"It was like, monologue!"
AI is here to enforce Zoom etiquette, apparently.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, a growing number of companies are using AI bots in video meetings to mediate, transcribe, and — yes — etiquette-check participants who may be lecturing or interrupting others. Often, according to the report, the bots are just silent notetakers, there to either summarize the meeting for someone who can't be there, or keep minutes for the group. In other cases, though, the bots will pipe up to let speakers know whether they might be droning on a bit too much.
"It was like, monologue!" Josh Stir, the senior software development manager for a tax services company, told the WSJ of his experience with a Zoom behavior bot. The AI seemingly thought the software developer was speaking too flatly, urging Stir to raise and lower his pitch in order to maintain the group's interest.
Which, in some cases, might be helpful to a speaker. But as Stir told the newspaper, he's not a CEO trying to rally his troops; he was in the meeting discussing the technical complexities of enterprise taxware — a task that, by nature, is a pretty monotone deal.
"I was like, yes, that's what I'm here to do," Stir told the WSJ. "It's technology for corporate tax software," he added. "No one's going to carry me out of the room on their shoulders."
Unsurprisingly, some folks have found the AIs a bit eerie.
"It's like having a conversation with someone at a coffee shop, and you look out the window and all you see are a pair of eyes looking at you," Zack Schwartz, whose company briefly experimented with the bots last spring, told the WSJ of his short-lived encounter with them. A tech marketing director named Colin Dougherty, meanwhile, recounted a "dystopian" encounter in which he was the first human to show up for a call — only to be greeted by a coterie of silent AI bots.
Beyond the creepiness, marketer Jessica Malnik told the newspaper that the bots' presence can also just be a vibe killer, explaining that the AI stand-ins for absentees foster a "weird power dynamic" in meetings and, presumably, the rest of the workplace.
Look, a lot of meetings are very boring. Indeed, a lot of meetings could be emails! Some people also really don't know how to let others talk in meetings, so maybe having an AI tell them to stop cutting people off is helpful.
Still, the AIs seem like they lack a bit of nuance — and in general, we can imagine it's bizarre to be surrounded in a meeting by faceless bots jotting down your every word.
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