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 19 2013: Perhaps Triangles can't have 4 sides, but a triangle can have 3 90* angles.

    But it also depends on how you define a 'side'. A triangle has three 'sides' and a face, which could argued to also be a side looking head-on.

    Sometimes it isn't about trying to be sneaky to get around a definition, but approaching a problem in a way that perhaps has never been approached before. You may still be wrong, but at least you didn't just accept things without trying yourself.

    Part of the beauty of science isn't in getting the right answer, but in using the right tools to get there. We may always be wrong. We may label something impossible simply because we lack the knowledge necessary to take the final steps. We may find that the impossible is merely waiting for the right person to look at it in the right way to redefine it as not only possible, but probably, and simple once it's seen right.
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      May 20 2013: Well then I hope the right person gives an answer here.
      I admit that I haven't found the answer.
      • Delta M

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        May 20 2013: Well then, perhaps the answer to the 'deceptively simple question' is indeed "nothing".
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          May 20 2013: That is the tentative conclusion that I've been able to come up with.

          I posted on TED just to make sure that there isn't something that I've overlooked.
          None of the posts yet have convinced me that I have.

          Of course, a lack of evidence is no evidence at all.
          Just because no one can think of something impossible doesn't mean that there isn't.

          I'm looking for positive evidence that this stance is correct.
          A poverty of evidence to the contrary doesn't prove anything.

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