GOOGLE IS REMOVING gender-related pronouns from its prediction engine for Gmail amid fears they could introduce bias to its AI algorithms.
The feature was first introduced in May this year, offering to complete sentences as you compose based on your previous interactions and its tech smarts.
Despite fears that it could manipulate what we say and how we say it, it has turned out that the bigger problem is how it could affect the way Google's neural networks learn.
So if you start to type "I'm completely besotted" instead of chipping in with "with him" or "with her" it will now be limited to "with it".
The reason is two-fold. First of all, it is potentially teaching the AI to make assumptions that could turn into automatic "her" for a traditional womens' role, or a "him" that fails to take into account that the writer doesn't swing that way.
The second is the upshot - it might offend people.
The problem was first discovered in testing when it assumed that an investor being referenced in a mail would be mail. The AI had made the assumption based on what it knew - not how it could or should be.
Google, which is in the midst of complaints about the way it handles sexual harassment, has decided not to assume that people will correct it and move on, besides which, if that incorrect pronoun appears on the screen, it could subconciously cement her own prejudices.
At present, Smart Compose, as the feature is known, is used on around 11 per cent of messages, but that could grow exponentially in the coming years. Besides, 11 per cent of 1.5bn users is still a cool 165m. That's a lot of users.
In the end, all attempts at an unbiased workaround failed and the decision was made to err on the side of caution, lest the balls up should really shaft someone.
That's what it said. μ
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