Philipp Lenssen points out that when you search Google for “she invented,” on the results page you are asked “Did you mean ‘he invented’?”
There has been lots of discussion on this seemingly misogynistic “correction” that Google provides, and those familiar with my research know that I’m a proponent of critiquing algorithm and system design for potential bias. But in this case I think it is more a function of the n-gram table of adjacent word frequencies. A user searches for “x y”, Google determines that “x z” is related, and appears more commonly in “natural language”, so it suggests that search as well.
There clearly is a broader cultural problem that “he invented” appears more often in language, but in this case it might just be Google’s algorithm reflecting a pre-existing cultural bias, and not creating it themselves. Now, of course, Google could decide to intervene and NOT allow this suggestion to appear – or to force similar suggestions in the reverse…..plenty of ways for them to “not be evil” here…..
Good related background reading:
- Friedman, B. & Nissenbaum, H. (1996). Bias in computer systems (PDF). ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 14(3), 330-347.
- Introna, L. & Nissenbaum, H. (2000). Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters (PDF). The Information Society, 16(3), 169-185.