Our Mechanistic Minds

Machine thinking makes us less human. 

As some of my children have gone off to college, I have thought more about their generation, which demographers call the Millennials. A young man in our church graciously asked me to lead his Life Group once per month, and that has given me more occasion to discover this fascinating generation. We also have a young woman from Persia living with us, and she is wonderful at explaining much about how non-American millennials think.

Some examples stand out in my mind. Though earnestly seeking a wife, one 25 year old man agonized over dating a woman he met on Christian Mingle, concerned that it might be risky. A woman in her mid-twenties wanted to meet a man but wasn’t willing to do much to attract one. The very idea of attracting a man was offensive. A 24 year old college graduate hoped to be dating and knew many eligible men her age but did nothing to encourage their overtures. Another man was afraid of yet another rebuff. In one incident, a young man teaching a coed Sunday School class facetiously suggested that the women in the class, who were going to pick blueberries together after church, could make some blueberry pies for the men. For their part, the men could bring back wild game. His tongue in cheek suggestion was met with incredulity and derision. On hearing the story a few hours later, my mother in law said “If they wanted a blueberry pie, I would bake one.”

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Why Talk?

We talk to other people to share information, to make impressions, to intimidate, to seduce, and for more reasons than we realize.

Last month I attended triservice Disaster Management classes in San Antonio, TX. We did many team simulations and during a break I chatted with a teammate, Sarah, a Navy environmental health officer. She had only been in uniform a few months, previously working as an environmental lobbyist in Washington DC. A single female in her mid-30s, she was a self-described liberal, and after class she was going to Austin, which she described as a “little blue dot in a sea of red”.

Pundits might classify Sarah and I on different ends of the political spectrum, and I was curious about her views. We chatted a few moments about economic inequality, and at the next break I asked her to continue with her thoughts. She hesitated. Sarah said “these conversations start from different points” and they end “without either person having convinced the other”. I responded, “yes”, but to convince the other person is not the main point of a conversation; the main point of such discourse is to build relationships. She seemed a little surprised, but began sharing, and we had a fine discussion.

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