ElevatorTurns out the placebo effect isn’t just for drugs. It apparently works for elevators, thermostats, and walk buttons at intersections–most of which don’t work and aren’t even intended to! Oh, and turns out in addition to his other firsts, John Cage may have created the first placebo music.


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‘In most elevators installed since the early 1990s, the ‘close door’ button has no effect. Otis Elevator engineers confirmed the fact to the Wall Street Journal in 2003. Similarly, many office thermostats are dummies, designed to give workers the illusion of control. “You just get tired of dealing with them and you screw in a cheap thermostat,” said Illinois HVAC specialist Richard Dawson. “Guess what? They quit calling you.” In 2004 the New York Times reported that more than 2,500 of the 3,250 “walk” buttons in New York intersections do nothing. “The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on.”‘

It looks like even the Recording Industry Association of America has fallen prey to the placebo effect. John Cage’s famous composition 4’33” has no score except for the performer to sit at the piano without playing a note. Nevertheless the title (?) of the work seems to have triggered the RIAA’s cease-and-desist bot on YouTube:

Cage John Youtube Takedown

I’m not sure whether Cage would have been tickled or tortured by this development. (via John Bell)

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