Chris Anderson – Owner of TED
On a typical day at school, endless hours are spent learning the answers to questions, but right now, we’ll do the opposite. We’re going to focus on questions where you can’t learn the answers because they’re unknown. I used to puzzle about a lot of things as a boy, for example: What would it feel like to be a dog? Do fish feel pain? How about insects? Was the Big Bang just an accident? And is there a God? And if so, how are we so sure that it’s a He and not a She?
Why do so many innocent people and animals suffer terrible things? Is there really a plan for my life? Is the future yet to be written, or is it already written and we just can’t see it? But then, do I have free will? I mean, who am I anyway? Am I just a biological machine? But then, why am I conscious? What is consciousness?
Will robots become conscious one day? I mean, I kind of assumed that some day I would be told the answers to all these questions. Someone must know, right? Guess what? No one knows.
Most of those questions puzzle me more now than ever. But diving into them is exciting because it takes you to the edge of knowledge, and you never know what you’ll find there.
So, two questions that no one on Earth knows the answer to.
[How many universes are there?]
Sometimes when I’m on a long plane flight, I gaze out at all those mountains and deserts and try to get my head around how vast our Earth is And then I remember that there’s an object we see every day that would literally fit one million Earths inside it: the Sun. It seems impossibly big. But in the great scheme of things, it’s a pinprick, one of about 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which you can see on a clear night as a pale white mist stretched across the sky. And it gets worse.
There are maybe 100 billion galaxies detectable by our telescopes. So if each star was the size of a single grain of sand, just the Milky Way has enough stars to fill a 30-foot by 30-foot stretch of beach three feet deep with sand. And the entire Earth doesn’t have enough beaches to represent the stars in the overall universe. Such a beach would continue for literally hundreds of millions of miles.