Welcome to another ethical analysis!
I think this summary feature is an incredible innovation because it provides a solution that hasn’t been readily available prior to this. Ethically speaking, the time and cognitive energy saved from ML-generated summaries can be put to use in solving larger problems. From a Utilitarian perspective, it minimizes the potential suffering of any confusion of frustration that would have gone into creating a summary, which is a definite win from that angle.
The ethical implications for this in academia are a bit dicey. Students can paste anything and get a summary generated, since the attention mechanism added to the recurrent architecture can process longer documents like books with similar accuracy as shorter-form writing. Some professors may consider this cheating depending on the use, and institutions will need to decide the conditions under which it is okay for students to use this feature. It bears great similarities to SparkNotes and other online summary sites, but this could go beyond existing work and be used on course materials or a professor's own writing. It may be necessary for Google to be able to disclose the presence of a summary in a document, otherwise it may constitute plagiarism in some cases.
The authors do not state if this feature will be available for languages other than English. If it is the case that it only works for one language, there is still much training to be done to help this feature reach non-English speakers.
Here's where this gets personal. As a writer and editor, this feature has the potential to replace part of my job! I am sometimes tasked with condensing content to hit certain word or character counts, and the summarizing feature does exactly that, minus the exact character or word counts. However, I could see that becoming an ability of this feature in the future. If someone were to have a job that solely consisted of summarizing, their job may be endangered. However, other adaptive writing software, like Grammarly, has yet to put copy editors out of business, so I'm not holding my breath!
I want to conclude with my main concern, which Louis emphasizes in his video: Attention. The aspects of a written work that the model is trained to pull out as a summary is a singular output, a singular summary. If you've ever disagreed with someone's synopsis of a book or movie, this is exactly the problem we run into. While getting my philosophy degree, I read many ridiculously long papers where, if you missed one critical sentence, you could misinterpret the entire theory. I worry that much of the nuance of written works has the potential to be stripped away by this feature, and we will lose the value of a summarizer's perspective (one could even say their bias) as an essential element of written language. The convenience of this feature is a gift, but it is not yet a perfect replacement and should not be overused, especially in a world that needs representation from diverse perspectives.
- AI Ethics segment by Lauren Keegan