Robots are taking over our email!

My colleague’s email was straightforward: “Where is this in the document?

What happened next is bothersome to me. My inbox read this email.

And then it offered some suggested replies:


Report inappropriate text

It turns out my email robot is quite passive aggressive!

Whilst I don’t appreciate the snark – I’ll come up with my own pithy responses, thank you very much! – I’m also more than a little concerned that some sort of AI algorithm is reading the contents of my emails and coming up with suggested replies.

It’s happening in both my outlook and my Gmail inboxes.

In addition, Gmail has launched “smart compose”, which offers up suggested phrases and words while you’re in the middle of typing. As one user wrote on Twitter: “Gmail’s new auto-complete feature is like a tiny ghost racing to finish your email before you can, and it’s rather distracting/unhelpful.”

As if these “advancements” were not enough, there’s more news from the tech data vault. Did you know, for instance, that when you have the Facebook app installed on your phone, you are giving it permission to access all the data on your phone – including your microphone?

It can hear you speak. It may not be listening to you 24/7 yet, but it could if it wanted to.

And don’t even get me started about the creepiness that is targeted advertising on social media… if digital adds are starting to feel psychic to you, it’s probably because they are getting way too detailed. Advertisers have access to data on you that you probably don’t even know about yourself.

It’s all getting a bit too much, but I fear that we’ve gone past the point of no return? It’s like global warning: we’re caught in a tsunami of decision-makers making choices that they don’t know the full consequences of.

All we can do about it at this stage is switch off these features, before they become “mandatory”.

So that’s what I’m doing. Because smart replies and AI-generated responses may shave a second or two off our reply rates – but at what cost?