A Profile of Wishers
(Copyright 1996 by C. Pickover)
I've been delighted to have received numerous, fascinating wishes.
As of October 7, 1996,
the wishers' average age is 37. The youngest person is an
11-year-old girl from Baltimore, Maryland. The oldest person is a
58-year-old-man from Beaverton, Oregon.
The ratio of male to female respondents is about 50-50.
Most respondents are from the U.S. -- with the UK, Canada, Singapore,
Israel coming in second.
(I suspect that the demographics will change through time.)
If any of you come across interesting wishes on the Web, or in
modern or ancient literature, please let me know.
When You Wish Upon A Star
"When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you."
Music by Leigh Harline, Lyrics by Ned Washington, Performed by Cliff
Edwards (Jiminy Cricket)
by Evie Bohanan, a sixth-grader from the Ryan Middle School
I wish that when ever something goes wrong
The world would just pause and sing me a song
That God would send raindrops to water my dreams
And make flowers grow from magical beans
I wish that reality would just melt away
And sunlight would come steaming through the dark and dreary gray
I wish that mountains would grow right under my feet
And fairies and dragons I would meet
But all these dreams will always stay wishes
And I'll always me eating off plain ol' dishes
I won't be feasting on big fancy meals
I'll always be eating those microwave deals
Part of me wants these wishes to come true
Part says "Our dreams are our wishes, so don't be blue"
That little inner voice I try to ignore
But if I didn't have these wishes, what else would I wish for
Wishes in The Ancient Literature
"Hell is full of good meanings and wishings."
- George Herbert, 1593-1632
"Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines."
- John Dryden, 1631-1701
"True love 's the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven:
It is not fantasy's hot fire,
Whose wishes soon as granted fly."
- Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832
"I only wish I may see your head stroked down with a slipper."
- Terence, 185-159 B. C.
Wish Story, As Told To Me by Rollo Silver
Years ago, in a small town in Eastern Europe, there were two tailors
who were keen rivals. Over the years their rivalry became more and more
extreme, developing into a hatred so deep and intense that it came to
the attention of the Lord Himself, who sent an angel to one of the
rivals with an offer. The angel said, "Schmuel, the Lord has become
aware of your rivalry with Yitzhak there, across the street, and has
empowered me to settle this rivalry, once and for all, by offering you a
wish." "One wish?" said Schmuel, "Anything I want?" "Yes," said the
angel, "Anything at all, but with one proviso: whatever you ask for,
Yitzhak gets twice as much." Without hesitation, Schmuel pointed to his
face and said, "Put out one eye!"
Sampling of Wishes I've Received for the Wishing Project
From Don. Q., a 35-year-old male paleontologist
currently residing in Papua, New Guinea:
From J. A., a sixth-grade girl from
Massapequa Park, New York:
For personal fulfilment, I would wish for various powers, to be
turned on and off at will. These would include invisibility,
impenetrability, the ability to walk through matter, and the ability to
see sharply in the dark. I would chose to have many of the powers of
Lestat, the Vampire, in Anne Rice's novels. I would first wish for
various fail-safe mechanisms, so that if a wish were to lead to major
harm to myself or others, then I would be told this so that I could
avoid certain actions.
I would also wish for the instantaneous talent of a martial arts
expert, particularly in Tai Chi Chuan and Shao-lin Kung Fu. I would
wish to have instateous fluencey in all the langauges of Earth, and have
my IQ increased by a 1000 points. All of these things should be
done gradually to make sure they would not drive me insane, alienate me
from loved ones, or cause me to be unhappy.
I would wish for the ability to heal people with my hands,
and I would walk through hospitals, touching people.
However, I wonder if I should alleviate all the suffering in
the world? Would this cause a change in society that would be
too profound or even detrimental?
I think everyone would use this power for secret, marvelous sexual
adventures with people of their choice such as famous actors and
actresses on TV. (Baywatch is the most popular TV show on Earth.
