Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Machine translation: each titan has its Achilles heel

We have already discussed many times about "natural" advantages that machine translation may be upon us, translators made up of mere "flesh and bone". Their lives are finite and decaying against the colossal golem that threatens to take over the industry, and that finally makes us obsolete human.
We become old and dusty VCRs of the future? Do new generations of children cyborg regarded us one day as today's children watch 8-track cartridges? I can almost imagine their expressions bewildered and sad, reflecting unnecessarily, trying to understand what we were, "sacks of meat". A "404 error" flashing in their "mental screens" no conclusive result.
Then, what have we that can sustain us against the dreaded machine? The answer: improvisation, which is the core of our unpredictable nature.
The human ability to extrapolate two pieces of information unattached uniting them, achieving a new possible meaning. Such is the gift of creation, in some sense.
Therefore, that machines can not be poets (or only Dadaist poets in the best of cases).Yes, you can randomize, even making their own mistakes, but never on purpose. They are not programmed to make mistakes, even if they do it once in a while, but only while your code is perfect (from 0.1 to 0.2), and never with a creative purpose "in mind".

Improvisation, connection of separate groups of information to "understand" is, for now, a unique human ability. The machine knows or does not know. And when you don't know, you need a new contribution that includes that consolidated juxtaposition of ideas in a new concept or phrase.
It is like trying to have a philosophical conversation with Alexei or Siri. They may have some quite ingenious answers to predefined questions, but when you ask them something completely realigned, may simply not calculate and respond something coherent. This is where we, humans, are still strong.
Last year in Seoul, a human translators team defeated a machine translation engine with artificial intelligence in a competition organized by the International Association of translators and interpreters (IAPTI), showing that "meat bag" will still we remain firm in the business. How they managed our underdeveloped species achieve that, they wonder? Well, it seems that machine translation was not capable of making sense of the specific combinations of words that had no entry, which gave results a translation without sense where their human counterparts could deduce meaning through the use of imagination and some risks.