that in my lifetime I'll be able to visit the Moon and Mars as a traveller. :)
  • Jan 19 2013: Tha answer is no. We are capable to do everything specially considering the fact that we are using no more than 4% of human brain :)
  • Jan 19 2013: the fact is that we are limited by our bodies themselves but the thing that we cannot do is pull someone out of death
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    Jan 14 2013: Human beings can not, by their own power, put an end to evil; because a mass of people are still groping in the dark, wondering what is 'good' and what is 'evil'.
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    Jan 14 2013: With respect to the scale of the universe, it seems likely that there are plenty of things that might fall outside the scope of human comprehension and ability.

    Although I cannot speak for human descendents who evolve from us, I am inclined wonder if there may be some physical laws or inherent properties of the universe that our very nature prevents us from being able to fully understand, even if we were aware of them. Trying to comprehend such topics would be analogous to trying to impart the laws of classical physics to an ape. Understanding and applying basic physics is quite possible (if not intuitive) for humans, but the ape's brain will only allow it to experience the depth of physics to a certain degree. The ape has some physical intuition that it is able to apply while interacting with its environment (for example, an ape would be aware that things fall towards the Earth), but the physical structure and programming of the ape's brain would make it extremely difficult/impossible to communicate to the details or mechanics of physics to it, even if it occurred to the ape to be curious about such things to begin with.

    I realize this answer is very unspecific, but given all the science that we have barely scratched the surface of, I believe it's a good starting place when it comes to identifying our own limitations. Thank you for asking this excellent, thought-provoking question.
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      Jan 18 2013: What if you give that ape a cybernetic neuronal implant from 2023 and that same ape becomes more aware of the laws of the Universe than the whole Humanity combined in 2012.

      Within these conditions would you consider the ape gain or loss something to it ?
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    Jan 13 2013: "But there should be zillions of things that human beings can never be able to do or are incapable of doing."

    I don't agree.
    I believe that anything is possible if enough time and energy is applied to it.
    It may not be exactly as expected, but it can still happen.

    We can fly, we can find out more or less anything in a minute, we can leave the planet, we can breath underwater, we can see into the past, we can talk to people almost anywhere in the world.
    Sure, its not in the way that would define us as superheros or gods, but its a pretty good (but a frustratingly slow) start.
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      Jan 14 2013: I tend to agree with you Xavier...anything is possible with time, effort and energy:>)

      "Only as high as I reach can I grow,
      Only as far as I seek can I go,
      Only as deep as I look can I see,
      Only as much as I dream can I be..."
      (Karen Ravin)
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    . . 100+

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    Feb 12 2013: We can never
    Undo an act.
    Unsay a spoken word.
    Unthink a thought.
    Unsee what we saw.
    Unhear what we heard.
    Unknow what we know.

    We can not reverse time.

    On the bright side:
    We CAN HEAL someone and something.
  • Feb 11 2013: yes, avoiding from death. we just can survive.
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    Feb 9 2013: Why limit yourself? Impossible is nothing!
  • Feb 9 2013: Our level of achievement will ultimately be limited by our imaginations.
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    Feb 6 2013: To know what really is reality and truth.
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    Feb 4 2013: even impossible has the word possible.
  • Feb 3 2013: I doubt if we will ever be able to create nature as we see it in this world. No human has created a mountain, an ocean or the blossoming tree outside my window. We live on a planet of questions. In time we may be able to provide answers to many of them, but I think our nature is limited in that we will will never have all the answers we seek. l
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    Feb 3 2013: Human beings will never find God through Science or organized Religion.
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    Jan 30 2013: We cannot count to infinity. This is a limitation we created with the nature of numbers. A thought is that many of the limitations we see today we created. Usually inventions make something possible and open doors to new possibilities. We see this with the seemingly limitless possibilities of what you can accomplish with numbers: calculations, statistics, organization, etcetera. But one limitation we do see in he inability to count to the highest number..
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    Jan 23 2013: using the word never means we are making predictions about the future ...so, humans of the 22nd century and beyond, having benefited from accelerated evolution due to genetic remodeling, may very well do things and think in ways that humans in their current form clearly can't. It seems obvious to me that accelerated understanding of nature feeding into accelerated technologies, and visa versa, in an upward spiral, will change our current human abilities and form in profound ways. If not this century, soon. Hopefully, this will lead to a better, more humane civilization and not advantage the dark side of the human animal.
  • Jan 20 2013: There is nothing called impossible for human's because impossible it self says that "i'm possible".
    Correct me if i am wrong...!!
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    Jan 20 2013: One thing I like to say is that you can not die in order to save yourself. I like to pair that with MLK Jr's accredited quote that if you have not found anything worth dying for, then you have not found anything worth living for. Therefore, if you can not die in order to save yourself then living solely for yourself is not a life worth living.
  • Jan 18 2013: The "spark" of life. We human beings will never have the ability to create or to apply new life to mass. We will discover a great deal about life, its energy, its application, but to create it---never.

    We humans are limited, as many comments here affirm.

    The next question could be: Who does have the capability to do what humans will never do?
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      Feb 1 2013: The only answer that comes to mind is the one who can create life in the first place and have no limitations: God. Except that it's hard for anyone to prove that.
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    Jan 18 2013: We can never fully comprehend human consciousness, using only science.

    Consciousness is far bigger than anything that can be grasped objectively. Consciousness is something we experience, but is impossible to define. We can 'distil' that experience by embracing the metaphysical, the poetic, the artistic - but the full gamut of consciousness still remains out of reach of the scientific method.
  • Jan 18 2013: the which human being can never possibly to do is we can never throw anything with the speed of light..
  • Jan 14 2013: Perhaps we are incapable of defining the limits of human imagination.

    IMO, the comment by Jacqueline d'Etienne is superb. There may be many things we cannot achieve because we cannot imagine them.

    This question has important implications.

    Should we trust that human imagination and innovation will result in a world of abundance?
    Should we admit that human innovation is limited and that we must live within limitations?

    Thinking of ourselves in a positive light generally results in more positive outcomes. But thinking of ourselves as having no limitations might lead to catastrophe. "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs, 16:18)