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Google Docs’ AI-powered inclusive writing auto-correct now under fire

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Language models are used in Google Docs for features like Smart Compose; it suggests words to autocomplete sentences as a user types. The Chocolate Factory now wants to go further than that, and is rolling out “assistive writing,” another AI-powered system designed to help people write punchier documents more quickly.

Assistive writing is being introduced to enterprise users, and the feature is turned on by default. Not everyone is a fan of being guided by the algorithm, and some people find its “inclusive language” ability irritating, Vice reported.

Words like “policemen” could trigger the model into suggesting it be changed to something more neutral like “police officers.” That’s understandable, but it can get a bit ridiculous. For example, it proposed replacing the word “landlord” with “property owner” or “proprietor.” It also doesn’t like curse words as one writer found.

“Assisted writing uses language understanding models, which rely on millions of common phrases and sentences to automatically learn how people communicate. This also means they can reflect some human cognitive biases,” a spokesperson for Google told Vice. “Our technology is always improving, and we don’t yet (and may never) have a complete solution to identifying and mitigating all unwanted word associations and biases.”

Hear more from Prof. Basl and other experts in The Register.

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