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CHAT: Machine translation (was Re: translation)

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Monday, June 19, 2006, 12:25
On 6/19/06, Roger Mills <rfmilly@...> wrote:
> Machine Translation....well what did we expect anyway?
Not much. MT has gotten cheaper and more widely available, but the quality hasn't really improved much in the last 30 years. Sometime in the 80s or thereabouts the AI community mostly stopped working on what we might think of as "real" or "pure" AI - by which I mean, the attempt to produce software that can think (or, as some would say, give the impression of thinking, but I don't want to get into the fallacy of the philosophical zombie on here) like a human. After decades of funding, that sort of research had consistently yielded not much in the way of profitable applications, and consequently said funding dried up. As a result the AI community shifted its focus to narrowly-scoped, rules-based "expert systems" instead. Such systems led to commercial success. The ubiquitous "driving directions" software provided by mapping sites and GPS devices is a good example. In more specialized domains expert systems are everywhere; there is software that can do a preliminary medical diagnosis, or help police and military modify an attack plan on the fly based on enemy activity. Google's indexing engine is essentially an expert system for classifying documents - although it's also another example where software that could actually *understand* what it was reading would do a better job. Unfortunately, translation doesn't lend itself well to the expert-system approach. My personal belief is that reliable MT is tantamount to real AI - that the two problems are, in fact, actually the same problem. There is a widespread belief (held by many in the AI community itself, not just by laymen) that MT is somehow not only more tractable than real AI, but orders of magnitude simpler. But IMHO, that's just another example of humans underestimating the difficulty of something that we happen to be optimized for. -- Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>


Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>