Yesterday at their I/O conference, Google announced a couple of new developments that place Simulated Intelligence technologies into the world of collaborative platforms. The first, Smart Compose, extends out the quick response features already available in Google Inbox from a single line message (usually things like “Thanks!” or “I’m running late!”) into full-blown messages.

The second, Duplex, brings human impersonation to the next level by allowing you to get the machine to phone up to do mundane tasks for you like phone up a restaurant to make a booking.

What neither of these developments seem to account for is that they’ll both probably be speaking to other machines. My tongue-in-cheek prediction of Meetingly.io appears to be coming true.

Yesterday I spent 20 minutes of my decreasing time on this earth on hold to my GP surgery. I needed to book an appointment with a nurse to have some jabs for travel that I’ve got coming up. Whilst it’s possible to use the surgery’s website to book an appointment with a doctor, it’s not to book an appointment with a nurse. But the surgery has recently invested in a whizzy automated call handling system, which means that the 20 minute wait was frequently interrupted with platitudinous messages about how much they valued me, and a slow descent from 7th in the queue to 1st.

I fear that Google’s new innovations are simply fancier versions of the remarkably dumb call handling system that the surgery has implemented. I don’t want to have information about how long I’ve got to wait on the phone to speak to someone. I want an API so that my calendar tool can see available slots with the nurses. Duplex will allow me to get a computer to waste time on my behalf rather that addressing the underlying issues.

And this is the case in so many areas of improvement in collaborative technologies. Too often they focus on increasing the efficiency of the individual without care to the effectiveness of the group. It’s the software equivalent of building additional lanes on motorways, a collaboration arms race where technology will be met with other technology to provide additional capacity to waste time and effort.

Who wins? People selling compute cycles, I guess…

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