Podcast: The Future of Messaging

"... Every professional today is overloaded with messages..."

Podcast: The Future of Messaging

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This article contains the script of Episode 10 of the Tela Network Podcast, which you can watch here:

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Podcast Script


Welcome to the Tela Network Podcast. I'm StJohn Piano, and the topic of this short episode is "The Future of Messaging".

Every professional today is overloaded with messages.

These messages arrive through messaging apps, professional tools, advertisements, marketing department emails, business promoters, and now, from AIs.

Most messages are not even worth the time that it takes to read them.

It never stops and it's exhausting. It's also getting worse.

I think that this is having a terrible effect on our ability to organize ourselves and maintain our civilization.

I can see a time coming, quite soon, in which the widespread use of AI-powered chatbots turns social platforms into a scorched-earth environment, a place in which there is no genuine life, where you can't actually get through to anyone, because most of the time it won't be a person.

I'm not talking about messaging people that you already know well. This is limited and always will be. I'm talking about the problem of wider society, how people meet new friends, business contacts, dates, ideological comrades, and so on. How to manage relationships with many semi-strangers. This is what civilization is, and what distinguishes it from tribal life. Civilization is the art of living around many people that you don't know very well. The way in which we meet and interact with new people matters.

If you have any thoughts, questions, comments, or suggestions about this podcast - you can contact me on Tela. My contact link will be in the description below.

Potential Solutions

So, what is to be done ?

Let's examine the three possible solutions. As far as I am aware, these are the only ones that exist. If you can suggest another solution, I'm all ears.

They are:

  1. Use AI to sort through the flood of messages.
  2. Disconnect from online platforms and go back to meeting people in person.
  3. Apply a fee per message.

Solution 1 - AI - is the most popular, because it is at first glance the easiest. But: I think that relying on this solution alone will make the world far worse. I'll explain why in a moment.

Solution 2 - Disconnect - has some real benefits. It doesn't require new technology and it's good for us.

Solution 3 - A fee per message - is a little more difficult technically, but overall it is the most efficient, and I think that it can drastically improve online behavior.

My preferred outcome is that we use all three solutions, taking advantage of their best qualities.

Let's take a brief commercial break. This episode was sponsored by Aperture Science, the world's leading provider of shower curtains and portal guns. Aperture is recruiting for a new round of tests, and is now willing to offer competitive market rates to test survivors. To quote Cave Johnson, Aperture's Founder and CEO: "Science isn't about why. It’s about why not." Aperture: The leading edge of science.

And now, let's continue.

Solution 1: Use AI to sort through the flood of messages.

The idea is simple: We should fight fire with fire. We should use AI tools to do the work of sorting through the AI-generated messages.

Then, you need only read, think about, and respond to the messages that get filtered up to you.

This is superficially reasonable. It makes sense at first glance. AI can clearly do useful work, so let's use it.

There are, however, a couple major problems with this idea.

Problem 1: There will be many false positives, cases where something is marked as AI-generated but is actually real.

So: This means that someone could put genuine effort into writing to you, but your AI filter blocked them, invisibly.

Now, there could be a way for you to double-check your AI filter's choices, and correct the mistake, but realistically, most people are not going to bother to do this, especially since they will have installed the filter to deal with information overload in the first place.

Problem 2: Analysis is more expensive than creation.

There's no actual end to how much an object can be analyzed, not really.

William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, approximately. You can read them in a few months. But there are whole rooms of books analyzing them.

It will generally be cheaper for an AI tool to generate a new message than for another AI tool to analyse the message and detect that it was AI-generated.

What does this mean ?

It means that in an arms race between AI systems, some which generate messages, and others which filter them, the economic advantage will lie with the ones that generate messages.

Make no mistake, this will be a war, and wars are won by logistics, which is to say - the energy cost of moving things around.

Fundamentally, dealing with messaging overload by using AI is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. The defending AI will still generate its own messages, notifications, analysis, and suggestions, which need to be sorted through by humans.

There's a business phrase I enjoy, which is relevant here: "Let's not boil the ocean", which means "Let's avoid undertaking a project that is unreasonably large".

Generating infinite information with AI technology, and then using AI technology to sort through the results, is boiling the ocean.

Now, I still favor the use of AI tools in messaging. There are several great applications:

  1. Suggesting possible replies
  2. Filtering messages into categories
  3. Ranking messages by importance

And so on.

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Let's continue.

2. Disconnect from the Internet and go back to meeting people in person.

Imagine that you're living in the near future and the Internet is mostly bots talking to bots. There's a few people in there, but the cost to find them is very high. This is not very difficult to imagine.

Some people suggest that we could simply go back to how we lived before the Internet.

It is, after all, how the world was for all of human history up until the last generation.

So: We could try to treat social platforms as a kind of drug - a new opiate of the masses.

We could put all our social effort into real-world offline events. This is good for us psychologically.

We can take inspiration from the Amish and use modern tech in a limited way - we'll make phone calls and send some messages, but we won't post anything publicly, and we'll only message people if we've met them first in person.

