This article is initially available on our podcast. Click here to listen.
Learn more about conditional logic. We were reflecting on this and looking at what resources we might give to clients to help them in this process. In going down that path, one of the things we considered was, “How did we get to this point? How are we good at this?” I had to reflect myself how I’m individually good at this. At least, I believe I’m good at it. I mean, who knows? Maybe, I’m not as good as I think I am. In general, I believe I’m pretty good at this.
Start with the basics
We thought about it. As I thought, I was like, “You know what? I mean, I studied engineering. Did I get it in engineering? Not really. Was it maybe in writing software, sort of in those courses where you have to understand how to write code, and there’s a lot of “if-else” kind of statements?” And I thought, “Well, maybe that’s where I got it. It was in learning to write software in college. Or even earlier than that, I did kind of stuff, writing in BASIC.” I don’t think that was it either.
The funny thing is, if I think about it, I credit my dad not because he was this great logician or anything like that, but he got me a book when I was pretty young. I don’t know the exact age, but I’m going to guesstimate I was around 10. It wasn’t a software book. It was a book by Raymond Smullyan, and it was called Alice in Puzzleland.
Associate logic with enjoyable games
It was an excellent book. It was half Alice in Wonderland, so it had all the characters of the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts and stuff like that. But the entire book was framed around these logic cases that got increasingly difficult. It started with things like, “Who stole the tart?” And you would have a Mad Hatter and the Turtle and the March Hare or something like that.
One of them says, “I didn’t steal it,” and the other one says, “The Mad Hatter stole it.” The other one says, “I stole it.” The Mad Hatter always lies, and the March Hare always tells the truth. You have these conditions, and you have to figure out who stole the tart. It was a guess.
I’ve got to tell you it was entertaining as a kid. Again, a full disclosure: I was a nerdy little kid. This is what passed for fun for me in my bedroom as a kid. But it was a lot of fun.
Part of it was because the logic games were fun, but also it was so entertaining because it wasn’t just like, “Okay, if X occurred and Y and Z and blah, blah, blah,” and boring kind of stuff. It was amusing because you had these fascinating characters. I not only read it but worked out a ton of the cases, and you had to write out the possibilities.
I mean, this was in the days where you used paper all the time. I don’t know what I’d do now. I’d probably still use paper, and I’m not too fond of paper.
Build upon your analytics abilities
You would say, “Okay, if the March Hare is telling the truth, then the Mad Hatter must be lying. Therefore, the Turtle stole it.” You run into a lot of sort of impossible cases where they can’t both be lying, and both be telling the truth. Or he can’t be lying and telling the truth at the same time. Or if they’re both telling the truth, then that means they both stole it, and, of course, that’s impossible. Or neither of them stole it.
It was fun. You need to work out different cases and the logic of “if this – then this” and otherwise “this.” Okay, it’s not that—you go through the cases. That was probably the early foundation that I had for this because that’s the earliest thing I can think of that got me into the concept of logic, and it was fun.
Try logic puzzles
Suppose you’re looking for something fun and entertaining that you can do yourself or potentially give to your kids; that could be a great gift to give to somebody. Again, it depends on the age and how nerdy your kids are. Not everybody was quite as geeky as I was at 10 or 12 or however old I was. Consider trying that out or looking for sort of logic puzzles. That’s entertaining and fun and helps develop that type of capability that ultimately leads to these types of abilities. They, finally, are somewhat helpful in analytics.
To sum it up
That’s my origin story. Not that I’m suggesting I’m a superhero, but that’s my origin story. I’m hanging it all on Raymond Smullyan’s Alice in Puzzleland.