Associative Thinking and the Limits of Robots

About a month and a half ago, in the book review section of the paper of record of the city where I used to live, a woman whose two most recent novels have been published by the small press where I used to work reviewed a book—a novel told as a series of stories—by a woman who was a couple years ahead of me in high school. In that same issue, a man I know because he and I went to the same creative writing program reviewed a novel by a man who was a few years behind me in high school.

These were funny coincidences for me, but are they interesting to you? Probably not, or not as much; the only aspect of this that I imagine might be really compelling to someone else would be if that person was interested in trashing my high school; our alma mater is one of those places people like to trash (kids behaving badly in the ancient halls of perceived extreme swankiness! etc.).

But here’s what I think is great: having read the first paragraph of this post, it would be possible for you, a human being, to go and figure out who it is, and what it is, that I’m talking about.

On the other hand, if you’re a robot spider from a search engine, out on your endless crawly rounds, you won’t have a clue. And I don’t think you ever will.

(Which is not unrelated to the trouble I have when I’m searching for, say, something I read years ago about the future of the physical book that I’m pretty sure was written by a novelist who was the same year at the college where my dad went. So much white noise! I get frustrated when my favorite search engine tells me: “Tip: Try removing quotes from your search to get more results.” I don’t want more results—I want one very specific result, and I think I need to go talk to a human being at a library to get it.)

Sorry, robots! You lose! We’re still in charge.