It’s really romantic the first time that you find yourself finishing the sentence of your new boyfriend or girlfriend. It seems like some confirmation that you’re “soulmates” or something. After years of marriage, I must confess that there is delight in finding that still true. Added to that, now at this age, there’s some solace found in that ability – sometimes the word fails you, and your spouse can come to the rescue. It’s a great gift.
When coworkers, or strangers, or in this case a machine does it, that’s a whole ‘nother matter. Let me explain. We lost our church Business Administrator about a month ago, and we have not been quick to replace her. Some of us in the office have taken on some of her responsibilities, and among other things, mine has been to tend to all the emails that come to that position. This is not a huge task and I’m glad to do it.
But she had a feature turned on in Outlook that really annoys me. It’s this feature that tries to guess what you are going to say next, and it prints it out ahead of the cursor. So as you type, it throws suggestions at you right ahead of the last character you typed, suggesting to you that you press “Tab” instead of typing out the word whole or even phrase.
Call me old school, call me a curmudgeon, but I don’t want the machine to do this for a couple of reasons! One, it insinuates that it can think faster than I can. It has a possible next word typed all the way out before I have finished typing the last one. Two, it bothers me that my pattern of thinking and writing is so pedestrian that some algorithm-builder in Silicon Valley has compiled enough people saying the same thing that the machine can predict what I am going to say. Am I that mundane? And finally, does my thought pattern so conform to the patterns of this world that I speak the world’s thoughts with its vocabulary?
The Apostle Paul told us to “NOT conform to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2). Playing this video all the way through makes me worry that the machine will eventually dictate what I say. That is, opting for the word it suggests may be the easiest thing to do right now, but then eventually I may modulate my vocabulary, or worse yet, thought, to conform to the path of least resistance on the keyboard. Fight the power!!
OK, so, this is a feature that can be turned off. And while I have not done that on the Business Administrator’s computer, I certainly have not turned it “on” on mine. (Although my machine just pointed out that I used “on” twice in that sentence). Maybe my little rant here pursues an unnecessary complaint. What I do know is that we have to be very careful what voices we allow to reside in our heads, and finish our sentences. If it’s a lover’s voice, we might finish their sentences because we are thinking, and caring, about the same things. This is a good thing. If it’s the voices of attack ads on TV, or hurtful videos on YouTube, that’s not so good.
In Philippians, the Apostle Paul said: “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I’ll put the whole verse below, but I think that God calls us to search the Scriptures (John 5:39), to let those words reside in us (Joshua 1:8), and thus break those “patterns of this world” that are so predictable, and quite frankly, boring.
I believe the best thoughts that I have are God given. I think the most beautiful thoughts I have, or words that I express, are gifts from God. The new song in my heart is because of the work that God is doing in me, not my taking on the cause “du jour” from the news, or the style presented in the latest clothing ad, or the preferences of some influencer on TikTok. Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy… let’s use the vocabulary of that source instead.
Still reading the emails,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8