When I was a teenager, I wondered what superpower I would most like to have. I debated the merits of becoming invisible at will versus being able to read minds.
Becoming invisible at will would be better than being permanently invisible like novelist Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. That invisible man wore bandages at times to look like a person. With invisibility as an ability, I could be a super spy. I could also see things of much interest to a teenage boy.
Being able to read minds would help me understand others and be very interesting. As a teenager, I leaned more toward this superpower than the one involving invisibility. Later I became a psychologist. My interest in understanding others endured.
I recently discussed these two superpowers with my research assistant, who pointed out that using either one would be intrusive and unfair.
Chastened, I thought of more socially acceptable superpowers. For instance, I could heal the sick. I fear though that I would be overwhelmed by huge numbers of people seeking help, like Jesus in the play Jesus Christ Superstar.
I also fear that I would be kidnapped by some billionaire and forced to keep him (I picture a man) healthy. Maybe I watch too many TV shows, but I reckon the risk would be there.
A superpower that appeals to me as a globe trotter is the ability to transport myself instantly to any place on earth. Imagine: No more being herded like a sheep into scanning, no more flying overnight and being unable to sleep. My research assistant gave me her personal ethics approval for that superpower.
Being able to travel in time would be another cool superpower. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine gave me the idea. What if I travelled ahead in time and found an unbearably hot earth resulting from human-created climate change? When I returned to the present, would anyone believe me? If I went back in time, could I stop World War II? Stephen King explored going back in time to save John Kennedy in the novel 11/22/63. Do not count on a happy ending to that story.
There are so many appealing superpowers that it is hard to choose just one. The superpowers I mentioned above as appealing to me say something about my values and goals.
What superpower would you choose for yourself? What does your choice say about you?
John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.