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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Will email overload be solved by artificial intelligence? | Technology - The Guardian

Oliver Burkeman, Guardian writer based in New York notes, "Why can’t Gmail write whole emails, sending long, chatty updates to far-flung friends?"
‘AI leaves you free to concentrate on what really matters.’
Photo: Michele Marconi for the Guardian

If you’re a Gmail user, you’re probably aware by now of a major redesign – currently optional, soon to be compulsory – that aims to tackle the problem of email overload by using artificial intelligence. One of the most annoying aspects of living alongside other humans is the way they’re constantly making demands on your emotions and attention: you have to figure out when to sacrifice your own priorities in order to help them; you’ve got to empathise with them when they’re sad or ill, and so on.

Traditionally, antidotes for email overload work by filtering out messages from people you don’t care about. But the new Gmail focuses on messages from people you do care about – and promises to do some of that caring on your behalf. A new “nudge” feature will automatically decide whether your friend Belinda’s lunch invite is important enough to prompt you to hurry up and reply. The “high-priority notifications” feature will decide whether to interrupt your meeting by pinging you when your kids get in touch. And “smart replies” offers entire pre-written messages, so you can respond to news of Uncle Norbert’s latest gastrointestinal infection with a single click: “Oh no! Feel better soon!”

If I’ve any criticism, it’s Google’s lack of ambition. Why stop at nudges and common brief phrases? Why can’t Gmail write whole emails, scouring my message archive for what I’ve been up to, then sending long, chatty updates on it all to far-flung friends? What about sweet little “thinking of you” messages to my partner? Or couldn’t you somehow link Gmail to databases of births, marriages and deaths, so my contacts could automatically receive missives of celebration or condolence as appropriate? 

Source: The Guardian