Have you ever daydreamed about hopping into a souped up DeLorean to travel back in time? Of course you have, and not because you miss your old ripped jeans and Robbie Williams CD collection. No, you really want to go back so you can test out some of those weird decisions you made at crucial life decision points – whether or not to kiss Janie Hutchison at prom, deciding to sell your 1/3rd stake in Apple Computers for $2,300, how many kids to have…
Imagine if life had A/B testing. Imagine facing a tough choice between two paths and being able to do both! It would be a breeze to figure out which one leads to cool adventures and money and sex with Natalie Portman, and which to a NyQuil habit and a job selling generic Viagara over the internet.
You’re at the tattoo parlour flipping through that weird photo album full of yin-yang symbols, Celtic knots and close-ups of freshly pierced places-that-shouldn’t-be-pierced.
The tattoo artist puts down his triple vodka and Red Bull and ushers you over. He wipes the blood and sweat (?) off the table and you lie down. Two hours later, you’re the proud owner of your very own, very permanent, tattoo.
It’s at that point that the magic happens – your mind suddenly travels to an alternate dimension, where instead of lying down, you get the hell out of the tattoo parlor and maybe go out for nachos.
Results: It looks pretty cool and hey, a cute girl at Burning Man comes up and tells you how much she also loves the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But then a few years later the ink starts to run a bit. No problem, it still looks cool. But then a few decades later, and all the other old folks at the Weeping Willow retirement home keep telling you not to have a cow, man, because your T-Rex tattoo now looks an awful lot like Bart Simpson sitting on a toilet.
Results: Time to see how the Challenger concept does… In this alternate reality, you skip the tattoo, eat some Tex-Mex, and go about your life. Burning Man sucks that year, but by the time you’re Director of Sales for a national chain of Mexican restaurants, you’ve forgotten all about it.
Hypothesis: Nobody likes a bunch of eighty-something retirees making fun of them. You obviously should’ve gone with concept B.
You come home after a hard day at the office and your partner is waiting for you in the living room, holding a strange little white stick. She tells you “I’m pregnant.” You take a deep breath, fall back onto the couch, look deep into her eyes, and say: “How the hell did THAT happen?!”
Results: A couple hours of the stone-eyed silent treatment, lots of broken crockery and enough crying for a Tyra Banks Show episode about menopause. You sleep in the basement, where the spiders are.
Results: Clearly the copywriter for Concept A did a pretty crappy job. But Concept B isn’t a whole lot better. Your partner probably won’t break as much stuff, but you’re still about six bouquets of flowers away from even second base.
Hypothesis: In this case, your A/B test resulted in a somewhat better result. But maybe this would be a good time to put Concept B up against a new challenger. Let’s say you go into yet another alternate universe where you actually say, “Wow! Amazing! What color should we paint the nursery?” In that case, Concept C would be a clear winner. It would probably prompt a similar amount of tears as Concept A. But instead of being little pools of angry, burning, salty hatred, they would be the kind of tears that appear at the sight of a French bulldog puppy riding a unicorn.
This one isn’t necessarily as life altering as, say, getting a tattoo. (unless you die, which happens from time to time). But we’ve all been there, standing on top of a really high thing, staring down at a body of water far, far below. And we’ve all been forced to make that decision – to jump or not to jump?
Results: You take a deep breath, say a quick Hail Mary, and step off the precipice of doom. Oh, and did I mention you’re naked? Yup. Because of a double-dog-dare, you’re wearing nothing but a puckered little smile. It does not go well. And the trouble starts even before you hit the water. One onlooker describes the affect of the upsurge of wind on your nudity as “looking like you shaved a flying-squirrel and taped it to your groin.” And then you hit the water, which feels exactly like it does when the Incredible Hulk holds you down and swings a cricket bat at your junk.
Results: You disappoint the eight people standing below you, yelling “jump, jump, jump”. But hey, they were disappointed the moment you took off your pants, so no biggie. (coincidentally, “No Biggie” is your nickname for the next three years.)
Hypothesis: Once again, your life would’ve been a lot better if you’d actually been able to run this A/B test. Because you undoubtedly would’ve chose Concept B, if only because Concept A resulted in enough swelling that it took two hours of icing to even be able to fit back into your jeans.
There comes a time in everyone’s life where they have to decide what to Do With Their Life. Unfortunately, that decision point comes at the exact moment when you’re least able to make it. For the average eighteen year old, becoming a professional beer-bonger seems like a valid career choice.
Results: University can be an amazing experience. It’s a place where you can create your own schedule, where you can join the Chess Club without getting beat up, and where writing a really great haiku can get you laid. Despite all that, future employers actually seem to respond positively to that little “BA: Poli Sci” on your CV. So you actually end your university career with pretty good job prospects and only a very minor herpes infection.
Results: Some twenty-three-year-old college dropout just added $9 million bucks to his bank account by winning the World Series of Poker. And that’s awesome for him. But even though this is your alternate reality, you still don’t ever win more than $40 bucks a week playing poker. Concept B ends up with you still living in your parent’s basement for a few decades after high-school, logging long hours on PokerStars and occasionally uploading videos of you feeding whiskey to your dog to YouTube.
Hypothesis: It’s a close one, but you probably should have stuck with Concept A. You’ll get to wear lots of cool sweatshirts from your school and herpes is actually very treatable these days.
What if you could A/B test your life? What would you do differently? Tell us about it in the comments…