Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On A Motor-Driven Chain of Stationary Steps

Also known as an escalator that is switched off, which (rather deceptively) appears to work like an ordinary stair case. Until you step onto them, that is, and experience a sudden unexpected forward lurch, which sets you off balance and your balance does not return fully until you step off the escalator. I like to call his initial jerking sensation you feel as you step onto the stationary escalator an externally stimulated vestibular equilibrioception myoclonus, because it does not seem to have an accepted name yet.

The fact that such a perception that a stationary escalator is still moving is very disturbing. It implies that, even though my conscious mind is smart enough to know how escalators work, and to analyse the situation reliable and accurately so that I know that a stationary escalator will not be moving when I step onto it, my subconscious is still driven by instinct developed by simple past experiences and remains unaffected by the incredible complex connections between the vast database of knowledge that my conscious mind has made over the rest of my life. In the end, no matter how much I know and learn, or how complex my thinking is, it is all overpowered by some simple programming that is beyond my control. That is very disturbing indeed.

(On a side note: The word “escalator” was not derived from the word “escalate”, as I believed for my entire life. Rather, the word “escalator” was made up and trademarked in 1900, and the word “escalate” was later derived from it. In fact, the first printed definition of the word “escalate” only came in 1959.)
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