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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Gedankenexperiment: blank sheets of paper

I'm going to ask you to go ahead and ignore the previous post until you've read this one first. If you've already read it, please unread it, if possible, come back to this when you've forgotten about it or ask someone you know. 

We're going to engage in a mental exercise now. If you're reading this and have a mind to, by all means write an answer in the comments below. Here goes:

If you were given a blank sheet of paper, marked in a way you couldn't reproduce, and were asked to give it back a year later, with no other instructions... what would you do with it? You're allowed to do anything you like with it, including not giving it back, but you must justify your choice. If you know you won't have it around when the one year mark nears, I'd like to know why. Whatever you choose to do with your sheet of paper, do attempt to explain it somehow. 




No cheating!

Think about it for as long as you like. 

OK. Stop thinking. If you're answering in the comments, now is a good time to do it. 

Stop reading now if you're not done yet.

Or now. I'm about to give you two possible outcomes.

In case you're curious, I couldn't resist myself and I asked EBF. I shouldn't be surprised that his response was a "I'd put it away somewhere give it back as is, if I gave it back at all. What's in it for me?" He asked why I'd even brought up the question and I explained (read the previous post). All he said then was "Wow. That's a lot of thought given to such a "simple" process." And then the conversation died. I want to think maybe he thought it was a nice idea to think about and went on to tell his sister (or someone else) about it, but then I think about it some more and figure he most likely didn't (think it was that interesting, or worth sharing). I might have known... 

Hoping to regain some faith in human kind (read: the people I trust to be interesting) I asked AOB. He actually took a good couple of hours to think before he gave me an answer. His initial answer was more elaborate: while he knows himself well enough to predict the sheet of paper would get lost in his room and would get chucked away when cleaning, he thinks this sheet of paper is special and wants to do right by it. He offers turning it into an origami figure to give to a child, or someone special, but he says that may be unrealistic. So what then? AOB does not disappoint. Faith restored. I wonder what SmTn would say...

(No, I don't particularly wonder what A would say. I reckon she'd throw it away, eventually, or would maybe put it away somewhere and then give it back as is. At any rate, I can almost guarantee she wouldn't think to do anything special with it.)

Now, let's go over your answers. Did you choose to believe the sheet of paper was somehow special? Why? Did it prompt you to give it back at the end of the year? Would you have given it to someone else or just thrown it away? Did you feel you had to keep it in pristine condition? Were you inspired to make it special? How? Does it make a difference who gives you the sheet of paper? Do you expect something in return for giving it back? Do you expect to be judged depending on what you give back? How do you think you'll be judged?

(Make no mistake, I'm judging you based on your answers. It's exactly why I'm telling you about EBF's and AOB's answers.)

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