Autotype can create hilarious scenarios with misinterpreted language. We’ve all been there—iPhone debacle anyone? But what if autotype took a sinister turn and moved toward thought policing?
Sexism and other forms of discrimination are real, but tech giant Google wants to take fighting this and other work battles to an uneasy level, bordering on thought police. The power of Big Tech to alter elections has frightened many Americans, and now the thought of Big Tech entrenching itself further into our daily lives is troubling.
Google recently announced that its Google Workspace, which includes Google Docs, its popular free word-processing software, will nudge people away from what it deems as potentially sexist language.
While promoting Smart Canvas, Google general manager Javier Soltero, who oversees Google Workspace, said the language prompts will recommend against things like the generic use of “chairman” or “policeman.” Instead, Google will recommend what it deems as gender-neutral alternatives like “chairperson” or “police officer.”
And an updated Google developer style guide calls for “inclusive documentation,” which includes writing things like “Equipment installation takes around 16 person-hours to complete” rather than “Equipment installation takes around 16 man-hours to complete.”
Google’s style guide also stipulates: “Be sensitive to your word choice, especially when aiming for an informal tone.” The guide continues, “Ableist language includes words or phrases such as crazy, insane, blind to or blind eye to, cripple, dumb, and others. Choose alternative words depending on the context.”
It also tells users to “avoid referring to people in divisive ways” and “avoid using socially-charged terms for technical concepts where possible.”
Google says this would include “referring to people as native speakers or non-native speakers of English” and avoid using terms “such as blacklist, native feature, and first-class citizen, even though these terms might still be widely used.”
Being polite, kind, and respectful to others are certainly noble goals, but Google is treading on thin ice with its nanny-state approach to our thoughts and words. It’s stirring up a hornet’s nest through these developments, which are subjective controls on an American people who cherish our freedom of speech.