Saturday, December 15, 2018
In The Atlantic, the spectral presence of Smart Compose.
Some might think I’m being histrionic when I say that Gmail’s auto-reply function fills me with existential angst. But I’m trying to be literal. Martin Heidegger, the 20th-century philosopher who wrestled with existentialism before he collapsed into the arms of Nazism, was obsessed with the idea of authenticity—the challenge of fully being oneself, unencumbered by outside influences. He said one of the key giveaways of having “fallen away from [oneself] as an authentic being” was participating in “idle talk”—speaking in a critically unexamined way that reveals nothing special or unique about the individual. Or, in the un-auto-fillable language of Heidegger: “being lost in the public-ness of the ‘they.’”
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