What Would Happen if You Had Unlimited Knowledge?

Unlimited knowlege is a wish shared by many - but after examining the implications of what it entails, perhaps some things are truly best left unknown.
Maverick Baker

The human brain is extraordinarily large. It contains a warehouse of information storage every precious memory and a lifetime worth of knowledge.


From within, a billion neurons come together to collectively comprise the network of more than a trillion connections, each of which helps make up every thought and perception of the surrounding world. An individual neuron forms about 1,000 connections spanning to other neighboring neurons forming the pathways for information to travel.

In its entirety, the brain creates the motor and the pathways which drive and coordinate the connection between the world and consciousness. Knowledge is bound by the number of connections which can be recorded and recalled in a specific sequence, playing back a memory with as much detail as possible.

Unlimited knowledge?

And while the capacity for knowledge is extraordinarily large, it is impossible to fill in only one lifetime. But what would happen if a human had unlimited knowledge? Would the brain descend into chaos from which all humanity is lost? Would it explode, or perhaps, could it form into a black hole?

Although it is a question with improbable results restricted by biological limitations, it is interesting to examine exactly why humans cannot retain an infinite amount of knowledge, and more importantly, why no one should wish for it. To discover why a human has limited knowledge, and why infinite knowledge can never be harnessed by a human entity, the inner workings of the brain must first be examined.

True capacity still undetermined

Although the true capacity of a human brain remains largely unknown, rudimentary studies suggest the brain can store upwards of 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). In a digital sense, the brain has enough capacity to store 300 years of television. It is far more than sufficient enough to last a lifetime and it is virtually impossible to come remotely close to filling it up.

Measuring the exact storage of the brain is a notoriously difficult task - for starters, no one is certain what a memory is, let alone how much memory it takes up. Some memories are more detailed than others and so take up more space. Other times some memories are forgotten altogether, freeing up space for new ones to arrive. 

But despite the vague knowledge on the capacity of the human brain, one is left to wonder, what would happen the brain were to fill up, and what would happen if everything could be learned at once?

How a memory is formed

The brain is always bustling with activity. It is the neurons inside the brain which are responsible for every conceived thought and perception in which the world is experienced. From within, memories are formed through the connection of the billions of linkages between neurons.

Specifically, a memory comes from synaptic plasticity - a term which describes the changes and strength of every connection made between neurons. The connections between neurons are called synapses and can change to become stronger or weaker in accordance with how often or how long ago they have been activated. 

Memories are created when specific pathways between neurons are recalled and reactivated in a specific sequence, allowing a recorded message to be replayed. There are two known methods a brain can make a connection between neurons to form a memory, that being a chemical and electrical synapse.

As the names would suggest, a chemical synapse passes information between a neural pathway the transfer of chemicals, whereas an electrical synapse bridges a connection through an electrical signal which passes through conductive proteins from one neuron to another.

Both synaptic methods can be used to form a connection between neurons, thus both can be used to form a memory. However, electrical synapses can not travel as far but are significantly faster than a chemical synapse.

Typically, electrical synapses are used in systems requiring quick responses like instincts and defense where chemical synapses are used when information does not need to be urgently relayed. In the instance of learning everything at once, the nearly instantaneous transaction of information would require nearly entirely electrical synapses.

Of course, in a realistic instance, such an overload of information would be bottlenecked by the restriction of available pathways. If the brain experiences too much information at once, it selectively chooses which "data" is important, and which can be "deleted".

Pathways are constantly adapting to the information at hand - some pathways are pruned while others are cleared to make way for new information. If a regular brian were given all information at once, only a minute amount would be retained while most would be nearly instantly discarded.

But what would happen if the brain were to learn everything at once given unlimited capacity? The answer is complicated and results in absurd ramifications. In every instance, without a bound on knowledge, death is nearly certain. Though the methods by which one might succumb to an overload of information is profound and differs greatly depending on what assumptions are to be made. It is absolutely improbable, but pushing reality aside, should someone learn everything at once, the implications would be astounding.

What would happen if you learned everything at once?