Wouldn't most humans wish to have the entire cadre in their bedrooms for
various sensual delights?) The encounters could be "safe", and the
people would simply be accurate replicas of the real people. The
replicas would be willing and able, yet disappear once the encouter were
over, so no emotional harm came to the origianl person.
Do any of you think it is immoral to have physical encounters with
I can imagine all sorts of wishes relating to career,
fame, and fortune.
From M. O., a 58 year-old retired man from Beaverton, Oregon:
I wish to own a wonderful horse named Perfect Gentlemen.
The only thing is that he costs $5,000. My parents would buy me
the horse if we could find a place with very cheap boarding charges,
or if we can buy a house with a big enough backyard. Maybe you might
know of a horse stable I can call, or of a person selling their house
at a reasonable price with a large backyard. If you know of either,
and would like to help out a little eleven year old girl please call
me on the phone, and make sure you ask for JENNIFER.
From D.J.M., a 50-year-old male 6th-grade teacher from Maryland:
I have two wishes. First, I wish that all humans will have their
intelligence doubled. (This will cause better decisions to be made but
preserve differences that make life interesting.) Second, No human will
be able to deliberately cause physical harm to another human.
(Accidents will still happen, but violence and wars will end.)
From Diana, a 38-year-old housewife from California:
"I would wish to become a beautiful, sexy, 25-year-old woman any
time I wanted. It must be cool to have guys worshipping you just
for your body...."
From J. R. a 52-year-old man from Cornwall, UK:
I wish I could talk to Pat again.
I wish I could go to England to see Claire.
I wish I felt beautiful again.
I wish all the Mexicans would speak English.
I wish people wouldn't throw their trash about.
I wish it would rain more.
I wish for my children to be happy.
I wish my lilies would bloom.
From H. Z., a 33-year-old woman from Jerusalem, Israel:
I wish for
personal physical immortality and invulnerability.
I also wish for
the ability to operate outside time, so that the universe appears to stop
while I still can move through it.
From K.W., a 42-year-old woman from Columbus, Ohio:
My ultimate dream is to live in the Aldous Huxley's
Brave New World.
If the genie in the wishing stone can't cope with the imaginary
worlds, then I wish the complete personality change
in any direction which will make me happy in the
environment where I live (i.e. human civilization)
From S. W., a 42-year-old male engineer from New Hampshire:
We befriended a high-school classmate of our son. The boy's mother
was killed when he was 6. He now lives with relatives
due to many unfortunate circumstances. I gave birth to one
son, but I have 2 boys living in my heart. This young man and
I adopted each other. I attended all his school functions, athletic
events , etc. just like my own son's.
His relatives forbid any contact with me or my husband or son,
they will send him away from Columbus if he does. Jealous?
They believe our involvement in his life is sick and
demented. I haven't seen the boy for 6 months. My wish would take
a miracle. I wish he had free access to our home. I wish I could
go to his games, matches, shows etc. My heart shattered like
a pane of glass. He'll be 16 soon, but 18 is
a life time away.
From J. P, a 25-year-old pre-med student from Lawrence, Kansas:
May my daughter wake up from her dreams which are too far
May my daughter understand the difference between love and like.
May my daughter understand what a 15-year-old girl can/should
do and what can/should not do.
May my daughter learn to respect the family value.
May my daughter trust her parents and believe in them.
May my daughter understand how much her father love her and willing
to sacrifice his life for her life without second thought if such
May my daughter understand that the reason for setting some rules
is to try my best to avoid her to pay a price that I am afraid to
be too costly for her to grow up and this is the only reason other
than not try to give her freedom. Because I know it is a jungle out
there for an immature girl.
Final wish is may my daughter cry for losing me and promise me
take good care of herself and the rest of my family after I died.
