Our relationship with email is a paradox. It is probably the most passionate love-hate relationship between humans and technology.
We love email. We do it all day long, for work, for fun. It’s one of the most reliable ways to communicate today.But we want to get rid of it. We read guides to achieve the impossible, the mythical “0 inbox”. We actively look for better alternatives, in Asana, Slack and the likes that claim they are the future of email. It’s almost like our good, old, faithful significant other is paling in comparison to all the youngsters we meet on Tinder.
Before you do something you might regret soon, take a look at another industry and be prepared to give email another chance. If you want to see the future of email, take a look at cars.
In a sense, we have the same relationship with cars.
Cars are wonderful. They take you from A to B without having to book a ticket, change train, wait for a schedule, or pay atrociously high fees. You can take friends with you, and luggage, or even live in them (see here).
But cars bring on a lot of issues: parking in the city is a pain; we waste months in traffic jams; and accidents injure or kill people. It’s not safe to drive after a beer, or when you’re tired, or when it’s raining.
When we look into the future, we don’t see cars. Surely something will come along and replace them. Maybe flying shuttles, 5th element style? Or rail-bound mini-trains, as seen in I, robot? Hyperloops all over the planet?
I do think we’re headed towards a revolution of transportation, but I think it will very much resemble the car system we know.
The unexpected and game-changing innovation I’m referring to is, you guessed it, the driverless cars of Google.
Driverless cars will be the solution to all the problems I mentioned. The roads will be safer: computers just have faster reflexes and are capable of sustained attention. The traffic will be more fluid, too, because of their more efficient driving. But traffic jams won’t even be a problem anymore: freed from the wheel, we’ll be able to make phone calls, work on a computer, or have a business meeting** from inside our car** (and maybe a doctor appointment, cf cosmopolis). Something that only VIP execs enjoy today will be made common for everyone. Parking? Solved! Once we arrive at our destination, the car can self-park while we go on with our day. Drunk driving? Solved! As long as you can type your address in your GPS, you’re safe to go home (Google already knows where you live anyway).
And the most brilliant thing about this, is that we get to keep all the good things cars already had.
First in line: the road network. My driveway is connected to every. other. driveway. in America. Given a big enough gas tank, I can reach almost every point of a continent without ever leaving a car. This alone never ceases to amaze me.I’m also excited about the design improvements we can expect. No more driving wheel, or gear stick. No need to even face the road: we will have London cab style, circle-shaped car interiors.Heck, blind people will be able to take the road on their own, in their car. Who saw that coming?To sum it up, cars as we know it will soon be obsolete, only to be replaced by cars.
This is the future of email.
Email is a protocol, but email is also a network. The biggest network of human beings, no less. If I want to talk to someone out there, what’s my best chance? I’ll probably check Twitter to see if they are active there. Not too active though: past 50k followers, the likeliness of me tweet getting an answer is low. But with an email address, I have a direct connection to almost anybody. If I have something even remotely interesting to say, I’ll pass the spam filter and get the 3-second attention span I need to get my message across. That’s the beauty of email. That’s why it’s not fading away, ever.
When we say we want to get rid of email, we actually mean that we want to fix what’s broken, and keep what’s not. Email has just fallen victim of its very own success. Email is so good, we’ve started drowning in it. Asana and Slack are simply trying to offload email, stripping it from what’s not strictly needed. Other services like Front keep building on what’s good, and that’s the way to go. At least that’s our bet for the future of email.
Written by Mathilde Collin
Originally Published: 17 April 2020