There is such a term used to describe the capacity to know everything there is to know. Known as omniscience, it is a trait often used across religions to describe attributes of God. In a religious sense, becoming such an encompassing supreme deity leads to a particularly interesting fallacy.

Many religions depict their God's as all-knowing - they are to know everything that has happened and know everything which will happen, thus, they can control the Universe in any way. On the other hand, good Gods often gift free will unto Man, the ability to make choice without knowledge of consequence beforehand. In a way, it allows humans to choose how to live as they see fit. However, if a human were to gain supreme knowledge, they too would understand the beginning and of all and anything which can and will happen, and thus a contradiction arises.

A human who knows everything that ever was would know what their future foretells. In the context of some religions, such a power would either mean Man would lose their free will or, they could change the way the future or past was foretold - and so the fallacy arises. Such changes would not be known before by a God, and so, with a human possessing unlimited knowledge, either Gods would lose the ability to be all-knowing (and so their status would be diminished), or, an all-encompassing person would know what would happen to them next and would have no power to alter their reality (and so would lose their free will).

In such an instance, a combination of affairs ensue; in a human gaining unlimited knowledge but losing free will, a God would become fallible, and thus would not be a God. If a human were to retain free will and have unlimited knowledge, then a God would not know how a human would act, thus would not be all knowing, and too would revoke their God status. Either way, the idea of a human having unlimited knowledge is incompatible and fallacious with religion as it is understood.

Losing your humanity

The alure to be all-encompassing is a thought shared among many. Clearly, such a power would be devastating to religion. But the devastation would continue far deeper than the incompatibilities with religious entities. Aside from religion, the realization of what the world and Universe have come to be and ever will be, depending on what assumptions are to be made, would ultimately result in the complete deterioration of one's humanity. In any way, it would always be detrimental if a human were to know everything.

Should a human be given unlimited capacity for knowledge in a confined region within their brain along with the ability to recall everything at once, the effects would be vast - ranging from an instantaneous explosion to the formation of a black hole. 

Descending into chaos

In the instance of a human learning everything at once with the underlying assumption the brain could handle and create the nearly infinite synapses required, and with the assumption that traditional forces do not apply, in essence, the brain would descend into chaos. So many connections and memories would be formed, all humanity would be lost.

Memories are the only way humans can perceive time - the more memories that are made, the longer time appears to pass, hence why an hour in class feels significantly longer than an hour browsing cat videos on the internet. The effect can be easily visualized by quickly glancing at a clock with a second's hand or digital seconds.

A quick glance at a clock makes the next perceived second pass slower than the next - the reason being the brain fills in information as the eyes move, and so when it lands on the second, information is still being processed, and for a mere split second, time appears to travel slowly. Under the same premise, experiencing all information at once would force a mind to experience an eternity - time would freeze, and their mind would seize to a halt.

Even if the information was delivered instantaneously, as the brain attempted to decipher such information, the event would last inside one's brain for a moment of eternity. They would quite literally be frozen in a moment of eternity, even as those around them could witness the entire event from beginning to end. 

Although, attempting to gain such information in a moment would result in physical effects which would likely kill a human long before their moment of eternity came to an end. There are many physical limitations to the human brain, and attempting to overload one's mind beyond these limitations would be nothing short of completely devastating with fatal consequence. 

Ignoring gravity

In gaining infinite knowledge, one would also have to ignore all biological limitations in place governing the capacity of a brain as well as the underlying assumption the brain could retain such information would have to be made. Beyond the obvious biological restrictions preventing a brain from learning all there is to know, physical limitation quickly begins to become problematic. 

Many calculations attempted in engineering are typically generalizations of many forces acting on one object. It is common to ignore the effects of microgravity between particles, and quantum effects are notoriously ignored (assuming calculations do not computers, electricity, light, or involve minute amounts of particles). Assuming the same generalizations, then the most apparent and problematic force in which one would have to deal with should they gain unlimited knowledge would be electrostatic forces. 

Early on in the study of Physics, students come to learn of the repulsion and attraction between opposing and alike poles. Later on, the topic then delves into electrostatic forces, the forces created between particles with a charge. 

