Gmail just introduced a major overhaul of their service, implementing machine learning, or smart features, if you will. While the features at first sound really great, they can also be seen as an intrusion. We asked our writers, “With Gmail implementing more smart features, will you still stick with it?”
Miguel answered, “If it’s at the point where people can still choose not to use it, I wouldn’t call it a step too far.” While it might take some effort to use an alternative service, they are available. He doesn’t see how anything can be viewed as “wrong” with inserting AI into technology “as long as it doesn’t infringe on people’s ability to choose not to use said technologies.”
Ada wasn’t even aware of Google implementing AI with their new features, so she’s hesitant to say whether it’s too far or not. She likes the idea, “but it all depends on how it’s implemented.”
Phil looks at the specific features, saying autocomplete is either a boon or a pain, depending on the circumstances. “Too much of it can be irritating if you have to fight the suggestions to say something,” but being able to turn off autocomplete easily when you want to do it on your own is crucial to it being useful. As with all new tech, it needs to “walk a tightrope between being a tool and a toy.” While these features are impressive to him, he finds it a bit gimicky. He compares it to someone completing your sentences for you who doesn’t know you so well.
Alex finds smart features typically disappointing in his experience. He likes to have control over his experience, and AI guessing what he wants is typically inaccurate. As AI improves, he has no doubt its guessing will become more correct. But for now, he mostly ignores features like Gmail’s new options.
Andrew heard about the new smart compose feature and finds it’s just a bigger version of any other predictive text feature out there. He imagines “it uses machine learning on your personal messages and larger datasets to figure out what you might want to say.” He doesn’t have a problem with that as long as it remains “fairly flexible and user-controlled,” but he wouldn’t want a new feature to dictate whether he stuck with a service or not, unless it’s going so far as to use your personal emails for something without your consent. If he ever used webmail rather than Thunderbird, he might try it.
It doesn’t really concern Ryan. “If you’re someone who is constantly composing emails, it seems like a win.” He fails to see how it’s any different from autocorrect on phones. “It’s predicting what you might say based on prior compositions, which is exactly what messaging apps do.”
I don’t use webmail, but I do use Gmail’s Inbox app which has implemented those features for the past few years. I happen to like the features. I like how it organized things for me and takes care of things. I don’t use the feature that can auto-answer emails. It’s not because it bothers me but just that I want to say it a little differently. Like many of our writers said, as long as there is an option to not use it, that’s what makes the difference.
How do you feel about Gmail’s new smart features? Do they bother you? Are you fine with them as long as it remains an option to use them? With Gmail implementing more smart features, will you still stick with it? Let us know how you feel about this topic in the comments section below.