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New "The Great A.I. Awakening" — quite long read at the NYT
...on AI generally and Google Translate as a vehicle for advancing that tech. Since I'm supposed to be readying myself for another day's productive toil at BDS, I haven't been able to do more than skim, but it looks interesting:
Late one Friday night in early November, Jun Rekimoto, a distinguished professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Tokyo, was online preparing for a lecture when he began to notice some peculiar posts rolling in on social media. Apparently Google Translate, the company’s popular machine-translation service, had suddenly and almost immeasurably improved. Rekimoto visited Translate himself and began to experiment with it. He was astonished. He had to go to sleep, but Translate refused to relax its grip on his imagination.

The second half of Rekimoto’s post examined the service in the other direction, from Japanese to English. He dashed off his own Japanese interpretation of the opening to Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” then ran that passage back through Google into English. He published this version alongside Hemingway’s original, and proceeded to invite his readers to guess which was the work of a machine.

NO. 1:

Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

NO. 2:

Kilimanjaro is a mountain of 19,710 feet covered with snow and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. The summit of the west is called “Ngaje Ngai” in Masai, the house of God. Near the top of the west there is a dry and frozen dead body of leopard. No one has ever explained what leopard wanted at that altitude.

Even to a native English speaker, the missing article on the leopard is the only real giveaway* that No. 2 was the output of an automaton. Their closeness was a source of wonder to Rekimoto, who was well acquainted with the capabilities of the previous service. Only 24 hours earlier, Google would have translated the same Japanese passage as follows:

Kilimanjaro is 19,710 feet of the mountain covered with snow, and it is said that the highest mountain in Africa. Top of the west, “Ngaje Ngai” in the Maasai language, has been referred to as the house of God. The top close to the west, there is a dry, frozen carcass of a leopard. Whether the leopard had what the demand at that altitude, there is no that nobody explained.
The entire piece will require about twenty minutes, and I daresay it will include infelicities and oversimplifications** that will draw the ire of the tech adept, but I anticipate that it will hold my interest. The whole thing may be found here .


*Well, no. Even were I not familiar with the original, the difference between "what the leopard was seeking" and "what the leopard wanted" betrays the purely utilitarian sensibility of the automaton that produced the latter phrase. Still, the overall fidelity is certainly impressive, particularly when viewed against last month's output.

**As when, for example, the author invites us to contemplate a time traveler demonstrating Google Maps on an iPhone to a bemused denizen of 1970 (how this is carried off without GPS or a network of helpful cellular relays is left for the reader to imagine), and notes that the device we take for granted is "a tiny computer more powerful than that onboard the Apollo shuttle"—yeah, well, the average digital watch (do people wear those anymore?) is more powerful than anything carried by the Apollo family of manned spacecraft.
New Another tip-off
Close to the western summit ...


Near the top of the west ...

New That's the one that twigged me.
"The dried and frozen carcass" was also a tell.
Welcome to Rivendell, Mr. Anderson.
New After more pondering ...
Hemingway was famous for his simplicity. That's why the utilitarian phrasing doesn't stand out.

New Yeah, I don't think you'd want
...to try it with Proust—although I fear the day is not far off when the bean counters at some parsimonious publishers will decide to save a nickel a copy by employing these technologies in lieu of live translators. Shortly after this happens, the bean counters will themselves be replaced by automated subroutines.

You wouldn't want to rely on the existing state of the art in realms in which nuance is critical, such as poetry or diplomacy, but for routine business correspondence, say, it might prove quite adequate. And lord knows, for instruction manuals Google Translate could scarcely do worse* than Asian tech writers.

Some while back I read a piece, possibly at the Atlantic website, in which the author related chatting up Brin or Page at some event years ago, fairly early on in Google's march to world domination, and being told that the search engine was preliminary to the ultimate project: "We're building an AI." I remain persuaded that we are going to see some jaw-dropping advances in the field over the next five years, and also that with every advance the goalposts will be moved further into the parking lot.


*I jest. The problem with, say, the multilingual operating instructions that come with a modern television set lies far deeper than the clumsy handling of a foreign tongue.
New Re: diplomacy. There are no guarantees even if human beings are involved.
Remember, "Communism will outlast Capitalism" === "We will bury you"?

Social Media is for Sociopaths.
New Cold War nuance
The sense of that aphorism, of course, was willfully misconstrued at the time by people who knew better, and the spurious sense attributed to the utterance eagerly lapped up by a populace primed to believe the worst of a reformist on whom the domestic press had draped the mantle of Stalin. It is a great shame that K's handlers couldn't have dismissed it as "locker room talk."

(and who among us has not had occasion to feel, in President Carter's immortal [translated] words, "great lust for the Polish people?" Why I remember this one girl...but I digress.)


New "locker room talk." LOVE IT!

Social Media is for Sociopaths.
     "The Great A.I. Awakening" — quite long read at the NYT - (rcareaga) - (7)
         Another tip-off - (drook) - (1)
             That's the one that twigged me. - (malraux)
         After more pondering ... - (drook) - (4)
             Yeah, I don't think you'd want - (rcareaga) - (3)
                 Re: diplomacy. There are no guarantees even if human beings are involved. - (mmoffitt) - (2)
                     Cold War nuance - (rcareaga) - (1)
                         "locker room talk." LOVE IT! -NT - (mmoffitt)

Oh, for the love of cheese.
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