Artificial intelligence (AI), and its closely related cousin, machine learning, are revolutionizing the way we approach certain tasks and industries, and opening up new industries we hadn’t considered before.
Technology has always had an impact on how we work; take email for example. Email allowed employees and entrepreneurs to communicate, instantly and reliably, with anyone else on the planet with an email address and an internet connection.
And despite being a technology nearly 40 years old, it’s estimated that by 2019, we’ll be sending and receiving more than 246 billion emails per day.
Because email is so ingrained in our work culture, it likely won’t be replaced anytime soon — but it will be augmented, and heavily, by the AI tech and trends that have begun to reshape our working styles and expectations. Here are five ways it’s going to happen — or is already happening:
1. Email Analytics
One of the biggest applications of AI by volume is its use in crunching numbers. In other words, machine learning and AI make it easier to organize large volumes of data and form conclusions about what those data mean. In an age with increasing data availability and importance, AI becomes a must.
So how does this apply to email? Email affects your bottom line more than you think, largely by eating up employee time. Platforms that help you analyze how you’re using email (including how many you’re sending, how long it takes to write and read them, and how your conversations are structured), such as EmailAnalytics, for example, can highlight misuses of time and effort, and guide your team to better practices.
2. Email Organization
AI and machine learning can also help you organize your incoming emails. One of the easiest branches of machine learning to conquer is the field of process automation; here, the idea is to train a program to learn the best course of action for a series of repetitive tasks.
For example, you might use AI in combination with your own directives to establish rules for how incoming emails are sorted into folders, or which ones come to your attention first when you open your inbox.
3. Automated Alerts
AI can also be used to set up automated alerts for different types of emails, or email-centric alerts. For example, many platforms (including Google Analytics) already offer the functionality to establish automatic emails in response to specific events, such as a traffic spike or website downtime.
With a layer of machine learning, these platforms may be able to discern what types of emails are most important to you, and create their own rules for how to dispatch them.
4. Digital Assistants
We’re getting used to relying on digital assistants like Siri and Cortana to navigate our devices’ basic operating systems. Email may be the next frontier for these UX-focused layers of AI. Already, assistants like Clara and X.AI’s Andrew and Amy exist to help email users automatically schedule, postpone, and cancel meetings with only a mention in the CC or BCC line.
These assistants can automate the majority of repetitive email-centric tasks, such as scheduling meetings, sending out reminders, and creating tasks, and they’re only going to grow more advanced in the future.
Chatbots, which are capable of holding realistic conversations with human beings, are starting to replace the need for customer service reps in both instant messaging and email, with many companies creating artificial representatives to save companies time and money (like Nuance’s chatbot Nina).
Chatbots carry on conversations almost as well as humans do, and automate some of the more basic conversations you’ll encounter. As chatbot technology grows more sophisticated, it may be able to replace more advanced types of conversations.
The Distant Future
So how could AI evolve even further in the realm of email? Overall, these advancements have two primary functions: analysis and automation. Both these functions will likely grow in power and availability as technology becomes more sophisticated.
Accordingly, you can expect big changes in the next few decades to how often you email, what kinds of emails you send, and what kinds of email-related tasks can be handled entirely by a machine.
While the mode of communication will likely remain intact, our relationship with it could fundamentally change — and that means more time to do the work that really matters.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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