I spent one year as an Associate Professor at Boston University.  The doors in the economics building are strange because the key turns in the opposite way you would expect.  Instead of turning the key to the right in order to pull the bolt left-to-right, you turn the key to the left.  For the first month I got it wrong every morning.

Eventually I realized that I needed to do the opposite of my instinct.  And so as I was just about to turn the key to the right I would stop myself and do the opposite.  This worked for about a week.  The problem was that as soon as I started to consistently get it right, it became second nature and then I could no longer tell what my primitive instinct was and what my second-order counter-instinct was.  I would begin to turn the key to the left and then stop myself and turn the key to the right.

I have since concluded that it is basically impossible to “do the opposite” and that we are all lesser beings because of it.  We could learn from experience much faster if we had the ability to remenber what our a) what our natural instinct is b) whether it works and c) to do the opposite when it doesn’t.

We could be George Castanza:

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