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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.

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  • Jan 27 2013: A human being will never be able to defy the currently defined laws of physics. That's about it.
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      Jan 28 2013: Friedrich von Hayek seemed to believe that human beings would have a tremendously difficult time with the social science -- being able to observe that which doesn't matter and not being able to observe that which matters. He went on to talk about the Spanish schoolmen of the sixteenth century who emphasized pretium mathemtaticum, which depended on so many circumstances it could ever be known only to God. We're able to do a lot less than we think we can.
      • Jan 28 2013: Einsten has been quoted as saying that imagination is more important than intelligence. We cannot currently conceive of what we will know; the earth used to be flat, the sun used to revolve around the earth, disease used to caused by demons, atoms used to be the smallest possible units of matter. We are surrounded by commonplace items which would be clear evidence of magic or demons only a few hundred years ago by the most educated people in the world. While there will always be immediate limits because each answer leads to new questions, there is no limit to our ability to discover what's next. There may be an example of where human knowledge and ability has hit a wall (other than physics) and stopped, but none come to mind. While our ability to encompass all knowledge on an individual basis is long since gone, this hasn't stopped the discovery of new knowledge. We may be overwhelmed as individuals, but not as a species. "Never" is a very long time.
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          Jan 28 2013: I like the point you make. I think it's true.
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          Jan 28 2013: Hi David, indeed Einstein favored imagination and was a great pursuer of "the mysterious", that which calls us but is always slightly out of our reach... Still, I would caution against the common assertion that "because it has not been discovered yet it does not mean it will not be discovered ever".

          There is a great letter written by Isaac Asimov called "The Relativity of Wrong" that talks about this concept. Science does not jump from one finding to the completely opposed, but rather builds up slowly over time.

          We know now, for example, that the earth is not flat, but spherical, and even more than that, not spherical but slightly flattened on the poles, and beyond that even slightly wider below the equator than above. However, unless the physical laws of this universe suddenly change, there is absolutely no way that tomorrow, in 100 years, or in 10000 years someone will suddenly find that the earth has changed shape into a diamond or a cube.

          So even though there is always something new to be discovered, most scientific discoveries are only refinements of (or more general frameworks which encompass) previous working models, and new theories need to continue explaining phenomena currently explained with the limited theories we possess

          cheers
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        Jan 29 2013: "We're able to do a lot less than we think we can. " ~Taylor Tomasinl

        But, with technology, we are discovering we can do a lot more than we thought we could.
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          Jan 29 2013: Yes and no. In Nassim Taleb's book antifragility he talks about the concept of iatrogenics -- harm done from the healer. From this perspective we are advancing technologically, but we're also advancing how much harm our technology is doing to ourselves. Statistics is a great example of a technological tool that is valuable yet misused, and with quite acute iatrogenic effects. The restructuring of our society as a result of the industrial revolution is another example that comes to mind. While the industrial revolution has been extremely valuable we have social and environmental problems large enough to call into question the benefits of the industrial revolution.

          One last example. Friedrich von Hayek in his Nobel address talks about the mess the Economic sciences created by trying to mimic the application of thought of the physical sciences. He argued that we are 'Scientistically' approaching the social sciences in an attempt to be as successful in understanding the social sciences. And his Nobel address rings as true today as it did 50 years ago.

          Not being a neophyte here, just recognizing that our supposedly never ending world of technological and scientific possibility comes with a cost. What cost is too high? Is it a boom-and-bust cycle that almost collapses the world economy, is it the threat of global climate change, or how about something simple like our new found neglect for the elderly?
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      Jan 29 2013: Humans do suprising things. A sweeping statment that limits the progress of man would have to include a complete understanding of the totality of reality. I know of no one with that wisdom.

      This statement: " A human being will never be able to defy the currently defined laws of physics. That's about it. ", remindes me of a statment made by scientists back in the early part of the 19th century:

      From 1894:

      "The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."
      - Albert. A. Michelson, speech at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab, U. of Chicago 1894

      From 1888:

      "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy."
      - Simon Newcomb, early American astronomer

      "...
      Science is at its end,
      all the important things
      have already been discovered!
      W. Beaty

      You can read more here: http://amasci.com/weird/end.html

      We call it the unknown because it is: Unknown.
      • Jan 29 2013: I agree with you. My imprecise use of the word "current" was intended to mean current at any given time. I have no doubt that our understanding of the nature of things will continue to evolve in unexpected and unpredictable ways.
    • Feb 3 2013: I think a better or more apt conclusion is that we will never be able to defy the laws of physics. Because every time we surpass what the laws of physics are, we have a new law of physics, not just as we understand them on this or any other day.
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        Feb 7 2013: Yes Pat, I agree, to a degree. I'd like to add that as our (supposed) understanding of Physics increases, so too does the level of complication necessary to describe our view from the current frontier.

        Due to our slow velocities we pursue in our everyday life, thankfully, classical physics enables us to deal with most, everyday problems. When an average person like myself jumps into the fray with the likes of Micio Kaku et. all, it can be very dazzling and confusing. It's a bit like trying to put a 10,00 piece puzzle together of nothing but a sunset.

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