In the instance of a becoming overwhelmed with knowledge, as previously mentioned, for a brain to retain information quickly, electrical synapses would have to be used to create the memories of everything in a timely manner. Day to day life allows the transfer and interactions of memories to occur harmoniously, however, confining infinite knowledge to a limited region (the brain), electrons used in the transfer of information (electrical synapses) would create a variety of issues.

At first, the brain would become overwhelmed with the flow of electrons, or current, flowing through the proteins between neural linkages. Like a wire, the electricity carrying proteins also maintain a resistance. As the neurons begin firing increasingly rapid signals, the flow of electrons between neurons would be far too great for the protein pathways to maintain Too many signals would travel down the same path, and like a lightbulb, the proteins would heat up due to resistance, and would continue to do so until they become destroyed by the current. In a human, this would certainly cause their light to go out. However, even ignoring resistance still yields more troubles yet.

Assuming no resistance, then the brain could fair slightly better, but not for long. Even while electrons could travel through the brain negating resistance, the sheer amount of electrons accumulating in the brain (or voltage) would create a devastatingly powerful pressure. Electrons repel one another with astounding force, and while that force typically does not become problematic in a normally operating brain, confined to a limited region, the immense repulsion between the accumulating electrons would generate a force so strong, the brain would quite literally explode. 

The voltage would accumulate between neurons to the point where the repulsion would overwhelm the pressures with which the brain can contain. All in a moment, the voltage would accumulate so quickly that the proteins would shred themselves apart, and soon after, so would the brain. 

But even assuming a brain could fathom such pressure built up from the massive amount of electrons, even more problems arise from an unlikely candidate - gravity.

Formation of a black hole?

Confined to a finite area with an infinite amount of electrons, the brain would encroach on a problem far worse than proteins fizzing out or a brain exploding. Like all particles, electrons also have mass, and with them, a tiny amount of gravity. The force of repulsion between close electrons is far greater than the gravitational force experienced. However, confined to a finite area, electrostatic forces will generate an immense pressure, but would not cause many other issues. 

The issue would stem from the mass of an infinite amount of electrons within a finite area - a recipe for a black hole. Though the gravitational pull of an electron is weak, a head full of them would generate a world of new troubles. Eventually, as knowledge continued to pour into the brain, the number of electrons would build up to a point where their cumulative gravity would become so large, even light would not be able to escape. The mass would accumulate rapidly, and inevitably, so would the gravitational force. The head would collapse into an infinitely dense point, and nearly nothing could escape. A buildup of electrons would create an immensely powerful gravitational pull, sucking everything in from the surrounding area. 

Fortunately, the black hole would not last long. In an effect known as Hawking Radiation, black holes can evaporate - the smaller the black hole, the faster they evaporate. Intuition tells people black holes only grow, consuming everything in their path, which is nearly true, but not entirely.

In a topic far too complex for the scope of this article, in a generic summary, it is important to note in the Universe are pairs of particles - normal matter and dark matter, with dark matter meaning only in opposite charge. It is a quantum effect best noted on things that travel extraordinarily fast. 

These pairs of particles can pop into existence besides one another where they quickly annihilate one another. However, on the edge of a black hole, it is possible for one particle to pop into existence on one side of the event horizon (the point where nothing can escape) while the other particle remains outside the bounds.

If the dark-matter particle is pulled beyond the event horizon while the normal matter remains beyond, the anti-matter particle is pulled into the black hole where it destroys a piece of matter, decreasing a black hole's mass and weakening its gravitational force. The normal matter is beamed off into space, and so the black hole partly evaporates. 

If the black hole was the size of a head, the surface area to mass ratio would be extremely large, and so the chances of particle pairs becoming separated by the event horizon are quite large. In effect, lots of dark matter would be absorbed into the black hole, causing it to quickly evaporate and disappear nearly as quick as it came without leaving much of any damage behind. However, there would certainly be no head left. 

It is difficult to imagine exactly what the implications of unlimited knowledge are. These are just a few of the many possibilities - but at any rate, having unlimited knowledge is damaging and would be fatal to humans. We are designed with finite amounts of knowledge, and so perhaps not knowing some things is truly better than knowing everything and all.


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