Bryn Williams, in a comment on thinkers & creators who read comics & sci-fi for inspiration:
“…a familiarity with imagined alternative worlds makes philosophy an easier path to tread when posing counterfactuals and thought experiments…”
And not just philosophy or data visualization — I think statistics could be presented as a kind of “applied science fiction.” When you perform a hypothesis test of whether some parameter is 0, you
- assume it *is* 0,
- imagine what kinds of data you would probably have seen under that assumption, and then
- if the real data you *did* see is unlikely under that assumption, decide that the assumption is probably wrong.
It’s just like in SF where
- you imagine a possible alternate reality (say, Joe discovers a talent for dowsing),
- you explore the consequences if that possibility were true (Joe becomes rich from oil prospecting), and
- in the best cases, readers can draw lessons about our actual reality from this thought experiment (http://xkcd.com/808/).