05232019Thu
Last updateFri, 17 May 2019 2pm

I want my ‘Incognito’ back

Gmail has started to read my emails and answer them. Just like the message bot who asks you to tell him what you want so he can guide you to the right call recipient, Gmail is now getting pro-active and telling you how to answer your emails.

These are basically verbal emoticons or happy faces. Such as: “Sounds good!”  “Liked your photo.”  “Great idea.”  “Congratulations.” “See you then.” “Good luck.” “Thanks for the update.” “Good question.” “Love it!”

At first they felt like my mother prompting me, “What do you say when someone gives you candy, Edward?” And then I started wondering how Gmail knew what I should be replying to an email. It was weird, because all their suggested responses were fitting and relevant, and easy to make with one click.

But did I want bots answering for me before I had a chance to think about what to say? Auto-answering and auto-fill-ins must have an effect on the hundreds of thousands of years of human brain development, taking us full-circle back many eons to where we started: paw scratches that say, “Will you have my cub?” Bot thinking tools are shrinking our brain capacity to Disney characters.

Obviously, my computer intermediary or cyberpsychic medium and I should talk. So I contacted Google through a chat line. And I said, Hey, I have a problem with you people eavesdropping and slipping these innocuous reply suggestions to my emails. Chat line response: “Very Interesting.” Me: “How do I get rid of them?” Chat line: “Good Luck.” The whole bot system is entering the Twilight Zone.

Admittedly, all this communicative curating started to feel very useful to me. One click and I could respond with soldierly duty and move on to the next email with its prospective click-answers. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how they knew I received an update from someone with a photo of their cat. That led me to acknowledge that I wasn’t a curt two or three-word kind of responder. I needed responses that were more nuanced, embedded with subtext.

For example, to the email with the photo of their cat (easily worthy of just a click-response), instead of replying, “Thanks for the photo.” Or “Wow, what a kitty!”  I might want to say something more insightful such as:

“Photo lighting suggests anthropomorphic intelligence.”

“Shadows give gravity to cat’s eyes. Splendid lighting!”

“Love the rich influence of Ansel Adams.”

Unfortunately, my version of the auto-response process would require a lexicon of answers. But, the point is, if you had some of these responses at a click, you wouldn’t have to think or care anymore, something perfectly natural when you get a photo of someone’s pet. You just click on an answer or sentiment or one close to it, sincere or not, and you might actually sound like you care.

So we are crossing a threshold where we do not have to think or feel anymore. Added to our most important engines, heartbeat, brain waves, are our beloved, godlike enter buttons. “I have an enter button, therefore I am.”

On top of all this, I’m also discovering that my Android has a bot that is following me around, and asking, “How did you like Leonardo’s hamburgers (spur of the moment dinner, night before)” or “How was shopping at Torito’s (bought milk, that’s it).” How did they know where I was? And what will they do if I’m kidnapped or something. Ask me, “How is your abduction going?” I want to disappear from all this.

What would really help is if they saw the driver who swiped my fender at Leonardo’s and reported the clod.