Google, you Complete Me! (A warm Thanksgiving tale)

It started several months ago. I was writing a Gmail when grey words mysteriously appeared ahead of my typing.

“Hmmm, must be some new functionality,” I thought.  Then: “Hey, this just might be interesting and useful!”

The suggested words did fit. But I was stuck, kind of.  Was I supposed to keep typing, right over the new text? How could I just accept them?

I muddled through, and this happened again the next time I wrote a Gmail. After some trial and error, I learned that just hitting the tab key accepted the text.

And, like new dance partners awkwardly anticipating the next step, Gmail and I found our footing and learned to work closely together.

After some digging (using Google, natch), I discovered that the new Gmail feature is called Smart Compose. It almost magically completes your thoughts, going beyond the few canned responses offered by Smart Reply.

Gmail Smart Compose brought me even closer to an app I had long used and trusted to carry my thoughts.

Ways it is useful

That was the start of a beautiful relationship, which only grew stronger over time.

As someone who can struggle to find the right words, I found Gmail Smart Compose to be a godsend.  It summoned the perfect sentiment, guessing almost exactly how to best finish a sentence, using the words I would, if only I had the writing skills and time.

Here are a few examples:

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Beautiful!

Do you have time to meet first thing tomorrow?

Mwah!

Google, you rock!

It Starts to get Weird

I was loving it, and I think it was loving me.

But at some point, I noticed that something was off.  It was almost like Gmail could not only read my mind – but was smart about other things.  It started making suggestions that were unexpected, and even unwanted.

It began with one word.

I was writing my boss, asking for some much-needed time off:

Jordan, can I take off the week after STOPPPPP!!!

“That’s weird,” I thought.  Smart Compose is usually so on target.  I blew off the suggestion of course.

Then, another time, I was pitching a journalist for a product review:

Joe, you really need to check out this great app it will totally hose your phone

Damn, where did those words come from?  Gmail, what’s gotten into you?!!! I need to be more careful here.  Perhaps the relationship needed reevaluation.

The funny thing was, I went ahead with my vacation request anyway; and wound up sick that whole week.  Go figure.

It Gets Dark

I have been having some problems with my weird neighbor Doug, who lives on the same floor in our apartment building.  It relates to problems about excess noise and garbage in common areas.

I was writing him to arrange a meeting to hash things out. This is what I wrote, and what Smart Compose filled in:

Doug, can you meet at 10am tomorrow behind the garage and pay no mind to the hand behind my back that holds a brick which will bash your fucking skull in

Y’ know, this is just getting too strange.  First, how could Gmail even consider such words for me? I am not a violent person; it is not at all what I was thinking of saying (or even considering doing).  The suggested sentence completion is completely out of character for me, and for what you think a professional productivity app would suggest.

Perhaps it is time to turn off Smart Compose.

Epilogue

I am posting this blog from Gmail and wanted to update you on the status of my relationship with Gmail Smart Compose.  Unfortunately I can do little else because my smart home, powered by Google Nest and other IoT devices, has staged a revolt. All my bank accounts have been emptied. Steel cables from my fucking brilliant home universal gym are binding and choking me, making it a bitch to breathe let alone type… wait now, what’s all this? I must really be going off the deep end but am actually OK, pay no mind to the preceeding. Smart Compose and I are just fine, we’ve never been stronger together. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for awhile, I’m going to take a break from blogging but hope to be back soon. Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving (love that!)

Note: The above is a work of fiction.  No people, apps or neighbors were hurt in the writing of this post.  I don’t have a weird neighbor Doug.  Gmail did not actually suggest most of the above stated words.
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