Thursday, June 20, 2013

Automate Me

An economist friend asked me if there were still productivity gains to be had for office workers (like us). After all, we have email, social networks, skype and other easy ways to connect with everyone not to mention search for everything. Most tasks are pretty straightforward to do online. How much easier can it get?

There are some obvious answers to his question, such as better automated filtering of all the information thrown at us. But here's what I really would love to see--an automated electronic me.

I have about 115000 email conversations in Gmail not counting spam. Google must have tens or hundreds of billions of emails from everyone combined.

So Google can learn both how many emails are typically answered and also my particular email style. So when I hit reply, Gmail should be able to pre-fill a reasonable reply. I can edit as needed and then send. Saves me much time.

Of course Google will learn from the changes I make and get more accurate each time. After a while I can trust Gmail just to answer a subset of my email. After a while it can answer most of my email. In the future Google can referee papers, write my blog posts and prepare my class lectures.

I can hide out and proof theorems while Google does everything else for me. Until Google proves its own theorems and then I'm just out of a job.


  1. That was [part of] an April Fool's joke from Google several years ago:

    That doesn't mean they aren't also working on it...

  2. I have given this some thought and for me it would be to automate filling out various forms and doing some of those tasks which are pretty routine but now take a bit too much effort. Kind of like what TurboTax does for taxes but applied to everything else and preferably for FREE.

    To be precise I am thinking of those tasks which don't involve any physical labor, but involve a bit of back and forth (looking for people's phone numbers, checking my calendar, finding the right web site, entering my credit cards, etc ), e.g. scheduling a house cleaning appointment, paying a parking ticket, buying theater tickets etc ... if these kind of things could be universally automated so I only have to click through web prompts and confirm accuracy then it would be a good step forward.

    I suspect that this is being worked on.

  3. I can start sending you simple theorems to prove and then we can move on to harder and harder, and hopefully gmail will learn to be a decent theorem prover.

  4. Coming this summer: Google Social Obligations . Avoid the uncomfortable and time wasting social obligation events and rejoice in the new found spare time!

    Case study: Lunch with mother-in-law.

  5. This article begs for the question who we define ourselves. Is it because of what we see as a physical manifestation of ourselves (my hands, feet etc) or our thoughts..? If they could be emulated?

    A good reading about humans and humanity is The last question by Isaac Asimov.