BOFH: Looks like you're writing an email. Fancy telling your colleague to #$%^ off?

The Boss brings the wonders of AI automation into the office

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 2 "It's going to be amazing!" the Boss burbles, positively foaming at the mouth.

"What will be?" the PFY asks.

"It's a bit hush-hush," the Boss teases.

"So hush is the best plan?" I suggest.

"No, I think you can be trusted," he chirps back.

"I'm fairly sure we can't," I respond. 

"It's new technology!" he burbles once more.

"Well, I'm off to lunch!" I say, picking up my phone.

"It's quarter to 11!" the Boss simpers, wanting to tell us his news.

"Yes, I'm doing unstable fasting as my New Year's resolution."

"Unstable fasting?" 

"Yes, it's like intermittent fasting, only you vary the times you eat so that your body doesn't plan on food."

"Does that... work?"

"I'll let you know after I surprise myself with a large bowl of onion bhajis, a mango lassi and two Kashmiri naans," I say, heading out.

...  a large bowl of onion bhajis, a mango lassi and two Kashmiri naans later...

"... and people will LOVE it!" the Boss burbles to the PFY.

"What will people love?" I ask, forgetting that golden rule.

"Interpretive Communications," the Boss says, like it's a "thing."

"I predict it'll be as popular as Interpretive Dance," I counter. "But continue - if only to drown out my complaining digestive system."

"It's next level stuff," the Boss replies.

"And by next level... you mean basement?" I ask, hinting at the downward direction of his discourse.

"No, this is really great!" the Boss gushes. "I've signed us up to an online company which will analyze our emails and provide AI guided automated messages."

There is a period of silence while the PFY contemplates the myriad of ways that this will backfire.

"So..." the PFY says. "You've given some unknown company access to all OUR company's email?"


"The personal stuff, the financial stuff – the confidential business stuff?"

"Ah... yes," the Boss says, a shadow of doubt crossing his features.

"And we have a bulletproof NDA document, anonymizing content whilst still compartmentalizing individuals?"

"I'm not sure what you mean?"

"They categorically state they won't disclose our email content to anyone?"


"And they can ensure that the language model being built can't be tied to one user or another, but also that information won't be passed between users?"

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"OK. You know that kid in the coloured pencil office who always says 'to be pacific' - we probably want that as a private language model for him alone and not for everyone else's communications. And say if the Head of H.R. had recently sent about 100 emails back and forth to his minions about how they're going to crack down on the malingerers that are working from home for health reasons – you possibly wouldn't want that coming up as a suggested sentence for one of the aforementioned malingerers when they wanted to apply for sick leave..."


"Do you happen to have a copy of a contract?" I ask.

"Ahm, well. It was more of a boilerplate thing," the Boss backpedals.  "We have a no-cost trial of the software, then, if there were no major complaints, we subscribe to the service."

"Ah yes, the try-before-you-get-addicted strategy – as used by Class-A drug pushers everywhere. Nice."

"I... what?"

"You know, it's free till you're hooked – then the gouging begins."


"So, you have the pricing model?" 

"I was told it was very reasonable."

"Sounds legit!" the PFY says.

"And what budget were you using?"

"Our new AI budget."

"What new AI budget?"

"Oh, didn't I tell you about that?  We consolidated all the unused cost centers into a central AI budget."

And by "unused cost centers" the Boss means the private slush funds of the PFY and myself. I suspect our deliveries of "cleaning alcohol" may be coming to an end.

"Yes, but as you say, if there were major complaints..."

"I can't see how that would happen. The AI builds models of common usage and blends it into your correspondence. You know that email I sent you this morning about the security system not permitting me to access the server room?"

"The three-page monologue on access control criteria, your position in the Company, your seniority level, how this might be construed as a disciplinary matter, etc?"

"Yes, that's the one. That was completely AI, based on my previous conversations with you, H.R. and our Health and Safety person. I just typed the phrase 'Justify access to the server room in a request' and it created that email."

And it was a reasonable email. I mean, it was dull and unnecessarily verbose – but far more coherent than the Boss's normal stream of consciousness.

"Yes, but there still might be complaints," the PFY suggests, wanting to keep that "cleaning alcohol."

"Oh, I doubt it."

...The next day...

"Well there have been a couple of complaints," the Boss admits, in response to my question.

"Really?" I ask. "Was it because email messages started calling the recipient bumhole?" 

"I... how did you know that?"

"I didn't – but I did know the PFY automated the sending of 500,000 email interchanges last night with that particular foible. The emails may also have had far right views, misattributed many common quotes to Chairman Mao and favorably reviewed various investment schemes made with Nigerian princes who contacted complete strangers over email." 

"I think people will understand that these quirks are just a foible of AI that can be trained out," the Boss replies.

"Those same people you bulk-emailed the AI contract to? Highlighting the clause permitting them to scan person messages?"

"I didn't... Oh," the Boss sighs.

"Yes. Still, half of those bumholes probably haven't opened their email yet."

"So there's still time to..." the boss says, grasping at featherlike straws.

"No... No. The bumholes at H.R. probably didn't like your 'Justify me a pay rise for not being an inbred ferret's backside like those H.R. people' email."

"Oooh, and here comes one of those bumholes from security that your email thought was borderline neanderthal..."

The rest as Chairman Mao would say, is cleaning alcohol history...

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