Microsoft is set to trial changes to popular ‘Word’ applications, after announcing the company will be harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to boost the use of “inclusive language”.
The program will now work to underline sections of writing that exhibits “language bias”, and will suggest correct recommendations that are more ‘sensitive’.
MICROSOFT GOES PC
Beginning this year, Microsoft will preview a version of Word that will use artificial intelligence to make your writing politically correct, with users able to receive ‘intelligent suggestions’ via an extension called ‘Ideas’.
Already in use in similar programs, Ideas in Word will offer “advice on more concise and inclusive language”, among other “intelligent features”, according to Microsoft:
“Writing requires a dash of uniquely human creativity. Artificial intelligence alone cannot do it for us, at least not very well. But AI can – and already is – helping us do things like make sure we spell words correctly and use correct grammar”.
As noted by the Linguistic Society of America, “inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities”.
In an announcement blog post by John Roach, he used the example of “police officer,” instead of “policeman” when describing the new features:
The program will work by underlining places where your writing exhibited ‘language bias’ and suggest corrections that are more sensitive.
For example, if you use the term ‘gentlemen’s agreement’, it may suggest you use ‘unspoken agreement’ instead.
Other additions include decoding acronyms for you, and telling you how long it will take to read a given document.
Kirk Gregersen from Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices group spoke on the new changes in the blog post:
“Here’s something where we say: ‘Hey, we understand the structure of your document. We can make it navigable, or we could create a table of contents on your behalf”.
The “inclusiveness” checks are part of a larger group of “Refine My Writing” tools that also include clarity, conciseness, punctuation, and “sensitive geopolitical terms.”
The AI model looks for phrases that may be hard to understand by, or that might be offensive to, someone in another country or culture, Microsoft says.
“Spelling and grammar checks check the user’s words against a fairly agreed-upon set of spellings or usage rules. Correcting words for their “correctness” in the cultural or political sense seems like a more subjective and slippery exercise.”
Microsoft’s push for gender inclusivity comes amid a wider movement in different sectors to ensure ‘greater care’ in ensuring the language being used is gender neutral.
Google announced in February an AI writing tool to “incorporate the complexity and nuances of grammar correction”.
The software will be up against the Grammarly spelling and grammar checking tool, as well as Google’s grammar suggestions in Google Docs.
The moves follow other moves by internet giant Google, who recently launched ‘gender-neutral’ emojis on their platforms which have particularly haircuts have been carefully designed to ensure they are seen as neither male nor female.
It also follows a similar push by the ‘Diversity Council of Australia’ for “more inclusive” language in Australian workplaces, after launching a ‘Words at Work’ campaign across the country in 2017:
A trial version of Ideas will be rolled out in June and will be made available to a wider audience later in the year.
The service will initially be implemented across Word Online, a cloud-based version of the Microsoft product, to ensure users can smooth out sentences and improve readability.
Controlling how people speak, and making it dangerous to use words deemed as ‘unacceptable’ is at the heart of efforts to keep people from thinking about complexities of their lives and the world.
After all, if it’s too dangerous to speak about the issues that truly matter, then the next natural step is to not think about the issues at all.
Language control is thought control, and make no mistake, the announcement by Microsoft that their program will automatically correct what you write to conform to approved political speech is the ultimate promotion of censorship.
Microsoft Word is getting politically correct | Fast Company
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