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Science

Dyslexic plumber gets a life-changing boost after his friend built an app that texts for him

It uses AI to edit his work emails into "polite, professional-sounding British English."

dyslexia, artificial intelligence, danny richman
via Pixabay

An artist's depiction of artificial intelligence.

There is a lot of mistrust surrounding the implementation of artificial intelligence these days and some of it is justified. There's reason to worry that deep-fake technology will begin to seriously blur the line between fantasy and reality, and people in a wide range of industries are concerned AI could eliminate their jobs.

Artists and writers are also bothered that AI works on reappropriating existing content for which the original creators will never receive compensation.

The World Economic Forum recently announced that AI and automation are causing a huge shake-up in the world labor market. The WEF estimates that the new technology will supplant about 85 million jobs by 2025. However, the news isn’t all bad. It also said that its analysis anticipates the “future tech-driven economy will create 97 million new jobs.”

The topic of AI is complex, but we can all agree that a new story from England shows how AI can certainly be used for the betterment of humanity. It was first covered by Tom Warren of BuzzFeed News.


Danny Richman, 60, developed a friendship with plumber Ben Whittle, 31, a year ago after he came to his home to repair a bathroom leak. Richman, a search engine optimization consultant, became a mentor to Whittle and encouraged him to expand his business, which led to him opening a pool company.

However, Whittle’s professional development was hampered by dyslexia, making it difficult for him to communicate professionally. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes reading and writing a challenge because people with it have difficulty decoding how speech sounds relate to letters and words.

“To start with, I was reading and writing my bits, and then Danny was editing for me,” Whittle told BuzzFeed News. “And then he realized, there’s probably a much quicker way to do this.”

So in just 15 minutes, Richman developed an AI app that could correct Whittle’s writing and turn it into polite, professional-sounding British English. It's based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 artificial intelligence tool.

He described the app’s creation on Twitter.

Since Richman’s tweet went viral he has been approached by countless charities and educators about developing an app that can help people with various language difficulties. He believes that going forward, these apps can be made available free of charge for those who need assistance.

“My hope is that this can be achieved at zero cost to users and without the need for any form of commercialization,” he told Buzzfeed News.

Tabitha Goldstaub, a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of CognitionX, a market intelligence platform for AI, has dyslexia and relies on AI-enabled apps such as SwiftKey and Grammarly to help her communicate. So she understands firsthand the benefits that come with AI and the potential drawbacks. She was overjoyed by Richman's creation.

Goldstaub believes that we can have the best of both worlds if we make sure that humans are part of the implementation process. “I only ever advocate for AI systems in the workplace if they have a Human in the Loop approach. HITL is a way to build AI systems that makes sure there is always a person with a key role somewhere in the decision-making process,” she told The Guardian.

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The best and brightest come together to tackle society’s toughest challenges

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Since its launch, CZI has awarded around $4.8 billion in grants to organizations whose work aligns with these values.

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This article originally appeared on 08.09.18


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A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

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In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

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