If you try to send an email now, you’ll notice that Gmail is using autofill. The AI in the program attempts to predict what you’re going to type and then makes suggestions as you write.
The more you use it, the better it becomes at anticipating your preferred use of language.
This year, Google, Microsoft, and Instagram all unveiled AI programs that mimic their users. Instagram rolled out a feature that suggests comments based on a user’s most-used emojis (the feature became the default for all users in September).
Google also announced that it was testing its reservation-making voice assistant. whilst Microsoft Outlook went the same route as Gmail, by installing ‘smart replies’ as a feature on the app.
According to The Daily Beast, as computers learn to sound more like people, we’re starting to talk like computers. The programs are algorithmic approximations of us that could start to influence the way that we communicate.
Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist who specializes [sic] in the language of the internet, said she’d observed people changing their replies so as not to sound like the algorithm.
“I’ve heard from some people who say they deliberately avoid saying what’s in the suggested response to say they’re not like the machine, or ‘you’re not the boss of me,’” McCulloch told The Daily Beast.
New Yorker writer Rachel Syme described a similar phenomenon.
“Just as I decided that I’d thwart the machine mind by answering my messages with ‘Cool!’ […] the service started offering me several ‘Cool’ varietals,” she wrote in an essay about the AI replies. “Suddenly, I could answer with ‘Sounds cool’ or ‘Cool, thanks’ or the dreaded ‘Cool, I’ll check it out!’”
The smart replies aren’t entirely bad. They can be useful for people who struggle with English, the elderly or disabled who may find it easier to communicate with a bit of help.
Still, if you’re someone who enjoys the English language, scrolling through the internet is an anxiety-inducing mess of bad grammar and basic spelling errors – ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’ etc.
This has a lot to do with the breakdown of communication into abbreviations, predictive text and now smart replies.
Instagram is eliminating words completely.
In September, Instagram (owned by Facebook) rolled out its own version of smart replies: a series of “customized” emoji responses, supposedly based on emojis you frequently use on Instagram. Users can tap those emojis and leave them as comments on photos.
So we’re going back to talking in pictures.
By the look of things, a vast majority of the world will eventually communicate via robot and predictive AI technology.
As it gets more and more advanced, text messages and email will likely become more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ exercise than personal communication.
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