Expanded Overthinking on Elevator Usage

I’ve previously talked about choices regarding elevators in this post.

Many of you have probably experienced or can understand the feeling of being minutely judged upon accidentally hitting the button for the wrong floor on the elevator and/or the feeling of minutely judging someone who you saw pushing the button for the wrong floor.

Today, as I entered an elevator in the MIT student center, alone, I accidentally pressed the wrong destination floor. As no one else was in the elevator, I corrected myself. (See the above link for why I might not have corrected myself otherwise; this situation reduces to the “a nearby floor was already called” case.) As the elevator headed up, I thought about what I would’ve done if at the moment, someone else was rushing to enter the elevator.

I might have actually let the elevator doors close instead of holding them, from embarrassment that I’ve pushed the wrong elevator button. This is arguably not the most commendable action, but I may have justified it to myself with an argument that entering the elevator may very well have not been the best choice for them as my incorrect elevator button push would have contributed to unnecessary time-inefficiency in their travel, and thus the other elevator might have been faster. This justification, sadly, reeks of an issue that seems analogous to the Gettier response to the “justified true belief” definition of knowledge: it seems that we’re really asserting a justification that happens to coincide with truth about the relative acceptability of letting the elevator doors close to an elevator whose ride is likely to visit an extraneous floor (it’s not even destined to visit an extraneous floor: that floor may well have been the floor of interest to the hypothetical person-rushing-in).

It is curious to consider these options, as much as this is an issue of very tiny importance in the grand scheme of life; it could encapsulate the ideas behind choices in decisions that matter much more.

On a higher level, elevator button-pushes really should just be revocable before fulfillment.

(On an even higher level of consideration, floor buttons shouldn’t be inside the elevator cars in the first place; a set should exist outside the elevator on each floor it services. This has actually been implemented, but the force of tradition led to people finding this awkward enough that they managed to successfully resist a better system.)

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