Google is nothing if not useful: the search giant has built its reputation on making the Internet more accessible and easier to navigate. But not all of its innovations are smart or welcome.
Take the latest change from Google Docs, which aims to highlight examples of non-inclusive language via pop-up warnings.
You might think that’s a good idea, helping to avoid “president” or “fireman” and other gendered language – and you’d be right. But Google went further than necessary, leading to some pretty hilarious results.
A viral tweet was the first warning sign that maybe, just maybe, this feature was a little too eager to fix common word usages. After all, is “proprietary” really an example of “words that may not be inclusive for all readers”?
Like Vice Cleverly demonstrated, Google’s latest update to Docs – while undoubtedly well-intentioned – is boring and broken, jumping to suggest fixes for some things while blatantly ignoring others.
A good idea, poorly executed
The idea behind the feature is well-intentioned and will probably help in some cases. The execution, on the other hand, is poor.
Vice found that Docs suggested more inclusive language in a range of scenarios, such as “bored” or “motherboard”, but suggested nothing when a speech by neo-Nazi Klan leader David Duke was pasted, containing the N word.
In fact, Valerie Solanas SCUM Manifesto – a legendary piece of literature – received more changes than Duke’s speech, including suggesting “police officers” instead of “policemen”.
Overall, this is the latest example of an AI-powered feature that seems like a good idea but in practice has more holes than a swiss cheese.
Helping people write more inclusively is a noble goal, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired and ultimately makes the writing process more difficult.