It starts with the flip of a bit uploaded to servers around the world. Reply suggestions appear in your chat app. A friend texts you, and beneath their words, three Gumby-edged rectangles appear, presenting you reply options. Would you like to respond with “Hello”, “Hey!”, or “‘sup?”?
You’re turned off by this the first time you see the chirpy replies inviting you to take the easy path. You refuse to play their game and defiantly type, “Hey!”
When you press send, you realize your response was identical to one of the suggestions. It’s irritating that they got it so right.
The second time you see this, the stone in your aorta rolls aside. You were going to type “Hey!” Anyhow, you might as well save yourself some keystrokes. RSI can be a bitch.
The AI that predicts your responses gets better over time. The most capitalized multinationals to ever exist fund Research labs. (See how I capitalize the ‘R’? This work is looked on with religious fervor in tech circles). Pipelines devour, separate, and pour every word that appears on the Internet into two-hundred-million-per processors optimized for high-dimensional matrix multiplication. Then the engineers take what comes up and through digital alchemy make it small enough to run on the supercomputer in your pocket, where you train it every time you select one of its suggestions.
The suggestions become so good that you almost never write out a reply anymore. You suspect your mom, friends, and lovers are using the canned replies, too, though you can’t be sure.
Another flag flip presents you with a new option to enable something they call “AutoRiposte.” Unless sensitive topics are detected, your phone can automatically reply with your predicted response after a reasonable stochastic delay.
It’s great for mindfulness, the marketing blurb proclaims. Reduces the interrupts in your day so that you can focus on your real life in front of you.
Sometimes, when you feel lonely at the end of the day, you’ll open your messages app and read conversations between the simulated you and your simulated contacts. You’ll marvel at how well you explained yourself, describing your various adventures. Your phone knows where you go and can make a decent guess at what you get up to there. When you read these conversations back, you swell with pride. The real essence of yourself is there in these conversations—true and authentic, but better put than you would have dashing off a reply in the toilet between meetings.
Perhaps the truest version of your friends are there, too.