Byron's Babbles

Testing Everything & Conceiving Different Outcomes

While this post will probably pose a controversial idea to those “Scientific Method” purists, my post is meant more to be thought provoking. As a person who taught the Scientific Method to agriculture science students for years, I understand why hypotheses have been a part of the method since the 17th century. But, some, okay a lot, of things have changed and advanced since the 17th century. In the great book Alien Thinking: The Unconventional Path To Breakthrough Ideas, authors Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade argued that the use of hypotheses are, in many cases, no longer necessary given the immediate and real-time abilities for data analysis we now have in a digital world. Think about all the things we used to have to wait long periods of time to get data back on, that are now immediate.

This made so much sense when we think about confirmation bias, the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. If we make no assumptions and just let the data go where it goes, would that not be better – and more accurate? Granted, I have not completely thought through all this. The way we would traditionally set up the hypothesis test is to formulate two hypothesis statements, one that describes the researchers prediction and one that describes all the other possible outcomes with respect to the hypothesized relationship. With the aid of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, digital twinning, and many other digital capabilities could we find relationships, or lack there of, that we would have never thought of in a world using the alternative and null hypothesis? The point to remember here about stating hypotheses is that a prediction (guess) is formulated (directional or not), and then a second hypothesis is formulated that is mutually exclusive of the first and incorporates all possible alternative outcomes for that case. When the study analysis is completed, the idea is that we will choose between the two hypotheses.

Alien Thinking

Bouquet, et al. posited that “The Alien experimenter doesn’t need to formulate a hypothesis – just come up with an experiment and then measure the results.” This will better allow us, they went on to say, “…conceive different outcomes, as well as the ability to measure and learn from them.” So maybe, just maybe, it is time to rethink the long tradition called the hypothetical-deductive model, and begin a new tradition of Alien Thinking.