Tuesday, 13 Nov 2018
News

Google wants to write your emails for you. It's time to draw the line.


I fought against Gmail. Every day, my e-mails try to write each other and try every day to prove that I am smarter than an algorithm. Take Sunday, for example. I was answering a Craigslist ad on a coffee table and I started asking, "Is the table still available? . . And Gmail's new "Smart Compose" feature completed my sentence, with an appearance-like appearance and a satisfied smile. So instead, I erased the whole line and proposed: Is your item still missing for a new home? And then I hit sending with a little more bluster. Google does not know me at all. And yet, with his growing cache of data on human behavior, he knows me – he knows everyone. Google wants to save time, which I appreciate in theory: it knows when "e" means "thank you" and can very well predict how "Let's meet Satur" should end. When Gmail tries to write whole answers with his suggestions of "smart answers", very heavy in exclamation points ("It was great to see you too", "Oh no, but what kind of compromise am I Communication has already become less personal, we send an email and text, even when we have a meal in front of a real, living human, with a mouth that can talk. to become the conversational version of a four-way stop – a difficult case, which puts a break point, when people seem somehow out of use.Technology has encouraged us to dialogue in small reactive bursts. While outsourcing this insane job to one of the most powerful companies in the world seems like an obvious next step, it seems to me that part of my brain has no more i technology has already rendered obsolete my ability to memorize phone numbers and my knowledge of instructions; he can even take my driving license for everything that matters to me, namely autonomous cars. But that can not have my words. The word communication comes from the same root as common, communal, common, community. The words are supposed to bring us closer and reduce our divisions, which – perhaps did you notice? – are deeper than ever. It is therefore logical that when we move away from our words, we also separate from each other. It is hard to imagine that this will improve if our interactions are based on a set of Mad Lib generated by an algorithm. The new Gmail ringtones look like the continuation of the Facebook extension that you can add and that automatically sends greetings to each friend on their birthday. As if it were not easy enough to post a quick note on someone's wall after immediately recalling their special day, this extension allows users to appear thoughtful without having to think. It has never been easier to look as if you care. To be without spirit becomes the default. Texts and emails are easy to send. So we send them constantly, without thinking about what we are really saying. I am as guilty as anyone. I love the emoji dancers and Michael GIF's crying, but when I think about the speed with which these shortcuts have become ubiquitous, I'm speechless (although Google might suggest me a suggestion). Before being a journalist, I was studying poetry writing and, for me, the economics of words was paramount. We do not all have the ability to support "J. Alfred Prufrock's Love Song" and, moreover, I like worms that parade like bursts – crying (or at least creaking) the readers of the most effective way possible. I had the habit of dying each syllable, narrowing my eyes on my computer screen as if I were solving a puzzle, trying to turn three words into one. Now, as the editor of Book World, I spend my days reading words written on other words, and critics of a critic are frequent: a poor scribe could not turn language into emotions. The best writers can cause a sob or a burst of laughter in a brilliant sentence. That's why I feel particularly sensitive to Gmail's "innovation". This technology reminds us cruelly that our exchanges have evolved into an activity as insignificant as a robot could do them. The era of connected letter collections is over: when you had to prepare the ink, sharpen the pen, and extract the sealing wax, your comments were worthwhile. My sympathies go to future historians, who have work to do to sift through an interminable digital archive of "good sounds" and "lol" in search of something important. Taking a few moments to think about an email on a coffee table to a stranger is not going to, of course, reverse the slide, but it's a step in the right direction for a more attentive communication. After all, it's hard not to have to think about our words, the strange conspiracies that ricochet around the Internet and a president who is a factory of false or misleading statements. In the end, I decided to call my interlocutor at the end of my power conflict with Gmail. I turn off the "Smart Compose" function, not just because I feel it makes me silly. Instead of wasting time trying to outsmart a computer program, I will use my precious moments to think about what I write. I will not completely abandon my emoji habit: a well-placed pork muzzle speaks volumes. But words deserve special attention even if they do not ask for it – and people too. .

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