Written on Wednesday, February 9, 2000
Imagine something that normally doesn't have limits, or has limits that exceed the working range of that something. If you are incapable of doing this, or are still a bit sleepy, you can use my example: my web browser window.
I will be the first to admit that I like my screen resolution abnormally high. While most people are comfortable at resolutions of 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768, I like to push the health of my eyes by using a resolution of 1280 x 1024. For the record, I have perfect vision and don't need nor have ever needed glasses, contact lenses, or even the occasional use of a magnifying glass. Some people I know have truly stellar eyes and bump the resolution of their screens up to 1920 x 1200. Admittedly, my eyes can't function at this level. I prefer icons slightly larger than a millimeter.
As fascinating as talk of my screen resolution is, it isn't really the point of what I want to say. I was sitting and staring at monitor, at my browser window. Normally the window takes up slightly more than 1/4 of the screen because at the resolutions I like, there just isn't anything to the far left to look at. Even if the site is designed in such a way that text flows all the way to the left edge, on a fully widened window it can be like watching a tennis match to read it.
As I will sometimes do when I am partially bored and looking for a quick way to build excitement, I clicked on the edge of the browser window and sized it large and then small. I repeated this for a few moments enjoying the near tactile aesthetics of watching the text contained within justify and rejustify itself.
I then made the window very narrow, perhaps only an inch or two wide. The only way to view the entire horizontal contents was to use the scroll bar at the bottom. This got me thinking. What if monitor technology was limited in some fashion that screens could never be bigger than a couple of inches square. What if the prospect of having a larger monitor never occured to us or for some reason simply wasn't believed to be possible. This is where you have to rely on your imagination and believe that this is true for a moment. I'm sure if you try hard enough you won't have any trouble grasping this as a possibility.
Have you grasped it yet? If not, stop reading here because the rest of this doesn't apply to you. You might also want to take some workshops on imagination because quite frankly you need a boost in that area. For those of you that had no problem, carry on reading.
Now that you have accepted the imaginary posibility of an alternate world where display technology was limited to only two inches square, let's shift gears. The people living in that world are accustomed to what they have available. They expect nothing more and have little reason to think of any advancements in the field because logic and reason tells them that it is impossible (remember to keep your imagination in check here). At least it is believed to be impossible, the technology might not have been discovered yet.
I pondered on this thought for a while and wondered to myself, are there similar things in our reality which are thought to be limited in some way, but really either have no limits, or have limits much larger than originally believed?
Certainly there are discoveries yet to be made in the realms of science and technology. Those kinds of things rarely catch us by surprise anymore. But what about those things which have been established fact for years? Development on them stopped because it was believed that the end had been reached.
I am hard pressed to come up with a list, because one of the amazing characteristics of being human is that in pursuit of fistfulls of dollars, we'll corrupt and manipulate anything that is already established and see if it can be made better. Instead of looking for things external to us which have not been fully recognized (and don't get me wrong here, I'm sure they exist), the quest for artificial limits might best be sought inside ourselves.
There are two kinds of you. There is the unique you that only you can be, and there is the you that shares human traits with the rest of personkind. It is of no doubt that the unique you can always be improved. Improvement, however is in the eyes of the beholder. For example, you might like to collect bubblegum cards and believe that the pinacle of self improvement would be your
ability to retain a hundred years of stats and figures. Your friends and family most likely wounld't share this view. The subjectivenes of this kind of improvement rules out the unique you as being significant when seeking out a way to remove or expand artificial limits.
The son of mankind scenario (I would have said child of personkind but it doesn't sound as awe-inspiring to me), where all have qualities in common is a much better candidate for limit reduction and/or elimination. As we lead or daily lives, we get a good sense of what we as a species are capable of. For instance, we know we can't hover without support. And many of have tried. I have tried. You probably have too. Holding one's breath and trying to concentrate on raising your body off the floor, chair, sofa or bed is the normal way of going about it. Hands up how many have succeeded. Not so fast Houdini.
With the exception of illusionists and those unfortunate enough to be at the wrong end of an explosion, no one has succeeded in hovering. Because no one has ever done it, it is assumed it can't be done. Furthermore, our knowledge of human anatomy and physics tells us that it is an impossibility. But do we really know if it is impossible to hover by harnessing the energy of our mind? No we don't. I believe it's not possible, but until I see someone do it, I won't know for sure. I am in a state of suspension. I have my suspicions, but I would never be able to state with any authority that it can't be done.
Most people are quick to state things that aren't known with any certainty. They have a pride of ownership; it doesn't matter to them if what they own is real or not. It is theirs and they feel it is their right to let you know it. I am refering, of course, to religious fanatics, end of the world doom sayers, and so on. People that believe what's going on, and will sometimes kill to protect this belief. When asked if they know for certain some will say yes, the rest will admit no. I think that those who say yes have either an ego or mental problem. Or perhaps they really do know something and I am the one who is being foolish. This too I leave open because I don't what the answer is.
How do we know if, as a species, we have reached our limits? How do know those limits are not just milestones and there is still a long way to go in reaching our full potential? Is it possible that we are overlaying on ourselves the equivilent of the two inch square monitor and accepting that as being the best we can ever have?