Thought Experiments

Published May 12, 2013

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it’s an interesting process.

It’s pretty much exactly what a thought experiment is:

In its broadest usage, thought experimentation is the process of employing imaginary situations to help us understand the way things really are (or, in the case of Herman Kahn’s “scenarios”, understand something about something in the future). The understanding comes through reflection upon this imaginary situation. – Wikipedia

In my “thought experiments,” which generally occur in the shower or when I’m shaving, I assume I make a certain decision and then I fast forward into the future. It could be a few weeks or even years – it all depends on the context. Then I start asking myself questions. I pretend like I’m being interviewed and I try to think about important questions to ask myself.

Here’s an example: I decide to major in math and think about where I am in 2016. I would ask myself questions like, “what career opportunities are you considering?” or “what’s the biggest impact you can make using the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired so far?” It’s hard to put these things into words. Often times thought experiments are more about feelings rather than concrete, coherent thoughts.

I like doing this because I can think about possible outcomes and the decisions I have to make to get to those possible outcomes. If I like certain outcomes, I’ll choose to make certain decisions over others. I think about decisions a lot, and I often think about failing and what I would do as a result of failure. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. I would go a step further and say that planning on failing is a must-have. Start things off right – don’t misframe.