You may already know this if you have ever sent me an email and waited for a response, but I’m living in a post-apocalyptic world where email is not as viable anymore.
You can understand why. I’ve been processing email since the ’90s and now have 650,000 emails in my latest Gmail account in an archive. I receive hundreds of pitches per day, many of them (thankfully) flagged as promotional and dumped into a forgotten tab.
I’m mostly on Slack and Convo all day chatting and posting in real time. I also use Facebook chat constantly, text with colleagues, and pretty much use any means possible to avoid the deluge of incoming email. It’s not exactly a fear or a phobia, but it’s heading in that direction.
Last fall, I wrote about using a chatbot instead of email. I still want one, so get busy on that idea, OK? For now, another option — maybe even a better one — is an AI for email.
Here’s how this would work. For starters, my AI would know much more than Google Inbox on my phone (an app I stopped using a few weeks ago because it wasn’t really helping and happens to crash constantly on an iPhone 7 Plus). I’m not talking about automation, about flagging messages or an auto-responder. True AI in my email would know a lot about me — which messages I usually read and from whom, whether I tend to respond to messages about new car technology (that’s a yes), and which messages I let sit idle.
This AI would also know a lot about the sender. Similar to the Rapportive add-on, it would instantly identify influencers, people who have written intelligently about a topic that’s of interest to me, and even be able to parse their message and determine if the person knows what they’re talking about. In a recent discussion with a colleague here at VentureBeat, we noted how it can be pretty obvious when someone is just getting into technology. A Twitter account that’s only a year old? That doesn’t seem right. An AI would know all of that about a sender.
And how about prioritizing? I’d like to get to work each day and process about 10 emails. The rest would be flagged, sorted, put into a bin, labeled, or discarded. The AI would not only respond to the low priority emails, it could carry on a discussion for me. It would act like an avatar and handle all of the boring bits. I’d only see the messages that are important, urgent, or interesting.
Too many email tools, like the now-defunct Mailbox app and (even though I use it myself) the Boomerang delayed response add-on for Gmail, are designed to help you automate. I want the opposite. I want the AI to automate me. In other words, if we have to do all of the busy work of flagging and clicking a button to send a canned response, it means more work.
What does less work look like? A screen with 10 emails per day. Everything else would cruise along automatically, like a Tesla Model S on the highway set to auto-pilot mode. The steering (replying to promotional emails), braking (weeding out the fluff), acceleration (reading and parsing messages to determine influence), lane keeping (carrying on a conversation as though it’s me), and every other automation would happen without my knowledge or concern.
If you’re already building this, we want to know about it. Send me your pitch. If you have more ideas on how an AI would work for email, please send me a note. I want to do a follow-up and include your ideas. If you want to promote a product, though, wait until the AI is operational.