Technology and the Impossible

Posted on Jul 5, 2016 in Nerdery | No Comments

Several months ago I took a test measuring personality and work behaviors. The test is known as the Five Factor Model and “suggests five broad dimensions used by some psychologists to describe the human personality and psyche.”1

In the materials provided, I noticed a fascinating sentence in introduction (bold emphasis mine):

In 1936, Gordon Allport developed a list of 4,500 non-judgmental words commonly used to describe personality. His challenge to the psychological community was to find the least number of synonym clusters possible. Without computers, this was basically impossible.

A brief review on Wikipedia confirms that while progress was made in the 30s and 40s, it wasn’t until the 80s that the theory was revisited and widely accepted.

While it’s amazing to think about the things that technology has helped reveal about our world, it’s astounding to think about the people throughout history who who discovered, theorized or even dreamed of things that everyone considered to be impossible. In some cases, the technological advances that made some ideas reality—that made the impossible possible—came hundreds of years after.

I can’t help but think about the things we feel are impossible today (like teleportation, for example) and when (or if) technology will transform them from ideas to experience


1. You can read more about the Five Factor Model on Wikipedia.

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