5 Paradoxes That Will Fuck Your Shit UP

Angelica
Angelica

Paradoxes are seemingly-true statements or situations that contain two seemingly-contradictory thoughts. They’re mind puzzles, many of which have been asked by humans, unanswered, for thousands of years. Does their existence betray a flaw in human thought? Are there things that are, for the human mind as it stands, simply unknowable? What is Shakespeare to a fire ant?

Do paradoxes one can follow to the edge of human thought bring us to the edge of space and time as well? Is there a world beyond our world, elusive, transcendent, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory but, like, way metaphysical?

ARE WE LIVING IN THE MATRIX?

It’s unclear, but here are, at the very least, some pretty rad brain puzzles to fuck your shit up.

The Liar Paradox

Let’s start with a softball: All writers for Thought Catalog are liars.

But wait, I write for Thought Catalog. If the statement is true, that all Thought Catalog writers are liars, then I must be lying, which means my statement isn’t true, which means I’m a liar, which means my statement could be true, which is impossible because my statement holds that all Thought Catalog writers are liars, which means…

You get the idea.

This one roots from Epimenides, an old, Greek philosopher perhaps most famous for the statement “All Cretans are liars.” Dude was a Cretan, though, which left a lot of other Greek’s scratching their old, bald, Greek heads like “Fml. NOW WHAT. ?”

/brain melted

Further reading.

The Omnipotence Paradox

Let’s pretend for a moment that I am the Judeo-Christian God.

Can I, an omnipotent being with the power to do anything that I can imagine (which is every, possible thing because I am also omniscient), create a second omnipotent being with the strength to defeat me in a game of Magic the Gathering that I really, really want to win?

If I succeed in building the being, I’ll lose the game. But if I lose the game, I can’t be omnipotent. Can an omnipotent being create a rock too heavy for itself to lift? Fml. WHAT NOW. ?

/brain melted

Further reading.

And also here, kind of.

Zeno’s Paradox of ‘Achilles and the Tortoise’

For the purpose of this thought experiment, remember that I am much faster than you (also: considerably more handsome, but we can get back to that later, on Twitter maybe (@micsolana, babe, and bring the haterade)). You quite absurdly think that you can beat me in a race. I laugh out loud, in your face, and challenge you to prove it.

We decide to run a mile. Since you’re dangerously out-of-shape and I feel bad for you, I give you a full, four-minute head start. You take it because you have no shame, and start running. Four minutes later you’re on all fours crawling, and sobbing uncontrollably, but still moving.

The paradox is this: by the time I get to the point that you hit at four minutes (point A, let’s call it), you’ve crawled on a little farther (to point B). It doesn’t matter that you’re moving so, so, so embarrassingly slow. You’re still moving. By the time I get to point B, you’ve moved on to point C. It takes me less and less time to get to your most recent point, but there will always be another point for me to reach. No matter how many times I land at your last point, and no matter the speed I arrive there, I will have more distance to run. Overtaking you is impossible. By this logic, overtaking anything is impossible. But objects in motion overtake slower objects every day. A paradox among paradoxes.

I was on a date recently in which I was informed that this one has actually been solved with Calculus, and that I should really just read a goddamn book or something. But I’ve never studied Calculus and therefore it doesn’t exist (one of my confirmation biases, which is a whole other fun, human brain thing), so let’s just agree that holy shit, fml. WHAT NOW. ?

/brain melted

Further reading.

Ship of Theseus

In addition to being really fast and also an omnipotent being (and also a liar, always (but wait, then, maybe not (so a liar, actually (no, wait!)))), I own a sick yacht. It’s an exact replica of the Titanic, actually, named Jean-Luc Picard. I pack it with hot, young, scantily-clad physicists and philosophers every weekend and ride it around the San Francisco Bay. We discuss various things you wouldn’t understand while more-or-less alcohol poisoned, and sometimes we play Spin the Bottle. You aren’t invited.

Now, in addition to being slow and not an omnipotent being you are a very jealous person. You steal the Jean-Luc Picard, and you crash it. The cops come, and they take my ship back for me, but damn it! I have to replace the crew quarters, now.

But you steal it again, and crash it. You steal it again, and crash it. You repeat this hundreds of times. I’m forced to replace the cargo hold, first. I replace all of the decks, then. I replace the engine. Three years in, every, single component of the ship has been destroyed and replaced. The Jean-Luc Picard looks exactly the same, but absolutely no original part of the ship remains.

Question: is it the same ship that we started with, even while physically different — completely — or is it a new ship?

Where is the Jean-Luc Picard?!

Wild, sure. But now apply this to the future of medicine as we begin to clone the human body. We replace your internal organs, your limbs, and then, the really trippy bit, the various parts of your brain as it breaks down, compromised by time. At the end of this process, you are literally not the same person. BUT YOU ARE. Fml. WHAT NOW. ?

/brain melted

Further reading.

The Fermi Paradox

Check it: outer space is REALLY BIG. There are maybe 300 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Assuming that life is rare but naturally occurring, intelligent life should have evolved, somewhere, off Earth. There are billions of stars in our own galaxy billions of years older than our own, and it only took human beings a few hundred years to make the technology leap from steam engine to nuclear power plant. Given another 1000 years, even, might we have technology that allows us to explore the galaxy?

So assuming the evolution of intelligent alien life is possible, and then assuming that at least some of it is far, far older than us, where are the intelligent aliens?

This one is fun because there are so many insane attempts at answering the question. Maybe they’re already here, for example. Have you heard of the one where spiders are actually from another planet, which is why we’re so afraid of them (biology says this one is especially dumb, fyi)? What about a variation on the reptilian conspiracy theory? Are some humans terrifying lizard monsters wearing beautiful, Morena Baccarin-esque human skin?

Or maybe the aliens are already here, but unobserved. Is this a zoo? A human zoo? Kurt Vonnegut played around with this in Slaughterhouse-Five, and I’ve always sort of suspected that he believed it, somewhat. Maybe it’s dangerous to communicate across the galaxy. Is there some kind of A.I.-apocalypse race searching for life, only to destroy it? Or maybe aliens are just uninterested in us, on account of our poorly advanced intellectual ability. How interested are we in plankton, really? You probably kill a lot of it by accident while pissing in the ocean, but have you ever tried to make ‘first contact’ with a lump of floaty, green goo? This doesn’t explain why we don’t see evidence of intelligent alien life, of course. If a super race exists, how, or why, has it not reshaped the structure of the universe in any meaningful way by now?

Like, we should see signs of shit like this.

Is the evidence being suppressed? Are the aliens too alien to comprehend? Are the aliens busy playing truly excellent video games (bizarrely, this is a fairly popular opinion)?

Is there an easy-to-reach technology that intelligent life invariably works towards that leads to our destruction, like the creation of artificial black holes? Or some variation on nuclear technology? Or artificial intelligence? Or nanobots charged with the directive of protecting life that drives them, ironically, to wiping it out? But where are they?! Fml. WHAT NOW. ?

/brain melted

Further reading. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/michael-solana/2014/06/9-books-that-will-melt-your-face-off-and-maybe-save-the-world/ 9 Books That Will Melt Your Face Off (And Maybe Save The World) | Thought Catalog

    […] assuming that at least some of it is far, far older than us, where are the intelligent aliens?” I wrote about it, and many other fun paradoxes, here. Where is Everybody explains 50 of the most popular attempts at answering the question of where the […]

blog comments powered by Disqus