The Challenge With Thinking From First Principles

True first principle or erroneous assumption?

Silicon Valley is enamored with First Principles Thinking. First Principles Thinking means disregarding all assumptions that are not foundational in nature and then reasoning bottom up from basic propositions or assumptions that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

Photo of Konrad Adenauer
Photo of Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer,
first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F078072–0004 / Katherine Young, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de.

People are always going to have kids.

That sounds like a reasonable First Principle! After all, it’s literally in our nature to procreate. And as long as today’s workers have kids, there will be workers tomorrow paying for tomorrow’s pensioners.

Chart of birth and morality rates in Germany since 1950. In the 1960s, a steep drop in birth rates can be observed.
Chart of birth and morality rates in Germany since 1950. In the 1960s, a steep drop in birth rates can be observed.
Source: Destatis

Experienced product leader, previously at 8fit, Yammer, BCG. Currently working on something new.