Gemini: Your Key to Exploring “What Ifs” and Mastering Thought Experiments

Leon Nicholls
6 min readFeb 26, 2024

You know that feeling: a question pops into your head, and suddenly everything seems possible. That “Wait, what if…?” moment? That’s the power of hypotheticals! They let us play with reality, bending the rules to explore crazy ideas, solve challenging problems, and maybe even reimagine history. Ready to take your “what ifs” to the next level? Gemini, Google’s creative content bot, is here to help. In this blog post, I’ll dive into how you can turn your wildest ideas into thought experiments with insightful results.

Note that this article uses Google Gemini Advanced, a paid service, but the techniques also apply to the free version of Google Gemini.

Setting the Scene

Consider a hypothetical scenario like a “choose your own adventure” story, except you’re talking to a super-smart AI instead of turning pages. Hypotheticals are all about “what if?”. What if you tried a bold new business strategy? What if you changed one tiny detail about a famous battle? What if dogs could wear hats? They’re powerful tools for better decisions, out-of-the-box thinking, and sometimes just fun!

So, why is Gemini amazing at this? For starters, it understands the way we talk. It can follow complex ideas and fill in the blanks when we give it a situation to play with. Plus, Gemini has read the internet, bringing in a ton of knowledge to draw from.

Here’s the tricky bit: Like any tool, Gemini works best when you know how to use it. It can spin a wild yarn about talking dragons if you want, but its strength lies in those “possible but not yet real” scenarios. That’s where you need to help guide it to keep things grounded and valuable.

Prompting for Possibilities

Alright, let’s get down to business! It’s time to turn your “what if?” brainwaves into actual conversations with Gemini. Think of crafting the right prompt, like choosing the key that unlocks a whole world of possibilities. Here’s your starter kit:

The Classics:

  • “What if…” The ultimate hypothetical question — use this to explore any possibility. “What if dinosaurs still existed?”
  • “Imagine if…” This one’s your blank canvas for big-picture thinking. “Imagine if humans never invented the wheel…”
  • “What would happen if…” Perfect for zooming in on a specific change. “What would happen if a new law drastically changed the music industry?”
  • “How might [event/situation] have been different if…” Calling all history buffs! “How might the American Revolution have been different if George Washington hadn’t been the leader?”

Leveling Up: Want to make Gemini think outside the box? Try these:

  • “Assume that…” Let’s break some rules! “Assume that gravity is half as strong…”
  • “Given that…” This helps set up a specific scenario to analyze. “Given that a competitor releases a similar product at half the price…”

Ready to start brainstorming? Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. Have fun, and see where your prompts take you!

Hypothetical Playgrounds

Ready to unleash the power of those “what if” questions? Hypotheticals are like a Swiss Army knife for your brain — there are many different ways to use them! Let’s explore:

  • History Remix: Rewrite the past and see how the world could have changed. “Imagine if the Roman Empire never fell?” or “What if women gained the right to vote centuries earlier?”
  • Predicting the Future: Gemini can’t see the future, but it can help you visualize potential impacts. “What would happen if a major volcanic eruption disrupted global air travel?” or “How might rising sea levels reshape coastal cities?”
  • Science Lab Playground: Bend the laws of physics (or tweak them a little!). “Assume that humans could hibernate for months at a time.” or “What if we discovered a planet with twice Earth’s gravity?”
  • Storyteller’s Toolkit: Craft entire worlds or put your characters in surprising situations. “What if my pet goldfish suddenly gained the power of speech?” or “What if I stumbled upon a hidden portal to another dimension?”
  • Everyday Problem-Solver: Hypotheticals are perfect for untangling tough choices. “Imagine if I left my job to start my own business.” or “What if you dedicated an hour each day to learning a new skill?”
  • Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: See the world through someone else’s eyes. “What if I was the CEO of a struggling company?” or “How might a child experience their first day of school?
  • Just for Fun: Time to get weird! “What if cats formed their secret society?” or “Given that you could fly, where would you go first?” Embrace the absurd — you never know what you might learn!

Mix and Match! The most fascinating hypotheticals often blend these ideas. And hey, invent your categories! The only limit is your imagination.

Best Practices for Hypothetical Success

Hypothetical fun with Gemini isn’t a one-and-done thing. Think of it like training for a marathon — you’ll get way better with practice! Here are some tips to boost your results:

  • Be Specific, My Friend: Giving Gemini lots of detail is like giving it a high-resolution map. Instead of “What if my product fails?”, try “What if customers find my product’s interface confusing?”.
  • Tweak and Refine: Your first question is just the warmup! Take Gemini’s answers and use them to ask even more exciting follow-up questions.
  • Explore Counterfactuals: That’s a fancy way of saying, “What if history went differently?”. Ask Gemini directly: “Rewrite the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, assuming the Confederacy had more supplies.” History buffs, this is your playground!
  • Constraints are Cool: Sometimes, you need to set some boundaries. Should your AI brainstorm flying cars or realistic traffic solutions? Phrases like “within the laws of physics” can help.
  • Feed it Facts: The more context you give Gemini, the better. Try a prompt like “Consider the following news article about rising interest rates. How might this impact the housing market?” (then cut and paste the article content at the end of the prompt and wrap it in delimiters like ```).
  • Give it Guide Rails: While Gemini’s great at brainstorming, sometimes you must steer it away from zany-town. Tell it upfront if you want historically grounded results, tech that could exist soon, etc.
  • Different perspectives: Try adding “…from the viewpoint of a tech reviewer” or “… from the viewpoint of someone who’s never exercised before”. Suddenly, you’re seeing your idea through all sorts of fresh eyes!
  • Don’t Break the Robot: Even the smartest AI has limits. If you ask, “What if pigs could fly and also grant wishes?” you’ll get some… unusual answers. Keep things grounded for the most valuable results.

Remember, the beauty of hypotheticals is the journey, not just the destination! Experiment, tweak, and explore unexpected paths — that’s when the real magic happens.

Conclusion

Hypotheticals aren’t just about fun and games (though they can be!). They’re a mental workout, training you to think flexibly and visualize possibilities. So, go forth and experiment! The next time you’re facing a decision, pondering a historical event, or dreaming up a wild story, ask yourself, “What if…?” and let Gemini be your guide. You might be surprised where your mind takes you.

Check out my reading list of other Google Gemini articles.

This post was created in collaboration with AI writing tools. The final draft has been carefully reviewed and edited by the author.

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