My Experiment With Robots

By Phillip Spencer

I had this deal with a friend in high school where if either of us were absent, the other one would give him their notes to copy.  Which basically meant that if we knew the other person was absent from school, we had to be extra careful and take more detailed notes to help the other one catch up.

One day my friend was absent, and I decided to do an experiment.  I wasn’t going to sabotage the notes, per se, but I was going to, well, tweak them.

I was convinced that when people copy notes, they don’t actually read what they are copying but rather just write what they see.  So I added some flare to the notes.  In between lines, I would write things like “if x=k, then there is a high probability that robots will take over the world” and “because we know that x=k, robots are definitely taking over the world.”  My thought was that it would be obvious that that aspect of my notes would be utter nonsense, while the real information would make sense.

The next day, my friend asked to copy my notes, and he sat there diligently copying my notes into his notebook.  I sat there trying not to smirk or grin.  After a while, he finished copying the notes, handed them back to me, and thanked me.

I smiled: “So, did that make sense?”

“Yes,” he replied, not caring.

“Really?” I asked skeptically. “You didn’t notice the stuff about robots?”

He looked down, read his notes, and laughed.

Even to this day I can’t believe the experiment actually worked.  You would think that if you copied the word “robot” down in a tenth grade math class, some sort of bell would ring.  I think the real issue is that life is so complicated and fast paced that we don’t have time to slow down and focus on the minor details; my friend was more concerned about getting the notes down before class than taking the time to read what I actually wrote.  We’re hastier to get through life and grow up than to actually enjoy the experiences we’re having.  It does seem odd that we must almost force ourselves to slow down and enjoy life, but, really, if you don’t, you may miss out on something like “robots are taking over the world.”

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