The signaling effects of digital

I had a casual chat with another startup founder recently where the conversation veered at some point towards AI and the classic examples of Amy Ingram ( and other scheduling agents.

At this point the conversation got even more interesting! A big side effect of the digital proliferation are the questions it throws up on social norms and the signaling effect of digital. Let’s take a few specific examples:

  1. If you use an automated scheduling agent (like, mimetic or others), and you receive a calendar request from a “superior”, does punting them off to a bot show disrespect? Clearly this won’t be a problem once everyone has an automated agent, but what’s the expected social behavior till then?
  2. It was my birthday recently and like most of you I received many congratulatory messages in the WhatsApp/WeChat groups. A good majority of the wishes after the first one were likely only posted thanks to the reminder from the first person. Shouldn’t it be acceptable behavior to just assume “everyone wished me” after the first one instead of annoying everyone else in the group with individual notifications? Surely this is a better outcome for everyone (Note: I actually said this in one of the groups I was in — I hope I spared the others some grief).
  3. Building on #2, the same goes for Facebook messages (this year, I took out the day of birth from my profile a few days before). Facebook should just tell you “I’ve told your friends its your birthday. Now I’m just going to automatically post a bunch of messages on your wall on their behalf”. We’ve come a long way to where an email feels a lot more personal than anything else (for those of you old enough to remember the opposite). Take that #slack
  4. I haven’t done this, but, I’ve heard of others who’ve said “Hey, I’m stuck at work unfortunately and can’t pick you up from the airport. Can you take a taxi and I’ll pay you back”. The “impact” is the same. You didn’t have to pay for the fare and your friend instead of burning his fuel and wear to his car, paid a taxi man. It sounds downright impersonal (and I’ll hate it if you did this to me). However, ordering an Uber to pick up someone doesn’t feel quite as bad somehow. I don’t know why.

Are there other digital signaling conundrums you’ve faced? Please share below in your comments; I’d love to hear them.

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