A 630-Billion-Word Internet Analysis Shows ‘People’ Is Interpreted as ‘Men’

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Do we unconsciously gender words? New research from NYU suggest that we do. It will be interesting to see how this research developes. Via Scientific American:

What do you visualize when you read words such as “person,” “people” or “individual”? Chances are the image in your head is of a man, not a woman. If so, you are not alone. A massive linguistic analysis of more than half a trillion words concludes that we assign gender to words that, by their very definition, should be gender-neutral.

Another important implication has to do with machine learning. Word embeddings, the same linguistic tools employed in the new study, are used to train artificial intelligence programs. That means any biases that exist in a source text will be picked up by such an AI algorithm. Amazon faced this problem when it came to light that an algorithm the company hoped to use to screen job applicants was automatically excluding women from technical roles—an important reminder that AI is only as smart, or as biased, as the humans who train it.

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