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Constantly in love

In the beginning, Google’s new software app, „Smart Reply“— currently in its first stages of market introduction—was constantly in love. The prototype signed almost all e-mails off with, „I love you“. By now, its artificial intelligence has come much closer to precision. Starting with Google’s Gmail, the software automatically creates suggestions for fitting answers for mails in users’ inboxes.

„Smart Reply“ – the app

At the moment only available in English, the function not only decides which mails need a quick reply based on previous behavior patterns, but also suggests to the user adequate options out of more than 20,000 choices. It then offers up to three options after reading the text of incoming messages. If, for example, a communication partner asks whether the recipient is going to the basketball game on Sunday, suggestions might include: „I’m thinking about it“; „No time“; or „Do you have tickets?“. The Smart Reply software also learns from the responses that the user chooses.

How will we create „closeness at a distance“ in the future?

The app is free for Gmail users, currently numbering more than 400 million people worldwide. Can you imagine what will happen if only a third of these users start to use this service regularly? Can you imagine how strong the push will be to also introduce this technology in corporate environments—especially in international contexts? Beyond this, what will this mean for the practice of „closeness at a distance“?

I am married to a wonderful Brazilian woman. My spoken Portuguese is quite good, but my writing is a construction site! Recently, my wife commented on my improved writing skills in Portuguese. I had to confess that it was the newly installed autocorrection program on my smartphone—and not me— that was responsible!

Just imagine what this implies: It will become hard to detect if daily communication texts are generated by a human being or a program. What does this imply for creating closeness across virtual distances?


Wir freuen uns auf Ihren Kontakt!

Authored by Stefan Meister

This piece was originally written to be posted within the LinkedIn-based learning community, „Closeness at a Distance„. The group is designed for the benefit of academic and business professionals who seek to develop their knowledge and skills around intercultural, virtual groups, teams and networks on a global scale. The purpose of the group is to develop perspectives for virtual high performance environments; open or enter discussions concerning new and developing topics in the field of global, virtual collaboration and leadership; and, co-create a collaborative community of rich learning and relevant practice. Contact group Co-Managers, Dr. Marcus Hildebrandt, Line Jehle and Stefan Meister for further information or to request group membership.

The above article was included in our Mar. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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