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Impossible is Nothing

The Living Earth Simulator has been touted by some as an impossibly big project, like trying to “boil the ocean”.
In short, the Simulator is an attempt to model all of the world’s dynamic systems all at once to uncover the hidden interactions (think oceans, rainforests, deserts, ice caps, plus the human actions).

It occurred to me as I read the story that I haven’t heard the “boil the ocean” phrase used for a while.  Given I do read things which talk about what are truly ambitious projects that seemed quite odd to me.  Maybe it’s a phrase which is falling out of use – but the Google Ngram book analysis says otherwise.  Thinking really hard about it, you might put it down to either/both:
– People today are less likely to suggest something is impossible,
– There is actually less that is impossible in today’s world,

One of my most favourite TED talks by Kevin Kelly (from Dec2007, so everything he says seems REALLY obvious) is about the first 5,000 days of the internet and what the next 5,000 might bring, and one of my most favourite lines from his presentation:
“We have to get better at believing in the impossible”
He used Wikipedia (which turns 10 on Saturday – yes years) as one example is his talk.  Imagine you are going to create a platform and leave it up to other people to freely volunteer their time to fill that platform with useful information. Do you think that will work?  Would you have thought it would work 10 years ago?

I think the solutions to make things happen are coming so thick and fast that you are better off not worrying about them.  When talking to people about particularly challenging things I will often say something like… “Don’t worry about how.  Just worry about where you want to go, and hopefully someone will have sorted out the how by the time we know where.”  Admittedly I am usually talking about building some sort of business intelligence tool/ dashboard reporting thing, not travelling into deep space or declaring world peace, but you get the idea.
After all a 10 yr old girl can discover a supernova.

And early on the year, the afterglow of a new year’s resolution still upon you, is just the time to be thinking about what really is possible.


“You can have anything you want if you will give up the belief that you can’t have it.” – Dr Robert Anthony

  1. Jeanne Ricard
    26 January, 2011 at 3:37 am

    That’s a fine idea.

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