TED Conversations

Cameron Robert

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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 20 2013: Violation of any of these three Classical Logic Laws is, always was, and always will be impossiible: 1) Law of Identity- An object is the same as itself. 2) Law of Non-contradiction- “A” cannot be both “A” and “Not A”. 3) Law of the Excluded Middle- Either a proposition is true or its negation is true. Also, the Cubs will never be world champs!
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      May 20 2013: Agreed, but these are all labels of what something is and do no dictate what something can be.

      An object can become anything.
      A tree can become a boat.

      A can be A at one moment and not A in the other.
      A meal can become garbage.

      Everything is possible.
      Is this true or false? and more importantly, how would we know the difference?

      Maybe this should be the Cubs new battle cry:
      Everything is possible!
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        May 20 2013: A boat is not a tree. A tree cannot be a boat while it is a tree. It must cease being a tree in order tom become a boat. It is, was, and always will be impossible to be both simultaneously.If A becomes something other than A, which is not A, it is no longer A. It cannot be A and Not A simultaneously. It is, was, and always will be impossible. Garbage can be a source of nutrition for a foraging animal, or a starving person but that does not make garbage a meal. That is a semantic argument and semantics are often illogical. The only way one could logically pronounce that everything is possible is if one were omniscient and that is, was, and always will be impossible (that's four examples I've offered). Either the Cubs will be world champs, or they will never be world champs, it is, was, and always will be impossible for both of those to be true simultaneously.
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          May 21 2013: Tree-boat and Boat-tree, both seem possible.
          I'm not sure that it has to stop being one to become something else.

          A basketball may also be a baseball player, although not very well.
          I don't see the necessity to destroy one to become the other, in all situations

          I do like the second part of this however.
          It seems that the cubs are destined to be champs or are destined to not be champs.

          It is equally possible for either to occur, but only one is possible.
          If one occurs it is at the exclusion of the other.

          If something never occurs, does that mean it never could occur?
          If the cubs never win does it mean that it was be impossible for them to win?

          What is this mystical force preventing them from doing so?
          Would going back in time, not be enough to change this outcome?
          If so, how and why?

          To be or not to be, but not both.
          Does that about sum up your position?
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          May 21 2013: Although, I did forget to add.
          Doesn't quantum physics allow for something to be in 2 places at the same time?

          If it is here, then it cannot be there.
          In this view, something can be both, here and there.

          Might this somehow apply to other attributes as well?
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        May 21 2013: RE: "Although I did forget to add. . . " When everything is theoretical and uncertain, as in QM, then I don't see why 11 things can't be 11 other things because there is no such thing as simultaneity. Information can be true and its opposite can also be true! Yes is no and 2+2= whatever we care to theorize it to be. Parallel lines can intersect and what goes up may not have to come down. Nothing is true and nothing is false. Everythig is, was, and always will be impossible. . . and possible.
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        May 21 2013: RE: "Tree-boat and Boat-tree. . . " Seriously? You can imagine the mesquite tree now growing in my front yard simultaneously being a boat in my front yard? I have trouble thinking you are serious about that. Sure the tree could be chopped-down, milled, dried, and made into a boat but it would not be a tree any more. A basketball player can stop playing basketball and begin to play baseball, but they CANNOT be playing both sports simultaneously.And, no, that does not sum-up my position. The three Laws of Classical Logic I shared with you sum-up my position about something being; was always; and always will be; impossible.
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          May 22 2013: I will take this response more seriously.

          According to laws,
          What it is, is A and A is what it is.
          Either it is A or it is not A.
          These are the only two options.

          This has no bearing on whether it is B or not B.
          (Although, it must be one or the other, according to #3.)
          For example, a man can simultaneously be a father, a child, a police officer, a citizen, and the list goes on. Having one quality does not exclude it from having another.

          This is certainly true when the same thing is viewed differently in different contexts.
          It may be A in the first, but B in the second.
          (These may be mutually exclusive or not)

          Not to be curt, but rather to be Kant.

          You are misinterpreting the laws to say, If A then not B.
          This is incorrect.

          A or not A.
          (To) B or not (to) B.
          This statement sums up the classic laws of thought.

          At this time, I would like you remind you that these are not natural laws.
          These were put forth by Socrates to define communication and formal logic.

          Put more precisely, the laws are better defined as:
          What is accepted to be A is A and is not not A.

          It is because we agree that it is, not because it actually is.
          The definition is based on our mutual acceptance of that term's meaning.

          This is a description of how we view the world, not as it exists.
          As stated by you, quantum mechanics seems to defy our view of the world.

          Therefore, do not be bound by how you think about the world.
          Rather, consider that this is a limited and inaccurate representation of what is.
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        May 22 2013: RE: "I will take this response . . . " On what do we agree? 1) It is not possible for something to be both 'A' and 'NOT A'. It is possible for you to be brother (A) and a husband (B), but it is NOT possible for you to be a brother (A) and a sister (C) because chromosome laws will not allow it. Therefore, "A" is "NOT C" and "C" is "NOT A". We cannot say that "B" is "NOT A", but we can, and must, say "C" is "NOT A". You cannot be both "A" (brother) and "NOT A" (sister). This truth is not dependent upon you or me believing it, it is true regardless of our assessment of its veracity. You can SAY you are both brother and sister but you cannot BE both brother and sister. Do we agree on this?
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          May 22 2013: Any transgender person would disagree with you.
          So would anyone that has an abnormal number of sex chromosomes.

          These are manmade divisions.
          An object can by many things and differ to the extent that it is each.

          A chair can be more stool-like or have some sofa-like qualities. It is not only chair.
          Labeling it as only one thing is an imprecise characterization.

          Nature does not say what is male and what is female.
          Many species are both, neither, or can switch between the two.

          This is the labeling conversation that I had stated above that I wanted to avoid.

          Possible and Impossible are mutually exclusive.
          Male and female, among many other attributes, are not.
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        May 22 2013: RE: "Any transgender. . . " So a transgender person actually takes-on the chromosomes of their new sex? I don't think so. You are arguing that it is possible for one person to be both a brother (XY) and a sister (XX) at the same time? Pure foolishness. Nature does not say what is male and what is female? Rediculous! Male and female are not mutually exclusive? Sure they are. Even a hermaphrodite cannot be both a brother and a sister. What you are calling labels are actually statements of infrangible facts. I suspect you think I am not serious here, and I have the same suspicion about you, so why don't you take the last word in our thread here and I will sign-off now. Bye.
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          May 22 2013: Then allow me to inform you.

          48, XXXX
          49 XXXXY syndrome
          49, XXXXX
          Klinefelter's syndrome
          Turner syndrome
          XX gonadal dysgenesis
          XX male syndrome
          XXYY syndrome
          XYY syndrome


          Do you consider a hermaphrodite to be a male or female?
          You apparently reject that it can be both.

          We are simply disagreeing about the boundaries by which these terms abide by.
          I don't see the world as black and white as you do.

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