TED Conversations

Cameron Robert

This conversation is closed.

A deceptively simple question: What is, was, and will always be impossible to occur?

I'm having difficulty answering this question with any certainty.

At first glance, most people would agree that some things are impossible.
But then have a difficult time giving an example.

The imagination allows us to think of something seemingly "impossible" and then in the next thought, to think of a way that it might be possible.

Is this a true reflection of reality?
Might nothing be impossible?

Impassable numbers such as the speed of light and absolute zero are not as absolute as they were once considered to be.

This type of thinking leads to the suggestion that all endeavors will eventually succeed and that any idea put forth at one point was, or will be valid.

Dare I say, might a god exist, just not yet?
Can any of this be true?

As a caveat, this question does not concern labels.
It is impossible for a triangle to have 4 sides, but it is possible for a triangle to be modified in such a way that it now possess 4 sides. The label of triangle is no longer appropriate, but it was never meant to be binding in the first place.


Closing Statement from Cameron Robert

This conversation has come to an end and I thank everyone that took the time to participate.
We certainly did cover a lot of territory.

I think the take away message here is that nothing should be assumed.
At one time or another, we (all) assumed something that wasn't true.

In order to overcome this, we needed the help of another perspective.
Indeed, I started this conversation on TED to seek out this very thing.

Although I have not come across anything that I am convinced is impossible, another interesting question has arose.
As proposed by LaMar Alexander, it is impossible (for humans) to know what is impossible.

This may be true. But why might it be true?

Is it impossible because our minds are limited?
Is it impossible because impossible doesn't exist?

Are we unable to find the destination or does the destination not exist?

Either way,
I think it is interesting to think about the limits of the human mind and how those limitations might be overcome.
And also to consider that minds greater than ours might exist, conceiving of what is just outside of our reach.

Until then, think about it.

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  • May 18 2013: I think one answer is deceptively simple - seeing into the future is impossible.
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      May 19 2013: Seeing into the future is easier than you think.

      Without vision and hearing the future does not exist.
      Having only a sense of smell and taste, one can only be aware of the present as it is currently happening.

      Seeing, as a sense, allows us to be aware of the future.
      We can now literally see into the future and become aware of what will happen next.

      Predicting what will happen next IS seeing into the future.
      This is regardless of whether or not it will actually happen.

      It may not always be accurate, but it can be.
      Therefore, at least some of the time, your prediction will be correct and you had saw into the future.
      • May 20 2013: I agree, Cameron, that with a heightened sense of awareness, you are able to live fully in the present, and anticipate the near future, to a certain extent.
        It is, though, impossible to foresee where you will be 6 months from now, for example. I am someone who was aware, had my life going the direction I wanted, had the ambition and the motivation, but literally got hit by a car. There is no way, not even with awareness, that I could've seen that coming. I suppose this might be what you mean, that it will not always be accurate. In my case, that's true!
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          May 20 2013: I don't know if you believe in casual determinism.
          But if you do, one things causes another and so on.

          There are a preceding set of circumstances that put you where you are.
          It couldn't have happened any other way.

          Recording each of these in a simple pinball machine is possible.
          Expanding this type of computation to the whole world would be able to predict everything.

          It would validate that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
      • May 21 2013: Cameron,
        as 'coincidence' would have it (which of course, it's not), I am dealing with this very topic and have learned some things since I posted the above comment 2 days ago.

        A series called 'Flash Forward' has set some things in motion, provoked me in a way I didn't expect, and got me researching 'casual determinism', the very thing you mention.

        I agree with everything you've said, Cameron, that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Predicting the future is still up in the air for me, but that we end up where all our chosen paths lead us is, to me, an absolute truism.

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