GOOGLE RECKONS its users love Gmail some much that they want it to finish their sentences for them.
At Google I/O 2018, chief executive Sundar Pichai showed off the new feature called Smart Compose for Gmail that allows it to figure out what people are going to write and then completes the sentences for those too bone idle to do so themselves.
"From your greeting to your closing (and common phrases in between), Smart Compose suggests complete sentences in your emails so that you can draft them with ease. Because it operates in the background, you can write an email like you normally would, and Smart Compose will offer suggestions as you type. When you see a suggestion that you like, click the 'tab' button to use it," explained Paul Lambert, a project manager at Google.
What might at first seem like an extension of autocomplete into Gmail is, in fact, a lot smarter. Google is putting its machine learning chops into Smart Compose to allow it to intelligently make suggestions that work in the context of a sentence or email a user is drafting.
For example, if you're knocking an email out on a Friday before your thirst gets too much and you all but run to the pub, Smart Compose will know that and sign emails off with a perhaps overly jovial "have a great weekend" or words to that effect.
As you'll need to accept the suggestion the smart feature throws up, don't go expecting it to draft long email for you with no human legwork. Nor will it have tailor itself to your writing style; if you're the type of person who loves misery in your prose (we hear you brothers and sisters) then there's a risk Smart Compose could litter your text with cheerful inflexions not in keeping with your character.
The feature is pretty slick but it does raise a few eyebrows in a similar fashion to Google Duplex - tech that's designed too eventually allow the Google Assistant to make phone calls for you.
It raises questions about how much of our communications are we willing to cede to artificial intelligence (AI) tech; we already chat to bots but having systems that allow robots to effectively take over or at least direct some human communications is circling ever closer to a tech dystopia. That being said we've had machine learning autocorrect for a while so one could argue that this is just another step rather than having smart machines trying to hold our hands a bit too much.
Smart Compose will start rolling out to Gmail users in the coming weeks and will need them to opt-in, so there's no need to worry about AI tech surreptitiously wrangling with your emails without your knowledge... yet. µ
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