“How is everybody doing?” What Elmo brought to light this week
You may have heard that earlier this week Elmo broke the internet with a question posed on X, “How is everybody doing?”
According to the BBC, “thousands of users replied, sharing their grief and despair.”
Apparently, Elmo, we’re not doing well.
People spoke of their devastation over our burning world, their sadness, loneliness and need for a shoulder to lean on. Elmo posted a hashtag in response: #EmotionalWellBeing.
This week also saw a breathless announcement from Replika with the launch of their “AI Wellness Retreat edge with Tomo, a Zen seeking avatar.”
If you’re wondering, Replika was one of the first chatbots launched in 2017.
According to Forbes, “Tomo is an an immersive AI spiritual and mental guidance experience that uses the latest technology to help users find peace and tranquility among the digital chaos, out now for iOS and in development for Apple’s Vision Pro… There are over 250 activities with 13 stages, led by an AI avatar guide, including yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and positive affirmation.”
Evidently the market has been listening to Elmo.
Silicon Valley is incredibly clear-eyed about the emotional state of the world they are selling their wares to.
The phrase, “tranquility among the digital chaos” is particularly salient.
Mark Sayers, a pastor and author from Melbourne, observes that we live at a time when anxiety has become a marker of our age.
He brings a piercing insight to this problem: we are anxious because we are disconnected from God.
Our disconnection from God is the root of our anxiety.
Follower of Jesus know this at a gut level.
But holding to that truth is hard when we live in a modern world that produces magic potions like Tomo and, in the words of Sayers, “promises progress and perfection without God.”
As antidote, this week, I’ve been drawn back to the ancient story of David and his wilderness worship.
I read Psalm 17 right after I’d read about Elmo’s outpouring. David concludes his song with these words, “As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”
Not an avatar, not a Vision Pro phantom, not a Silicon Valley hack job for the human soul. The Creator, beheld. The beautiful, the good, the true. The home we were made for. True rest.
In other words as a more contemporary worshipper put it, “I don’t know where, I don’t know why, but your love can make these things better.”