*~*my week on google’s smart reply*~*
Tests the company’s new auto e-mail generator Dear friends, family, and colleagues, Reply That’s what I thought. You’re the best! May 12 (1 minute ago)
I need to explain myself. For the past week, I may have seemed short, or even a bit odd, over e-mail. It’s not you, it’s me. Actually, it’s not me, it’s Google.
Recently, the company added Smart Reply to its desktop Inbox service, which sorts e-mails into relevant batches for you. When you get certain messages, Google offers up prewritten answers. You click on one of three suggestions, hit Send, and you’re done.
I decided to use Smart Reply—and only Smart Reply—for a week. It meant surrendering my voice to Google’s, which was sometimes an odd fit. Dad, when you told me you were having an angiogram, you may have found my response of “Good luck!” a bit brusque for the occasion. On the other hand, when I agreed with you, Emily, by writing, “That’s what I thought!” it was what I thought. It was also what Google suggested.
Smart Reply may seem like an insignificant shortcut, but it marks the start of our robot overlords’ reign. The responses Google generates aren’t random—nor are they the product of a simple rules-based equation in which a search for certain words generates a corresponding reply. How do I know this? I e-mailed the company and asked to talk to someone (on the phone, so I could be sure it was a human) about how it works. The human was Greg Corrado, senior research scientist at Google Brain, whose department developed the feature, at first just for Inbox’s mobile app. “It learns by example,” he told me. “It learns to mimic behavior that we demonstrate for it.”
Smart Reply understands the content of the message you’ve received, as well as its tone. When I replied to friends and family, my canned responses often had a cheery exclamation point (“Great! Can’t wait!”). When I replied to someone less familiar, Smart Reply was more sober: “That sounds good. Thank you.”
On some level, I’ve betrayed you. You took the time to write, and all I did was roll my mouse around. Fortunately, none of you seemed to detect the outsourcing of our correspondence, though I’m not sure what that says about your ability to pass a Turing test. Alyssa, after I said that lunch “Sounds great!” you suggested some dates. Unfortunately, Smart Reply countered with “Great! Does 6:30 p.m. work?” (Google’s still working out some kinks.) Even though I like the idea of Spanish-influenced meal times, 6:30 was beyond my Iberian aspirations. I handled that one manually.
But people, I must confess: When appropriate, I’m going to keep using Smart Reply, mostly because the Google man is right. “A lot of e-mail is not something you should put a lot of thought into,” Corrado said. “Putting efficiency into those messages so you can get that time back to put into e-mails you actually need to put thought into—or, better yet, do something other than write e-mails—sounded good to us.” Indeed. That sounds good. Thank you.
Love, Sam lunchdate.png
Hollywood reached its maximum natural disaster potential roughly two decades ago, sending down a hail of movies about megastorms ( Twister), supervolcanoes ( Dante’s Peak), and earthbound asteroids ( Deep Impact, Armageddon). Although the industry still peddles in weird weather ( Sharknado 4), studios seem to have turned their attention to a new type of scary movie—the unnatural disaster flick, which derives its shocks not from acts of God but from acts of bankers. Films in this category include Margin Call (2011), Too Big to Fail (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Big Short (2015), and now Money Monster, which moves the nascent genre into its adolescent, formulaic phase.
Directed by two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster—whose most recent behindthe- camera credits include episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black—money Monster (in theaters on May 13) presents a familiar antihero in Lee Gates (George Clooney), a bombastic Jim Cramer- esque television host. The self-proclaimed wizard of Wall Street, he’s a mouthpiece who influences the market with smug claims that certain stocks are “safer than a savings account.” But when one of Gates’s sure things, Ibis Clear Capital, bottoms out overnight, losing $800 million because of what’s dubiously described as a “computer glitch,” Gates is taken hostage on-air by 24-year- old deliveryman Kyle Budwell (British actor Jack O’connell, chewing on a Brooklyn accent here to mixed effect). Patty Fenn ( Julia Roberts), Gates’s longtime producer, becomes a de facto crisis negotiator, keeping Gates engaged with Budwell, who’s lost his life savings to the bum investment, while feverishly tracking Walt Camby ( Dominic West), Ibis’s mysteriously absent chief executive officer.
As the noose tightens on Gates and the crooked Camby, Money Monster manages to squeeze out a bit of gallows humor: At one point, the TV host appeals to his audience to buy Ibis shares in an attempt to reverse the damage and save him (“What’s a life worth to you?” he pleads, staring into the camera). On cue, the stock price springs to life—ticking in the wrong direction. In one standard movie gambit, the New York City Police Department patches Budwell’s pregnant girlfriend through to the broadcast to persuade him to surrender; she instead reveals that he cries during sex and should probably do everyone a favor and just kill himself.
Like The Big Short, Money Monster occasionally veers deep into the weeds of financial jargon— quantitative analytics, dark pools, high- frequency trading—but the filmmakers wisely opt to embrace the broad audience appeal of a frenetic conspiracy thriller, beginning under the hot lights of a claustrophobic TV studio, spilling onto the streets of Manhattan’s Financial District, and culminating in a high- stakes confrontation between Budwell and Camby. Reminiscent of the sympathetic hostage takers played by Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and Denzel Washington in John Q, Budwell lives out many a Bernie supporter’s revenge fantasy against a rigged system. As the character reminds his captives, “I might be the one with the gun here, but I’m not the real criminal.”
Studios will gladly wring the financial corruption sponge as they have with biblical floods and fire raining from the sky, tweaking the details as necessary. (Consider this summer’s Equity, starring Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, which has been described as the first “female-driven” film about Wall Street.) “They like how the math adds up, so they gotta keep rewriting the equation,” Budwell says of the big banks’ anything- goes manner of keeping the odds and dollar signs forever in their favor. Count Hollywood in. Greed is good, after all. We learned that at the movies. <BW>
le p eo ke “Be your own farm team. If you don’t provide opportunities to grow, people leave.” “Ma