Microsoft is using an artificial intelligence to better integrate ‘inclusive language’ in Microsoft Word. Or at least, they will be. For now this is just an idea being thrown around for the upcoming ‘Ideas in Word,’ an AI powered tool that is designed to improve user’s writing.
John Roach explained the design of the AI project as follows: “Beginning this fall, people working in Word Online who are in search of inspiration and insights on how to make their document better will be able to receive intelligent suggestions with Ideas – a feature that is already making people more productive in PowerPoint and Excel. The Ideas in Word feature uses machine learning and intelligence from Microsoft Graph to help users write polished prose, create more professional documents and efficiently navigate documents created by others.”
This of course doesn’t specify anything about being politically correct, but Roach mentioned that the AI would also give suggestions on how to make any piece of writing more inclusive. The example he provided was the AI suggesting the replacement of ‘policeman’ with ‘police officer.’ Of course, the tool will be able to do far more than that. It will also make suggestions for acronyms and even provide a rough estimate of how long a document would take to read, on average.
This type of system will be up against other programs like Grammarly and Google’ grammar suggestions for Google Docs, so it makes sense that the Ideas in Word system will have to provide something that the others just can’t do. And naturally, the inclusion of an artificial intelligence is what will make those extra options a reality.
With an artificial intelligence, Microsoft hopes to make writing easier for everyone, even those that aren’t necessarily great at it. With an AI helping run things, it could make documents more navigable or even create a table of contents for it without any assistance from the user. Both of these are features that nearly any writer would probably like to have. As said previously, none of this has actually happened yet, but considering its many benefits it is very likely that Microsoft will go through with the concept, once again raising some interesting questions about the usefulness of artificial intelligence in many different scenarios.
After all, for an artificial intelligence to improve the writing of users it has to better understand human language. While this is as easy as programming it with the rules of any one language, it will probably have to develop systems to better understand parts of human communication that aren’t so rigid and bound up in language textbooks. How programmers will go about doing that is unknown, but it will clearly rely on AI being able to learn of its own accord. That’s not much different from the way some of our AI systems work now, but at it is still something to ponder as we look forward to the ability to write better pieces with less effort.
Sources: Fox News, Fast Company, BBC