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  • Laura Fedolfi

Google's Auto Reply Told me I'm a Pushover...

Gmail introduced a handy little feature a few months ago, "smart reply"- where they suggest three possible short answers to an incoming email; all you have to do is click on the one answer you want and push "send" and you are done. It was fun, at first, to jump to the shortcut printed at the bottom of my screen. But by this morning, I had noticed a disturbing trend in my options. I received an email asking me to do something, and the three options gmail gave me were:

  1. I'm on it!

  2. Can't wait to help!

  3. Count me in!

Did you pick up on the trend here? I was NOT given a possible answer of NO. Not even a MAYBE. What was going on? While I was pondering this dilemma, I got another email wanting my feedback and this popped up as my choices to reply...

I needed answers. So I turned to Google. Which lead me to an entertaining article at Phys.org about this feature and how it works, Useful or creepy? Machines suggest Gmail replies. In short, Google uses machine learning to scan all emails for the types of replies, and then caters your options to your patterns of replies, slowly shaping their suggestions to match you. [funny side note- the engineers had to alter the original algorithm of the feature because it was always suggesting the response "I love you."- which could be a very awkward response to a request for a staff meeting time change. That the computer generated this after scanning all our email is either a hilarious comment on how needy we humans can be, or there is a very lonely center to the machine at Google that is desperately trying to spread love in the world]


So, if you use this feature, which I do, it becomes more quickly tailored to your response habits, which means I am a massive PUSHOVER. I say yes to everything, apparently. I am also overly positive and into exclaiming! (though my parents should be proud that I am consistently polite)

This annoyed me. For obvious reasons. No one wants to have a computer see how people-pleasing they are...that is for my therapist to have to listen to. And all it is doing is encouraging me to be even more agreeable. Not helpful, Google.


So I wanted to see what I would trigger if I asked myself for something, and this happened:


Apparently the only person I feel comfortable saying no to is myself. It explains so much. Thank you, Google.

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