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Monday, December 9, 2013

David Brooks, "Thinking for the Future": Am I a Weaver?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Thinking for the Future" (, David Brooks observes that we live in an "era of mechanized intelligence," and "If you want to thrive in this era, you probably want to be good at working with intelligent machines." Brooks issues us a "challenge":

"So our challenge for the day is to think of exactly which mental abilities complement mechanized intelligence. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few mental types that will probably thrive in the years ahead."

Given that I was hardly up to a challenge this morning after my daughter woke me up after three hours of sleep, I skipped down to the last of Brooks's "mental types," which are destined to provide sustainable employment in these tough times (my emphasis in red):

"Weavers. Many of the people who struggle economically will lack the self-motivation to build rich inner lives for themselves. Many are already dropping out of the labor force in record numbers and drifting into disorganized, disaffected lifestyles. Public and private institutions are going to hire more people to fight this social disintegration. There will be jobs for people who combat the dangerous inegalitarian tendencies of this new world."

Now consider David's prior New York Times op-ed entitled "The Irony of Despair" (, where he wrote of persons who reject suicide:

"That person can commit to live to redeem past mistakes. That person can show that we are not completely self-determining creatures, and do not have the right to choose when we end our participation in the common project of life.

The blackness of the suicidal situation makes these rejoinders stand out in stark relief. And, as our friend Nietzsche observed, he who has a why to live for can withstand any how."

Interesting. Perhaps if I fail to sell to Hollywood the "action" screenplay that I just completed, I can "weave" the messages of Brooks's opinion pieces. I can tell all those millions of 50+ unemployed persons lacking "the self-motivation to build rich inner lives for themselves" to take the advice of "our friend Nietzsche" not to commit suicide. I can build an entire industry based upon this understanding of our brave new world (corporate logo: "Don't Do It!") and hire instructors, who will give courses to accredit others as instructors. And I will sit atop this pyramid, no longer living my "disorganized, disaffected lifestyle."

Thank you, David. For someone like me, who is challenged by mechanized intelligence, the world is no longer as hopeless as it seemed only yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. I used to think he was a smart guy -- well, he probably is smart, but I mean I used to think he was wise. Perhaps he was a long time ago. But wow, he's certainly seemed to have descended into writing a bunch of pap.

    When I hear him "opposite" E.J. Dionne (whose voice is positively horrendous) on NPR, he sounds as if he's ever more speaking from a moderate liberal position -- which is fine, but he's really no more a "conservative" thinker -- at least not in my opinion. And as your example illustrates, he certainly seems to have lost his edge and even his "focus."