Google couldn't figure out a reliable way to prevent Smart Compose's AI from assuming someone's gender, so has taken the quandary away from it entirely.
Artificial Intelligence is really the next big breakthrough in technology that is happening right under our very noses. You might have even used it already in some form or fashion without even realizing. If you have a Gmail account, then you may have encountered AI via one of its features, Smart Compose.
Smart Compose is basically an evolved form of predictive text. The AI involved scans through your emails and creates replies based on what it finds. So it doesn't just predict what your next word might be, but your entire reply. Pretty remarkable but as with everything in its early stages, there are issues, one of which was discovered by a research scientist at Google back in January of this year.
As reported by Reuters, the scientist discovered Smart Compose's AI has been assuming people's genders. While composing an email that revolved around meeting an investor, Smart Compose suggested adding the question "do you want to meet him?" Awkward as in this instance, said investor was female. The AI had picked up from previous emails that most investors mentioned were male, so wrongly assumed this one was too.
Upon discovery of the problem, Gmail product manager Paul Lambert explained that he and his team attempted to remedy the issue in a number of ways. However, none of those ways were reliable enough. Instead, the team has resorted to removing gender-based pronouns from Smart Compose's AI altogether. Apparently, the change will affect less than 1% of the AI's predictions. Definitely a price worth paying if you ask us.
Calling someone him instead of her or vice versa in an email might seem like nothing much, but it's a slippery slope. Earlier this year Amazon had to completely scrap an internal recruiting tool after discovering it was biased towards female candidates. Not good. Google remedying the problem in the way that it has is a sign it takes the problem very seriously. Now potential suitors will know if similar problems crop up in more serious ways, they will be dealt with promptly.