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5 Things Humans Will Never Figure Out

By on September 7, 2016

This isn’t an unsolved mystery article or a write-up on impossible riddles or quizzes.

Rather, it’s something of a combination of those kinds of ideas. Human beings are clever, and we can usually riddle most things out.

But there are a few things that we will always try to figure out without ever succeeding, and they’re incredibly frustrating.

Here’s a look at five of them.
 

1. The Voynich Manuscript

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The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is a favorite subject among those who traffic in unsolved mysteries and conspiracy theories.

In fact, it’s even been discussed on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, which we included on a recent list of educational television programs to watch. But when you read about it for the first time, your instinct is probably something along the lines of, interesting, I’ll be curious to read about it when they figure that thing out.

Why? Because the Voynich Manuscript is basically a really old collection of papers filled with drawings of plants and writing in a completely unknown language.

And we’ve got linguists and historians for that, right? Yes, we do have linguists and historians, and cryptographers for that matter, and they’ve been having at this thing for at least 100 years, since the manuscript was purchased by Polish book dealer Wilfrid Voynich.

The documents have been dated to the 1400s, but there’s no indication we’ll ever figure out its code or language.

 

2. How To Predict Lotteries

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How To Predict Lotteries

We’ve all probably got one goofy friend or relative who believes so firmly in luck or good omens that he or she thinks it’s possible to predict a lottery win (or something similar).

It could be based on lucky numbers, favorable circumstances, or simply a gut feeling akin to when someone “calls a home run” at a baseball game. But you know what? It’s always, always, always nonsense.

This isn’t just something your wacky friend does, however. There are actually numerous accounts of how to predict lottery numbers, or at least of how various people have said they were able to do it.

Methods can be explained in ways that make them seem at least partially accurate, and certainly someone can get lucky and later claim to have won via skill or intuition rather than pure chance.

But like the Voynich Manuscript, lotteries—all of them!—are indecipherable. You can’t predict the winning numbers, and neither can anybody else.

 

3. How Shakespeare Thought

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How Shakespeare Thought

This is not merely a suggestion that William Shakespeare was a great writer, or that his poetry was deceptively complex. You can take a course that teaches you that “wherefore” means “why” and that “star-crossed lovers” are doomed and not destined to be together. You can learn how Shakespeare wrote.

What we might not be able to figure out is how Shakespeare thought. What this means is that there’s actually a chance Shakespeare’s mind for character connections and interactions operated on a plane that other humans simply can’t relate to.

It’s akin to the same way a gifted mathematician or piano player can do things so extraordinary they’re considered to possess superpowers.

A 2009 article theorizing that modern TV and film writer Aaron Sorkin might have the same gift (or a better one) explained this by delving into higher-order theory of mind, which basically means knowing what people are thinking, on an endless chain. First-order is that I know what you’re thinking; second-order is that I know what you think John is thinking; third-order is that I know what you think John thinks Jane is thinking—and so on.

There’s evidence in Shakespeare’s (and Sorkin’s) work that a great author can do this to a further degree than the rest of us can comprehend. You might understand that, but you still can’t understand seventh-theory order of mind.

 

4. How To Beat Advanced AI At Games

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How To Beat Advanced AI At Games

There are plenty of difficult games out there in which a CPU can outsmart you. You can download a chess app with the touch of a finger, set it to the hardest difficulty, and get your tail whipped by an opponent who doesn’t actually exist.

For that matter, you can check out the brand-new game ENYO about a Roman goddess engaging in hook-and-shield combat on a chess-like game board (but with lava) and find yourself frustrated into defeat by level 3, without even setting the game to Hard.

But these games—challenging chess apps and mobile puzzlers—can be solved and beaten. Advanced AI developed specifically to play games against human experts probably can’t anymore. Simply put, computers have gotten really good at chess (and poker, and other games), and before long we’ll have created systems that we just won’t be able to figure out how to beat anymore.

Let’s just hope those systems stick to table games.

 

5. Where The Holy Grail Is

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The Holy Grail

It’s obvious what you’re thinking…. A GRAIL!? But seriously, the Holy Grail is real, in one form or another. The problems here are twofold: we have to agree on what exactly that form is, and then we have to find the object somewhere on Earth.

Some believe the Grail is a giant treasure trove of golden goodies from Biblical times. Others think it’s a written document of the sacred teachings of Jesus Christ (not the ones in the New Testament, apparently). And most interpret the Grail as being the actual cup or goblet from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper.

There have been some people who claim to have found various artifacts connected to these theories, but there’s nothing even close to definitive, and there’s probably never going to be. We’ve figured out a remarkable number of things about human history by digging in the ground and reading ancient documents, but a golden goblet used by Jesus is a stretch.

We can’t agree on what it is, we don’t know where it was lost, and if we found its location, we’d probably find that it had already been scooped up by some anonymous scavenger.

 

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