My professor Mykel Kochenderfer wrote me this awesome email, and I thought I should share it with you.
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One little exercise that I did a while ago was to list the top ten things that I find completely unbelievable that are true. I used to keep this list in my wallet, but I can’t seem to find it anymore. Here are some of the items:
1. Airplanes can fly. Have you seen an A380 or a 747 take off? It’s a huge amount of metal. Yeah, I understand how airplanes work (and I am a pilot), but it is still completely unbelievable to me.
2. Somehow technology has allowed us to go from sticks and rocks to something that can get us to the moon.
3. Wireless communication. We can send videos of kittens through the air.
4. Cell differentiation. We start out as a single cell, and somehow our cells differentiate into eyes, arms, etc.
5. How consciousness arises through (seemingly) electrical activity in our brain tissue.
6. How different numbers of protons and electrons result in very different physical properties.
7. CDs/DVDs/hard drives… the idea that we can store books, pictures, movies on these little discs is absolutely amazing. I’m amazed by both magnetic storage as well as optical storage. Looking at those disks, I just can’t believe it contains all that data.
8. Metabolism. We eat food and somehow that gives us energy to do a bunch of stuff during the day?
9. Free will?
10. Matter and energy. Really, what is it?
On a different day, I might put different things on this list. I’d be curious what is on your list.
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I noticed that many points in his list are either about the human body (cell, metabolism, consciousness, free will) and technologies (technology itself, airplanes, wireless communication, digital storage).
I thought it’s a great exercise, so I sat down and listed my 10 things as well.
1. We are making plans to colonize Mars. Just try explaining that to my grandma.
2. Yet we still don’t know what there is in the bottom of the sea. Humans have only surveyed 5-10% of the oceans, and even less for the deepest oceans.
3. AI beat humans at Go.
4. More than half of the world’s population has never used Internet before.
5. The impossible chain of events that make each of us who we are today.
6. How/why something goes viral.
7. People vote for Trump.
8. Dreams and déjà vu.
9. Exponential growth. It only takes 42 foldings of a paper to get from the Earth to the Moon, and 94 foldings of a paper to make something the size of the entire visible Universe.
10. The universe exists. Out of an infinite number of possibilities, the universe as we know it today exists. Despite my existential crisis, I’m sitting here writing this blog.