What is the issue with this approach ?

Well, it avoids the problem rather than tackling it. It pretends that the new technology does not exist.

Today, it is possible to broadcast messages around the entire globe very cheaply. Like any mythical power, this brings danger as well as new capabilities.

Societies that take advantage of new technology, adapt best to it, and make it function usefully are the societies that run the world.

Think about the Amish more carefully. They live at the sufferance of the society around them. In any genuine conflict, they would lose immediately.

In the same way, societal groups that refuse to master social broadcast technology will live at the sufferance of others, with all that that entails. If you won't fight, don't complain about the consequences of defeat.

Now, I do think that focusing more carefully in the future on organizing more real-world social life is a good idea, and necessary.

We're clearly living through significant social disruption, driven by the Internet, and we shouldn't be complacent. If people don't have a life that is embedded in a real-world social structure, they become very fragile psychologically. And life is stressful and difficult, no matter what, so sooner or later, many of them crack.

To summarize: I think that deliberate Internet disconnection is important, but it is not a complete solution.

3. Apply a fee per message.

I think that many of the worst social behaviors that we see online are driven by the fact that sending a message is free.

Bear with me.

  1. Only a small percentage of people will actually send a nasty message online. But that small percentage doesn't stop sending nasty messages. They just keep going. A message fee would prevent these people spamming nastiness.
  2. Productive people usually do not engage in public online debate or commentary. It's just not worth it to argue for free with people who have a lot more spare time than you do and are dedicated to avoiding new thoughts. If you do happen to make a meaningful point, they often retreat into careful incomprehension. Interacting with them is distinctly unrewarding.

    The only productive people who are willing to engage with the online world are promoting a brand, a product, or an ideology. I am no exception, by the way - I am promoting all three. The brand is Tela Network, the product is the Tela Messaging App, and the ideology is "Our Attention Has Value". Please do take a moment to click the like button, because the algorithm cannot see your good wishes, only your likes.

    Now, if online comments had a cost, this would filter out a lot of very irritating people, so it would become worth it for productive people to engage in the comments, and I think that public comment threads would become much more useful and interesting.
  3. Competent people usually have better things to do with their time than to go through their inbox. So they're hard to reach. If you could pay them a fee to message them, it would become worth it for them to prioritize responding to you.
  4. Inboxes fill up with a lot of spam, noise, marketing emails, and so on. It is rarely rewarding to go through these. A message fee would discourage most of these emails from being sent in the first place.

    This point, I think, is the killer feature. A fee per message incentivises people to treat messages as if they have value.

    Conversely, if messages are free to send, the sender can treat your attention as if it's worth nothing.

    Whereas it's one of the very few things that you actually have, and it's quite limited.

    This leads to one final point.
  5. If the online environment treats messages as if they're worth nothing, then over time this changes how everyone behaves. It becomes pointless to write a genuine, complex, well-thought-through message to someone, because the social expectation is that messages are worthless throwaways.


My preferred outcome is to combine all three solutions.

I'll outline what that looks like.

I imagine a future Internet in which:

  • Messages require a fee.
  • AI tools are heavily used in messaging for productivity, but the user is always checking the results, catching errors, and providing feedback. The AI tool companies should pay the users directly for their feedback, because it's valuable, and it cost effort to provide.
  • Users have reputation scores. This means that you can use an AI tool to generate a reply, but you have an incentive to double-check the reply before it's sent, because you want to maintain a good score.
  • Social platforms are rebuilt around rewarding their most engaged users financially, instead of strip-mining their attention.
  • We reorient ourselves towards offline social life, but we use online platforms to organize it, and the platforms focus on helping the organizers to do event management as a proper business. Paying the organizers a fee per message would really help.

So there we have it. That's what I think.

I think it would be a better world. Not perfect, just better.


Now, here's the promotion that made it worth it to produce this podcast.

I'm a founder at Tela Network. We've built one component of the future Internet that I just described. It's a new messaging app, called Tela, in which every message pays you a fee.

You don't have to remember to log in. Tela will send you a summary email only when you receive new messages.

Importantly, Tela also offers a safeguard for the sender: If you don't have the time to respond, the message will expire, and the fee will be refunded to them.

Messaging is important. We take it seriously.

If you would like to use Tela as a paid public contact point, simply add your Tela contact link in your social profiles and your content.

It will be in this format: tela.app/id/your_name

Anyone who clicks the link will arrive at a new chat with you on Tela.


That's the end of this episode.

A brief reminder: If you have enjoyed this content, please do share it with someone else who would also like it. Thank you.

Let's wrap up with a Latin phrase: Audentes fortuna iuvat, which means "Fortune favors the bold".

Yours from a potentially pleasant future Internet,

I am StJohn Piano, of Tela Network.

Podcast Description

"... Every professional today is overloaded with messages..."

This is Episode 10 of the Tela Network Podcast, hosted by StJohn Piano.

Contact StJohn Piano on Tela:

Read this content as an article:

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If you have any questions about Tela Network - please contact StJohn Piano:

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