You know Gmail’s new “Smart Reply” feature? Those “bland formulations of convenient and functional corporate language” that sit there at the bottom of your received emails? Sophie Haigney has some thoughts:
The algorithm is mimicking us, but now we’re also mimicking it. The algorithm—which I’m using as shorthand for a series of complicated machine-learning processes—has been absorbing human-email-speak by creeping through billions of perfunctorily worded emails—and it is now spitting them back at us. It’s a refraction, then, of how we write to each other online. But suggestions are also manipulations, as we might know from, say, Amazon’s effective monetization of RIYL logic. Yet these seemingly gentle intrusions into our digital lives are not so passive as they might appear.
It’s the degeneration of language, she writes, the function of which is “to eliminate complexity, to pare communication down to dumbness, to ‘acknowledge’ or ‘affirm’ without saying much of anything.”
So, basically, perfect for the world we live in.