Google invented the AI version of a Hallmark card

I don’t have the time, energy, or attention span to give every email a thoughtful reply.

It’s a problem Google has been trying to solve with a Gmail feature called Smart Replies, the automatically generated, prewritten responses that pop up when you’re composing an email. But I worry these simple responses will make us lazy and our language homogeneous. Email’s terrible, but do I now need to worry about it destroying language and cratering our relationships, too?

Most short email responses aren’t carefully written as it is, so we aren’t exactly losing out on poetry, says Naomi Baron, a professor of linguistics emerita at American University and author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. “We like to assume that we’re more creative than we actually are,” she says.

When you’re reading an email in Gmail, Google’s Smart Replies presents three short sentences you can shoot back in response that are usually as simple as, “Thanks, I’ll check it out,” or “Haha, thanks!” The replies are based on each individual user’s writing style, as determined by machine learning. So if you prefer an exclamation point at the end of sentences, Google should be able to figure that out.

[Read More]