Google speaks my language. Not only that, it increasingly speaks for me:
“Sure, what time?”
“That would be fun.”
“Sorry, I can’t make it.”
These are reply suggestions that appear at the bottom of emails I receive. I can simply click on one, and not have to compose my own. They even give me a choice of three, of escalating enthusiasm. For example, here’s how Google thinks I might answer an email getting back to me about a question I had.
“Thanks for the feedback.”
So Google understands the context of my emails, and comes up with a (mostly) appropriate range of responses. At first I was outraged. Do they think I’m an idiot, too lazy to fashion my own replies? Turns out I am. Grudgingly, at first, but then in no time I adopted the shortcut. And I’ve noticed others have, too.
Their responses to me are often cheerier than I’d typically expect them to be. Google is making us friendly. And all of a sudden we’re exclamation point users. I hate exclamation points.
I wonder how long a friend and I can ping-pong a conversation using only Google’s suggestions. Forever, I suppose. Let the algorithm figure it out. Just don’t make me read it.
Google’s choice of responses to my friend Jon telling me he saw a fawn on his morning walk:
If I had chosen “So cute!” Jon would have thought that some alien had taken over my mind. Nope, just Google.
I realize that I now have my own writers, like Bob Hope or Jack Benny used to have. It’s almost plagiarism, taking credit for someone else’s writing. Albeit short and pithy, it’s not mine.
Is there someone in Mountain View writing this stuff? Or are they mathematicians? If x, then y. If deer, then cute. Are we so predictable? Are our responses so limited in range, and if they are, what else can Google take off our hands, to free us up for more time to Google? Searching, we’re all searchers now, not for more meaning, but for what? ABBA lyrics, probably. How does “Fernando” go again? Ask Google Home, their “voice assistant.” No need to even type.
“Whenever you want.”
“I’m free now. “
“Not sure yet.”
Jim, you might ask, what if you just accept that it is a convenience, not abject laziness on your part, to let robot scribes replace your own ability to form sentences, an ability that will rapidly atrophy from lack of use? In physical conversations, I will soon feel uncomfortable, missing my little helper. But when they finally get Google Glasses working, that won’t be a problem anymore. I will be visually prompted how to reply, the most effective responses ranked in order. I’ll fight it, for about two seconds.
How will I answer for that, when my grandchildren ask me what life was like before the singularity reduced us to hiding in caves. Do we now regret falling prey to Google’s gentle but dulling ministrations?
“Yes, we do.”
“No, we do not.”
“Not that I know of.”