“One morning an irresistible force propelled MIT Professor Marvin Minsky to one corner of his class room and pinned him there as securely as a butterfly impaled in a museum showcase. It was a force of habit – a brand new habit imposed upon him on the spot by a group of playfully experimental students. The boys had him at their mercy, as if he were a robot slave and they the masters at the controls.
They ‘robotmized’ Minsky with a psychological ruse much like the methods for teaching rats to run through a maze, or training a dog to fetch a newspaper. Soon after class began, a few students started manipulating him. Whenever he paced to the right, they whispered softly to each other, rustled papers, dropped pencils, and created other minor distractions. But when he happened to take a few steps to the left, they sat up and obviously paid close attention to the lecture. In short they conditioned Minsky by repeatedly punishing him for moving in one direction and rewarding him for moving in the opposite direction.
Within half an hour he stopped pacing altogether and stood like a cigar store Indian near the left hand edge of the black-board. So subtly had he been habituated that he did not realise an experiment was in progress, and that he was the guinea pig – ironically, since Minsky is a leading authority on the theory of automations.”
(Think, November-December 1969)