In the week I wrote this feature, I’ve also worked on two articles about AI in office software - including one about new features for Microsoft 365 Copilot - a collaboration tool that isn’t even out yet. One of these new features is text-to-image generation in presentation software.
The second article was about Google pushing a nearly identical set of features for Workspace. Again, this is the same day. I am trapped in a computer generated nightmare.
Obviously, it is just one way of doing things, and I will always advocate for a human touch to anything that involves even a modicum of creativity or attention to detail. You’ve got this thing called a brain, yeah, and it’s capable of thinking up so many great things, I just don’t -
Hi, evil megacorporation mate. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you set out to do and then stopping, you know? Is everything alright at home? And I’m not stupid - to quote my line manager, it’s “#capitalism, baby”. But at one point it’s like, yes, these five companies are all doing this, I don’t need you, a sixth, to also do this.
Look, I just think it's funny that an industry that has long built its image on visionaries and mad, instinctive geniuses now just takes one idea and runs it into the ground until everyone’s convinced it’s the future and I’m bored to tears with it.
Office software was meant to increase productivity - typing with a keyboard is far better than yon olde pen and paper - and we’ve achieved that. I dislike how AI in the workplace has become some universal thing to strive for, rather than just one method of going about things.
Take a step back, and you might find that there are people who don’t want this, and are perfectly happy going analog. I would like to revert to writing all my articles on papyrus and telegramming them in - the ghost of William Caxton isn’t rising up with a consistent obsession with reinventing the wheel, or, um, the printing press.
I just want to use my brain to put words that are mine on a screen that’s broadcast down the line under the sea to millions. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that this is not a complex idea. I like reading and processing information, I like understanding it, knowing what I’m doing. Am I broken? Is that what this is?
Solutions for an industry out of ideas
And if I am writing, I don’t want to write about how AI is going to change things for the better. My greatest hits for this website are about how essentially rolling the dice on the next cool thing to come out of a rich white man’s head is probably going to kill us all.
I mean, oh, alright, I don’t think that. Leave that to cyberterrorism. But tech’s constant need for innovation is probably going to make our lives worse.
Amazingly, I don’t want to write that stuff all the time. It would be nice if I could review Google’s new cannon that shoots rainbows and grants you three wishes (with unlimited wish loophole unpatched), but even then they’d sunset that in two years time.
Once you believe that your entire productivity tool (or whatever) was definitively Web 1.0 before automation, what’s your next development going to be? Science fiction has surely been mined for all of the concepts that can actually feasibly exist, taken straight out of their dystopian context and placed into a functionally identical dystopian context.
So if you’re going to come up with something new - make it actually new, not just what everyone else is doing, and if you can’t do that, maybe just realise that we’ve reached the apex of what we actually need technology for, rather than canvassing for infinite growth. Give your cantankerous neighbourhood tech journalist a break from having the same thing streamed into their eyeballs, over and over and over again.
Sp. actually, you know, razing every piece of office software that currently exists to the ground isn’t such a bad idea. Oh, there’s Loop, Viva, Asana, 365, Workspace, Slack Canvas, is there? Can you explain those to me in a sentence, not a press release?
None of it means anything to me. It’s all just a glut. An artificially intelligent fatberg. Simplify, reboot, go Hollywood, where new ideas are just the old ones, just done with the benefit of hindsight and George Clooney. It’s all just gotten very complicated and exhausting. Pfft.
And just in case I’ve had an aneurysm writing this and I’m now slumped on my keyboard, I don’t want people thinking that just because I believe that humans are better at creativity than computers, and you should do your own sodding work, doesn’t mean that I’m a reasonable grown up type cheerleading for "human connection" at work, a phrase I actually laughed at.
I would rather live in a cave than truly collaborate at work, so please don’t put that on my gravestone: I’d die (again) from embarrassment. Alright, cheers.
- As the machines rise up in the dullest way possible, here's our list of the best productivity tools right now