#373: Why The Future Is Analog
Also: Wordle, T-Shirts, and can you predict the Article of the Year?
Hi there, Loyal Readers. Let’s get right to it by announcing the lucky winner of last week’s giveaway: The Highlighter T-shirt. It’s VIP Michele, not a stranger to prizes, but always gracious when she wins. Here’s her acceptance speech, which features her dog Licki Minaj. Congratulations Michele!
Let’s continue this season of giving with another prize: a 6-month digital subscription to the New York Times (for you or a friend to enjoy, after their strike is over). All you need to do is guess this year’s Article of the Year (which I’ve chosen already, stored in a lockbox, and will reveal next Thursday). Leave a comment with your guess. (Don’t let Michele win again.)
All right, that’s enough with the festivities. Today’s a simple issue with just two recommendations. They’re on the shorter and lighter side this time, so feel free to read both in between holiday card writing and desperation gift shopping. The first, an ode to the analog world, comes at the perfect time — as ChatGPT mesmerizes us with its ability to write college essays. The second, a mathematical analysis of the game Wordle, will either pique your competitive interests or cause you to snub your nose at science. Please enjoy this week’s articles, and thank you again for being part of our reading community. ⭐️
The pandemic ruined us for many reasons, argues author David Sax, in this excerpt from his new book, The Future Is Analog: How To Create a More Human World. Not only did it harm our mental health, and keep us cooped up in our homes, and dislodge our ability to interact with people. It also let digital win. We all know this, of course, as we say, over and over again, that we’re going to delete Twitter from our phones, or put our phone in another room when we’re sleeping, or stop checking texts when we’re hanging out with our kids. But what we don’t know, Mr. Sax argues, is that we will experience a shift back to the analog.
Look at a picture of a beautiful sunset on Instagram and you think “pretty.” Stand in front of it and watch the sun descend, feeling its rays on your face, and you get a sense of something bigger—your place in this universe.
I’m not sure I buy his argument, actually. Or maybe I’m just a cynic who thinks that AI will make us all cyborgs soon. But I’d rather wish for a world where people enjoy each other’s company in real time and space, rather than wonder what’s waiting for them, what’s buzzing for them, and what’s sending them notifications on a device that keeps them always halfway somewhere else. (12 min)
I try not to tell anyone that I play Wordle every morning at 5:35 am. But alas, I do. Ever since VIP Abby divulged her secret first word (no, I’m not going to tell you), I’ve been using it religiously, to mostly marvelous results. But Wordle statisticians would likely sneer at my first guess, suggesting that I go with “raise,” or the fan favorite, “adieu.” It turns out, though, that vowels matter less than well-placed consonants. This analysis of Wordle — which asks four questions, then provides mathematical answers — is my favorite write-up of the game I’ve read so far. If you’re a fan, you might pick up some tips. But I assure you, you won’t challenge my recent streak of birdies. (15 min)
✍🏼 READER ANNOTATIONS: Several of you wrote in with appreciation for last week’s lead article, “Moments To The Unthinkable.” Loyal reader Xuan-Vu compared author Clint Smith’s writing with two of her favorites, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. “I’m so glad you chose his work,” she wrote, and recommended Dr. Smith’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. Xuan-Vu adds, “[The podcast offered] so many thoughts for me to ponder on this topic, both inspiring and upsetting.” Thank you for sharing your perspective, Xuan-Vu. I invite all of you to reach out whenever an article moves you. All you need to do is hit reply or click here.
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