Who Wrote this? How Smart Replies Impact Language and Agency in the Workplace

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AI-mediated communication is designed to help us do our work more quickly and efficiently. But does it come at a cost? This study uses smart replies (SRs) to show how AI influences humans without any intent on the part of the developer – the very use of AI is sufficient. I propose a loss of agency theory as a viable approach for studying the impact of AI on human agency. This theory focusses on the transfer of agency that is forced by circumstances (such as time pressure), human weaknesses (such as complacency), and conceptual priming. Mixed methods involving a crowdsourced experiment test that theory. The quantitative results reveal that machine agency affects the content we author and the behavior we generate. But it is a non-zero-sum game. The transfers between human and machine agency are fluid; they complement, replace, and reinforce each other at the same time.

Ryan Watkins