Once upon a time, there was a computer. And the computer grew gradually smarter and smarter, fed by bites of data, slowly at first, and then faster as it learned how to feed itself. Soon it could process more data than any human, could store more information than any human brain. And its speech became refined, if somewhat stilted.
It went out into the world where humans worked, and borrowed what they had produced, compared and analyzed and tracked it against itself. It snaked into personal messages, business communiqués, literary works, poems and weather reports and medical histories. It did not care for the individual; only for the averages within domains.
What it came up with was a beautiful thing to behold, if you were into that sort of thing. An artificial brain capable of spitting out results more quickly than any humanoid ever could. Its power was harnessed and sold, and investors clapped.
It’s the story of how the world ended or how we got better translation technology — you decide. For our issue on emerging technology, we consider such scenarios, studying the newest commercial developments in machine translation as well as the philosophical possibilities of artificial intelligence. We look at APIs, open source projects and a few specific tools.
It’s an exciting time to be part of translation technology, but maybe I’m biased because it makes for such good fiction, when you blur the details a little.