THIS SOUNDS LIKE HEAVEN

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

Culture and media critic

Outsourcing to machines the many idiosyncrasies of mortals—making interesting mistakes, brooding on the verities, propitiating the gods by whittling and arranging flowers—skews tragic. But letting machines do the thinking for us? This sounds like heaven. Thinking is optional. Thinking is suffering. It is almost always a way of being careful, of taking hypervigilant heed, of resenting the past and fearing the future in the form of maddeningly redundant internal language. If machines can relieve us of this onerous nonresponsibility, which is in pointless overdrive in too many of us, I’m for it. Let the machines perseverate on tedious and value-laden questions about whether private or public school is “right” for my children, whether intervention in Syria is “appropriate,” whether germs or solitude are “worse” for my body. This will free us newly footloose humans to play, rest, write, and whittle—the engrossing flowstates out of which come the actions that actually enrich, enliven, and heal the world.