The story below is a highly relevant one and will lead us into a discussion about what it means to live a life for Jesus. I hope you can make it. We will begin at 8:30 am in the Fellowship Hall.
Today (June 23) is a blood drive at Peace. Stop on by to see the operation and better yet, to donate blood!
Stay cool and hydrated!
Bored Computer Programmer Designs App to ‘Randomize’ His Life to Discover What He’s Been Missing
In the News
Millennial computer geek Max Hawkins had what many might consider a dream career in Silicon Valley, with stints at Apple, YouTube and Google, yet increasingly felt trapped in his perfectly organized life. He had a sense of déjà vu, he said, “like I was reading a story that I’d read before or I was playing out someone else’s script.”
At a time when technology increasingly recommends products, movies, music, friends, groups, activities, restaurants, etc., based on our personal preferences, editing out web content some algorithm has determined would not interest us, Hawkins wanted to experience a world unfiltered by his past choices, likes and dislikes.
“I just started thinking about these loops that we get into,” he said. “And about how the structure of your life … completely determines what happens in it.” He wanted to discover the world outside his own “bubble.”
So Hawkins began designing apps that would add the element of surprise to his life. First, he created an app that hailed an Uber car to take him to an unknown location he would only discover when he arrived at his destination.
Then he built an app using Facebook to find and randomly select public events nearby for him to attend. The algorithm suggested random activities Hawkins might never have considered before, often with people he might never otherwise have met. Most hosts welcomed him, intrigued by the idea that he was intentionally seeking out new experiences.
“A random algorithm … has its own different idea,” the innovator said. “You’re taking on the computer’s view of the world, and because that’s not human, it’s likely to be completely different from your own.”
Then Hawkins added another layer to the adventure by creating an app that selected places for him to live, travel and eat. For two years, he followed the algorithm’s direction to Germany, Slovenia, India, Vietnam, central Iowa, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, using the Facebook events app to find random activities within his price range to sample. He went to a socialists’ rally, a graduation party, a meeting of Russian bloggers, an acroyoga activity (combining acrobatics with yoga). His new experiences began to change the way he viewed the world.
In his effort to “randomize” his life, Hawkins did bump into some limits of AI (artificial intelligence), which sometimes recommended tame, ordinary or unpleasant experiences. Bots (“robots” that interact with users of technology), he discovered, are not always very smart. When he and a friend visited Japan, for example, the app kept trying to send them to restaurants that had no Japanese food.
Still, Hawkins said, “a lot of times … it would take us to a place and we would get something that we didn’t even know we needed … when a randomized algorithm tells you things to do, it helps break you out of [habits] where what you do informs who you are and who you are in turn informs what you should be doing.”
Hawkins has designed other apps to expand the experiences of users, including a Spotify playlist that provides 30 new songs selected at random every day, a random diet club that one member jokingly said “eliminates one food at random from your diet per week until you can no longer eat,” and an app that calls subscribers up in the wee hours of the morning, pairing them up anonymously to discuss their dreams or whatever interests them as long as they want to talk.
“It’s only by loosening your grip on your preferences and your idea of what you should be doing that you can open yourself up to things that are outside of your bubble,” Hawkins remarked.
More on this story can be found at these links:
Eager to Burst His Own Bubble, a Techie Made Apps to Randomize His Life. NPR
Max Hawkins Twitter Feed. Twitter
Max Hawkins: About Me. Max Hawkins website
Call in the Night: A Collaborative Nighttime Art Experiment. Call in the Night
This Dinner Party Invites People of All Faiths to Break Bread Together, NPR
The Big Questions
1. Do you ever feel “like you are reading a story that you’ve read before or that you are playing out someone else’s script”? That you have a seemingly perfect but fairly predictable life that leaves you unsatisfied? What leads to boredom in a person’s life, and how does your faith speak to that experience?
2. How have you dealt with boredom in your spiritual life in the past, in unhelpful ways? In helpful ways?
3. Would you want to try any of the apps Hawkins designed? Why or why not?
4. What habits, conveniences or preferences do you have that hinder or prevent you from stepping out of your own bubble to follow where Jesus is leading?
5. Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the future.” Have you ever felt that God “randomized” your life at some point, taking you places you might never have gone, to do something you might never have done, with people you might never have met otherwise? If so, what do you think was God’s purpose in shaking up your normal routine?