From K. C, a 42-year-old male office manager from Wilsonville, Oregon:
I would like to have unlimited knowledge, a photographic memory
and instant access to that knowledge and memory. Would you need
From M. V., a 35-year-old female computer consultant from
To win the lottery - at least $10 million - enough to do whatever
I want to for the rest of my life.
To have a closer relationship with my wife, or better communication.
To have as much sex as I want.
From D. S., a 46-year-old male electronics technicians from
My first wish is that my children grow up to be happy, strong,
self-sufficient, adults, how ever that ends up for them.
My second is to live a happy life for the rest of my own. To be
satisfied with what I have and to never take my partner for granted.
And my third wish would always be... for three more wishes.
From J. H., a 360-year-old male artist from Portland, Oregon:
I wish emotional maturity preceded sexual maturity
(at least in the human species).
I wish humans might 'invent' an economy which would guarantee
all only a sufficient income (no more, no less).
I wish my philosophy of self-realization did not stumble upon the
existence of the innocent victim.
I wish karma were more immediately effective.
I wish the experience of time were truly and completely subjective
and individual and plastic.
From C. C., a 42-year-old software entrepreneur from
Newport Beach, California:
Given the chance, as described in the scenario you've given
us, I would wish for a change in human consciousness. I wish for
human beings, collectively, to turn away from individualist materialism,
and move toward a rational existence based on the reality of how
our planet, and the nature of life on it, works. In this sense,
I wish for an autocratic vision of how I want the world to be! LOL!!
I think we need a lot less people on this planet, and a radical change
in the usual set of desires which most people foster throughout there
lifetimes. The whole idea of "Give me more, more, more,..." in a
finite world, that is what I would wish away. We have a potential
paradise within our lifetimes, but it would require a major change
in what it means to be human.
Since no one is really interested in how I would use this power for my
own selfish benefit, suppose I wish to use it for the betterment of
mankind. The power of wish fulfillment must be exercised carefully.
Here are some things that can go wrong. 1) Give everyone unlimited
money. This would lead to runaway inflation. 2) Give everyone
unlimited energy. This would lead to global warning, and probably a lot
worse. 3) Give everyone unlimited happiness. Does this mean everyone
gets what they want? What if two people want incompatible things, e.g.,
warmer weather versus cooler weather? Does this mean just make everyone
happy? Let's say for the moment that people are made happier by having
fewer unfulfilled desires. This can be accomplished either by
fulfilling more desires, which may be impossible due to conflicts of
interest, or by eliminating desires. Perhaps the best thing to do is to
make everyone an ascetic, or maybe just get rid of them. But this
doesn't seem right. 4) Give everyone unlimited information. Under this
condition, a market economy reaches a state of Pareto optimailty, in
which no one can be made better off without making someone else worse
off. But how would everyone store and process all this information?
Even more modest goals are slippery. For example, suppose we decide to
make everyone equally happy, as happy as the happiest person now alive.
But how can we decide if two people are equally happy? Or suppose we
decide that we want a democratic society in which everyone has one vote.
But there are paradoxes of voting, in which a democratic society will
prefer A to B, prefer B to C, and yet prefer C to A. Thus it will never
be possible to implement a truly democratic society. All of these
problems make me think in other directions. If someone offered to
fulfill my every wish, rather than thinking about what I could do for
myself or society, I'd be curious about what technology allowed them to
make such an offer. I'd be interested in probing this technology. I
might start with questions that were hard to answer, like factoring
large integers. It would be easy for me to multiply two 1000-digit
primes and see if the technology could factor the result. If a series
of increasingly touch questions like these were answered, I'd move on to
questions that we believe are unsolvable, like the Turing halting
problem. If these questions could be answered, it would presumably
reveal something profoundly wrong with the way we think about such
things, and this study might allow us to solve the other conundrums
This is just a tiny sampling of the wishes I've received.
Thank you all for the wonderful wishes. Tell your friends.
Someday I can make these all available for the world to see,
and don't worry, your anonymity will be preserved.
Return to Wishing Project page.
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