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Specifically, is it safe to put a lever to open an iron door 'outside'?

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Mobs can't really use anything that players can use (including levers). The only exceptions are ladders and pressure plates. Ladders because it only requires that the mob move towards the ladder to use it, and AI doesn't actually know how to use the ladder causing them to fall off of it pretty easily.

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    That was my gut feel, but thought I'd ask anyway. Better safe than respawned – johnc Nov 24 '10 at 0:38
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    It would be interesting to know, though, if this is by design or if it could change in the future as the AI (presumably?) will get better. – UncleZeiv Nov 24 '10 at 1:14
  • @Uncle I'm pretty sure it's by design. Maybe if "smarter" mobs are added in the future, they might be able to use them, but I can't see a creeper or zombie being intelligent enough to understand that they'd have to go over to the lever, flip it, and then go over to the door and go through. – Doktor J May 14 '11 at 16:41
  • In addition, villagers can open doors – pppery Aug 13 '18 at 15:58

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