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'Annoying as hell': Google Docs features 'inclusive warning' pop-ups telling users to choose 'chairperson' instead of 'chairman' and other woke edicts
Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

'Annoying as hell': Google Docs features 'inclusive warning' pop-ups telling users to choose 'chairperson' instead of 'chairman' and other woke edicts

Google Docs recently launched a rollout of new "assistive writing" features, and among them is an "inclusive warning" pop-up that tells users if words they've typed in don't cut the mustard on the woke scale.

What are the details?

The platform gives you the lowdown on its Workspace Updates page, even showing you what happens when a Google Docs user makes the unfortunate choice of typing the non-inclusive term "chairman" into a document. Like a virtual slap on the wrist, the pop-up instructs the user to choose the more inclusive "chairperson":

Image source: Google Docs Workspace Updates user simulation screenshot

'Annoying as hell'

Vice gave the feature a test drive and called it "annoying as hell."

After one of its staffers typed in the word “Motherboard" — the name of the Vice department reporting on the new Google Docs feature — the inclusive warning pop-up indicated that "some of these words may not be inclusive to all readers. Consider using different words.”

The outlet added that journalist Rebecca Baird-Remba tweeted an inclusive warning she received on the word “landlord” — along with the suggestion that she change it to “property owner” or “proprietor.”

Vice also said an excerpt from former President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address was typed in, and a suggestion came back to change the phrase “for all mankind” to “for all humankind.” However, the outlet added that a "transcribed interview of neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke — in which he uses the N-word and talks about hunting black people — gets no notes."

What did Google have to say?

Vice reported that Google said the feature is an “ongoing evolution.”

“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 Google spokesperson said, according to the outlet. “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.”

In addition, the Workspace Updates page indicates that users can disable the new feature, and they can accept or reject suggestions for new words or phrases.

Anything else?

Vice said if writers want to be "racist, sexist, or exclusionary in their writing, and [want] to draft that up in a Google document, they should be allowed to do that without an algorithm attempting to sanitize their intentions and confuse their readers. This is how we end up with dog whistles."

The outlet added that "trying to shoehorn self-awareness, sensitivity, and careful editing into people’s writing using machine learning algorithms — already deeply flawed, frequently unintelligent pieces of technology — is misguided. Especially when it’s coming from a company that’s grappling with its own internal reckoning in inclusivity, diversity, and mistreatment of workers who stand up for better ethics in AI."

(H/T: Red State)

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