The latest scare story around the rise of robots is that within 120 years all human jobs will be automated. If that study from Oxford University is to be believed, we're just 3 to 4 generations away from perpetual holiday. The report goes on to predict when AI will outperform humans and -- more interestingly -- how. Some aspects will be of genuine concern to certain industries: AI will be a better driver than human heavy goods vehicles drivers by 2027, AI will write better novels than we can by 2049, and, closest to today, AI will be better at translation by 2024. AI has the potential to significantly reshape the translation sector, as it's doing to many other industries already.
As part of January's The Future of Translation series, we delved into our predictions on what was next for the Language Services Industry in 2020 and beyond. One of the most exciting developments that we mentioned in our series was the evolution of Artificial Intelligence Translation. But the question remains: Why should you care? What exactly does the evolution, and adoption, of AI-powered translation mean for your business? So, without further ado… Let's get into it!
China's top voice recognition firm iFlytek has penned a deal with China International Publishing Group to build a national artificial intelligence translator and keep up with rising demand. AI translations can lift the burden off human translators, who can barely keep up with requirements at government departments and companies looking to operate overseas, state-owned news agency Xinhua cited CIPG Deputy Director Fang Zhenghui as saying. The machine can translate Chinese into 33 languages, added Liu Qingfeng, president of Anhui-based iFlytek, saying it uses cutting-edge technology to improve the accuracy of machine translations. "When translation machines fail to recognize some special nouns or specific terms, human translators can monitor the process and help to polish the text," he said. "The machine [can] learn from these mistakes and improve its work next time."
Translating between human languages is something which artificial intelligence – specifically machine learning – has proven to be very competent at. So much so that the CEO of one of the world's largest employers of human translators has warned that many of them should be facing up to the stark reality of losing their job to a machine. One Hour Translation CEO Ofer Shoshan told me that within one to three years, neural machine technology (NMT) translators will carry out more than 50% of the work handled by the $40 billion market. His words stand in stark contrast to the often-repeated maxim that, in the near future at least, artificial intelligence will primarily augment, rather than replace, human professionals. Shoshan told me that the quality of machine translation has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point where half a million human translators and 21,000 agencies could soon find themselves out of work.