The Melting Ice Cube

Consider the following thought experiment:

Operation 1 (the melting ice cube) –

Imagine an ice cube and consider how it may melt over the next two hours while you surf around the internet. Try to envision the shape of the resulting puddle.

Operation 2 (where did the water come from?) –

Consider a puddle of water on the floor. Now try to reconstruct in your mind’s eye the shape of the ice cube it may have been. Note that the puddle may not have necessarily originated from an ice cube.

What operation is harder?

Peace Corps tends to focus on the forward process of Operation 1. It reduces the world to a constrained model and tries to predict where it will fail and where it will succeed. The deeper introspection of the backward process of Operation 2 is lacking, especially in regard to failures. The puddle of a failure is mopped up with little consideration for what causes the puddle in the first place. Going backward is harder and seen as less rewarding than relentlessly looking forward. Peace Corps does not have the intellectual acuity, nor have the necessary incentives to explore the origins of it’s failures. When faced with the difficult question of ‘why is our work here having little impact?’ we often end up answering an easier question instead – ‘what are we going do in the future?’ Usually without noticing the substitution.

Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut.

Warren Buffet

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