You know that clichéd scene in horror movies where the killer is chasing someone and they run in to an elevator, and the doors don’t close even though they’re pressing the close door button? Yeah, that’s accurate. Because it turns out, those buttons don’t do anything. It’s true, that tiny close door button is making a fool out of you each time you want to go faster up the elevator and some jerk keeps hitting the elevator button on each floor above you.
So why are they still installed in elevators? Because humans love the idea of control. Admit it, when you press that button on an elevator you feel relaxed, like your work is done. But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, there had to be ample time for someone like a disabled person to get on to the elevator. The anti discriminately law made those buttons obsolete. If you’re a maintenance man or manager you probably have codes or keys to actually control the elevator doors though.
Now, it’s been over 25 years since that day and people are still ignorant about the close door button. And that’s not all, buttons all around the city are “mechanical placebos” for the human mind. Useless junk is tricking us in to believing we’re in control.
Those “walk” buttons around the cities turned out to be fakes too. In 2004, the New York Times published a study which identified 3250 of those buttons in New York City as placebos. Today, only 120 remain. Since the traffic lights run on a schedule, there’s no logic to using those buttons. They’re just there to give us hope that we’ve done our part to make the line move faster. In Australia there’s a compromise though. The signals work on a Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique and can switch the button’s status from “placebo” to useful depending on when the traffic is thin.
The last of these is the thermostat. Most are designed to work in a narrow range of temperatures so shifting the dial isn’t going to do much.