The student approached the master.
“Master!” The student wailed, “My code always crashes when I reach this point!”
The master was deep in thought. “Show me,” she muttered.
The student ran the code once more.
Lo! It did not crash.
“Thus,” whispered the master, “is the proximity to genius effect demonstrated.”
And the student became enlightened.
For years, I’ve been talking about the “proximity to genius effect.” It turns out, according to Google, I’m the only one who has heard of this term!
(Or, at least, I’m the only one to have mentioned it on the Internet before.)
The effect is simple to explain – it’s a form of Rubber Duck Debugging. When demonstrating a problem to a person, the issue resolves itself.
How many times has this happened to you? Just today I had a colleague ask me to find out why an HDMI cable wasn’t working in a new monitor, I watched him open the Windows’ config panel, click a few buttons and – lo! – the second monitor came to life.
A little latter, our top-notch designer couldn’t get a site to load. “Have you tried it without the https?” I asked.
You can guess what happened next!
Why Does This Happen?
There are three logical explanations.
With Rubber Duck Debugging, the user has to fully articulate her thought process. In doing so, she hears the assumptions and mistakes she has made and is able to correct them.
PGE has a similar impact. The act of demonstrating forces the user to think about all the steps they need to take and then perform them in order.
Secondly, geniuses often make leaps in their assumptions.
why does our entertainment technology only break when @kevglobal is away?
— Suw (@Suw) September 27, 2010
— Terence Eden (@edent) September 27, 2010
In the example above, I would bet that the “genius” knows that after switching on the home entertainment system, one has to wait 60 seconds in order for it to connect to the Internet. A “non-genius” hasn’t made that assumption and isn’t bound by the genius’s limitations. Therefore, when the genius is around, the TV works – when he is absent it often breaks.
The final explanation is that the mere presence of a genius has a positive impact on the electrons of modern machines. The calming influence we radiate prevents a build up of negative ions which so often leads to a system crashing or a machine not working.
By strategically hiring geniuses and placing them around your house or place of work, you can eliminate up to 100% of digital problems.