On Urgency and Elevator Buttons

“a world of made is not a world of born.”—e.e. cummings, “pity this busy monster, manunkind”

Want to hear something really depressing? elevatorThose buttons in an elevator that say “CLOSE DOOR” almost never really close the door. In most situations they aren’t even active because the doors are controlled by automatic settings; they are just there to make you think you are doing something. Same with most of the buttons at crosswalks that you push to make the light turn green. They don’t control the light. They just make you feel better.

These are examples of placebo buttons, or mechanisms that manufacturers build into their devices to manage one of the really annoying little quirks of the human species: we are spectacularly bad at telling the difference between “doing something” and “doing something that matters.”
[Read more…]