As a sociologist’s daughter, I grew up aware that cultural and family background influenced my choices. Later, pondering determinism and free will, I observed how people who knew me well could predict those choices more accurately than strangers. Still, highly predictable people seemed stuck in a rut. Boring. Not me, surely.
Spellcheck made me suspicious at first when it pretended to know my intention. Now I find it useful, though no substitute for proofreading. (No, I don’t scoop up “humus” with my pita.) I’ve partly adjusted to text messaging that predicts the end of a word just started. But when my email program began to offer up whole phrases to add to an outgoing draft, it startled me how often it was right. Was I that predictable? Even to a total stranger?
Apparently so. Setting aside the blow to the ego, it’s probably just as well. Imagine if every decision or action had to emerge from fresh consideration. Operating largely on predictable habit frees up mental energy for emergencies, creativity, and new learning. What’s worth fresh attention is partly a matter of choice.
Image: Stuck in a rut, April 14, 2019.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.