The first method—implication of constraints—is marginally more popular than the second—their removal. But the similarity they share is that they are typically applied with moderation. For example, it’s common for people to use scarcity of time or resources as a constraint. “This project would ordinarily take a year. You only have a month. How would you get it done?” It’s less common to use the addition or removal of constraints in an extreme manner.
In fact, if I had to list these strategies in order of frequency of use, it would look like this—from most used to least:
- Mild addition of constraints.
- Mild removal of constraints.
- Extreme addition of constraints.
- Extreme removal of constraints
Number four—the extreme removal of constraints—is the one I found myself mulling over this morning. Consider it formulated as a question: What would you do if anything were possible?
Of course, the first thing you’ll pick up on—I did the same—is the definition of “anything”? Does “anything” mean that I have unlimited resources? Does “anything” mean that I have an endless amount of time? Does “anything” mean I can subvert the very laws of the universe? This is the beauty of the question. It forces us to think in an unbounded manner. It tests our ability to extend, twist, imagine and posit. It’s not a useful question in any way at all. Unless, that is, you consider the thinking of interesting, provocative thoughts to be of practical utility…
Now, I was going to leave it there. But I think it would be fun for me to actually get an answer to the question down. So below is my uncensored response, the one that first came to mind. I will type it out, stream of consciousness style, and I won’t edit it—except for grammar, spelling, punctuation et cetera. And I’ll modify the question slightly, paradoxically, to constrain the length of the response because I appreciate that you probably have better things to do than read about what I would do if I could do anything. Anywho, ‘ere goes.
WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WOULD YOU DO IF ANYTHING WERE POSSIBLE?
I’d make it my quest to discover the most effective form of human society and culture. Not by a priori reasoning and selection of favourable characteristics and criteria, but via relentless trial and error. To do this, I’d need to be able to do two things. Maybe three.
First, I’d need to be able to speed up life. When we watch a video on YouTube, we can alter the play speed. I’d like to have the same ability when it comes to civilisation. Second, coupled with the above ability to alter the play speed of civilisation, I’d have the ability to reset the world to its base state. Third, I’d have the capacity, first, to identify, second, to quantify, third, to manipulate, and fourth, to monitor any and all variables.
So, starting from an arbitrary date—maybe when human beings first evolved—I’d hit play on civilisation, over and over again, changing a single variable every time, and resetting it after maybe a few hundred thousand years—you know, to allow for the inevitable cycles of rise and fall. Some examples: I’d do a civilisation-play-through where gender roles are reversed. I’d do a play-through where every human is genetically inclined to be a vegan. I’d do a play-through where humans evolve wings and have no tongues. If you can imagine it, I’d run it, track what happened and why, and compare it to every other play-through.
Naturally, there’s an infinite variety of forms that human society and humans themselves can grow into. But that’s not an issue—anything is possible, so I’m able to experiment with every one of the infinite possibilities.
Finally, after running an infinite amount of civilisation trials, I’d select the best format I came across—defined by the absence of the bad, not the presence of good—hit play at normal speed, and descend from my seat in the sky to live amongst the most peaceful, serene, sustainable, exciting, interesting world it is possible for humans to create and maintain.
That’s my answer. Now I put the question to you, dear reader. What would you do if anything were possible?