Thought Experiment

If you could ask the universe any three yes/no questions, what would they be? I came up with this thought experiment last week while in my introduction to philosophy class. What questions would further our knowledge of science the most? Which questions would benefit society the most? What are the potential consequences of the answers?

In this thought experiment, you can accept the answer to each question as an axiom of the universe. That is, you know the answer is a law of nature. Further, you can assume that a "quantum" answer (i.e., yes and no simultaneously) is not possible.

The first question I would think to ask is Does God Exist?. Humans will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God, so the answer would give information that we would not be able to find otherwise. The answer to such a question completely change society as we know it (assuming everybody on the planet accepted the answer).

The second question I thought of was Are we alone in the Universe?. I may rephrase the question to only include other advanced life forms, but the answer to either question could have huge implications on our understanding of the physical universe. Although probabilistically, it is very likely that there are other forms of life in the universe (even with crude approximations), having a definitive answer would settle a long unsettled question.

The final question I thought of was Does P = NP?. This problem is not as universal as the first 2, but it is the most famous unsolved problem in computer science. If the answer turns out to be yes, people can develop very fast algorithms to solve very tough problems and it would completely change society. If the answer turns out to be no, it would confirm a generally accepted result that hasn't been proved yet. This result is less interesting, but it could still change the way we look at problems.

These are the questions that immediately came to mind, and there are many other questions that could advance science or our understanding of the universe too.


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