|Not who you want to be in the lab. Credit: deepfriar|
"A Gorilla is just a big bettor. He gets called into a hot deck, stumbles over like a drunk rich kid, and starts throwing down big money. He doesn't think for himself -- he lets the Spotter tell him when the deck goes bad. He's just a Gorilla, brain-dead. But depending on how high the count is when he's signaled in, his percentage advanatage can be staggering. He doesn't count, he just bets and bets and waits for the seated Spotter to signal him that the run of good cards is over. Then he gets up and wanders off in search of his next call-in."
[snip] "A Big Player," Martinez said as they crossed the street, "does it all. It's acting and counting and betting, it's tracking the shuffle and cutting to aces. It's the toughest role and the most important. You carry the big money, and you get yourself known by the casino personnel. They comp you the big suites because you're betting a thousand dollars a hand. You get called in by the Spotters, but then you take over the play. You do things the Gorilla can't, like raising the bet as the deck gets better -- but you have to do it with style, so the casino doesn't nail you. You have to look the part."Being a Gorilla on a grad school project can be nice -- you're just doing the work, you're not really responsible for any of the results, you're just doing what they tell you to do. It can be relaxing, but it doesn't grow your critical thinking skills. I suspect that at some point, you can't unlearn your Gorilla behavior and you're stuck.
At some point in your project in both graduate school and afterwards, you need to be able to be independent. The best way to learn to be independent in the lab is to become the relevant expert on your topic, such that your professor or (in industry) higher-up doesn't have to offer you day-to-day advice. Their strategic and long-term advice can be invaluable, of course -- so I wouldn't ignore it. But the sooner you can make the transition to being a Big Player, the better.