Looking not to cause offence, Google has altered Gmail’s Smart Compose in order to avoid guessing someone’s gender incorrectly. Before the change, Google’s AI might interpret that you’re discussing meeting an engineer and because engineers are more likely to be men, Smart Compose would auto-suggest ‘him’ even if the person you’re talking about is a woman. With the update, you have to write exactly what you mean rather than accidentally tabbing and getting the wrong gender.
Discussing the change, Gmail product manager, Paul Lambert, said the issue was discovered earlier this year when he wrote “I am meeting an investor next week,” to which, Smart Compose, suggested the follow up question “Do you want to meet him?” even though the investor was a she. Due to the political sensitivities around gender, Google decided to stop guessing gender so it doesn’t get complaints from people down the road.
Google’s Smart Compose uses natural language generation (NLG) to learn how to write sentences. NLG consists of collecting up sentences and studying patterns between words. When it comes to sectors such as finance and technology, Smart Compose learned that it’s usually men in those fields so it began suggesting “he” or “him”.
According to Lambert, Smart Compose helps on 11% of the messages sent worldwide from Gmail.com. Meanwhile, the gender pronoun ban affects less than 1% of cases where Smart Compose would suggest something, so you’re experience is hardly going to change and you’re less likely to mess up your email.