The Smart Compose feature in Gmail is very handy. It offers appropriate suggestions as you’re typing the email to help you save time and be more productive. The one thing it will no longer be able to do is to refer to people as “her” or “him.” That’s because Google has decided to remove gender pronouns from Smart Compose in order to reduce bias.

Gmail product manager Paul Lambert said that gender pronouns were removed from Smart Compose once it appeared that the AI might be biased. An example of this was discovered in January this year when he typed “I am meeting an investor next week.” Smart Compose suggested “Do you want to meet him?” as a follow-up question, completely dismissing the possibility that the investor could be a woman too.

After seeing this bias on part of the AI, Google decided to not take any chances with gender pronouns, particularly at a time when gender issues are reshaping society. AI critics have also been looking at potential biases very closely so Google wants to avoid all of that.

Lambert does mention that the Smart Compose team first tried to see if they could fix this inherent bias. They tried several workarounds but none seemed to be worthwhile or completely bias-free. This is why the team decided to completely remove gender pronouns for now.

Filed in Web. Read more about GMail and Google. Source: reuters

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