I’ve been thinking a lot lately about machine translation. As a rather fresh and relatively new-in-the-game translator, I can’t help but flinch in horror whenever someone posts a new “translation solution” video or article.
I don’t want to be replaced by a machine. My art and science (as I can call it now, as I’ve literally been a professional translator for years now) is a highly meticulous, sometimes even poetic enterprise. The very idea that a machine might one day replace my heartfelt efforts to convey one language and culture into another does not only leave me with a feeling of impotence –
I makes me dread the fate of humanity.
If a machine could translate as well as a human do, it must then follow that it can truly, or at least apparently, relate to human beings, rather than just crunch up algorithms into intelligible language.
The year is 2011. Whenever I try using google translate, it comes off as ungrammatical, often nonsensical – of course, as a human, and as a translator used to plying out the true meaning hidden deep in a pile of gibberish, I can understand “the gist” of GT outputs… But that’s only because I’m human, and a translator – and even I find myself sometimes flabbergasted at what the hell happened to the source text after Google had tortured it into a blasphemous blind idiot translation.
But what if machines COULD translate, could relate to humans well enough to really sympathize with them – be capable of understanding their intentions by doing the research and identifying the true intent of the source, and beautifully lay it out in perfect-grammar target.
It’s not just translators who become redundant – it’s Humans. If a machine can be creative and sympathetic enough to truly translate, as a professional, skilled human translator could – then machines can also be scientists, bloggers, poets, authors, inventors
Our machines will replace us, they shall become a race of former robots, now sentient beings, far surpassing us in intelligence.
It’s not so much my financial future I worry about, but whether an occupation in the future exists for me at all, where I could do better than a machine, or anyone could.