White House Report: Much Development Needed Before AI Peaks

It’s come straight from the White House, folks – Artificial Intelligence has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential. And the idea that machines will replace human translators in the near future? Unlikely.

The U.S. Government released a report on the technology earlier this month that specifically touches on translation AI in a few instances. A footnote states early predictions of translation technology were “wildly optimistic.”

The report is on AI in general and posits that it will be some time before the technology reaches the intelligence level of humans.

The paper was authored by the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. It gives an overview of work the U.S. is doing to make sure it keeps up on the most recent advances in AI and outlines how the technology might look in the future. One of the main points the paper emphasizes is the difference between “narrow” and “general” AI.

“Narrow” AI, the paper explains, is the technology’s ability to perform tasks in “specific application areas,” with language translation being one of them. “General” AI is a computers’ ability to perform tasks at the same level or better than humans.

“A broad chasm seems to separate today’s Narrow AI from the much more difficult challenge of General AI. Attempts to reach General AI by expanding Narrow AI solutions have made little headway over many decades of research,” the paper reads.

“The current consensus of the private-sector expert community, with which the NSTC Committee on Technology concurs, is that General AI will not be achieved for at least decades.”

However, with regards to Narrow AI, the report also admits there has been remarkable progress made.

The paper identifies benefits AI could bring as well as concerns surrounding the possible safety hazards that come with it. In a hypothetical example, the paper asks how a robotic cleaning maid could be programmed so that it wouldn’t inadvertently stick a mop into an electrical outlet.

More of What We Already Know

In many ways, the report highlights what’s already been known about AI and Machine Translation (MT). Can machine learning in the translation industry be a helpful tool? Yes. Does it eliminate the need for human translators? No. MT falls into the category of Narrow AI and it is far from reaching its full potential.

With that said, we’ve talked about the assets MT can bring when coupled with humans working together on a translation project. Knowing when to use AI in translation depends on a number of things, including the scope of a project, the audience targeted and deadline requirements.

Although its capabilities will take some time to peak, the report does state that “in the next 20 years, it is to be expected that machines will reach and exceed human performance on more and more tasks.”

No Panacea

It’s likely we won’t see robots eliminate the roll of the human translator for some time. And even though some products are being touted as just as smart as humans, the White House report reiterates the fact that this isn’t the truth.

United Language Group continues to look for the best ways to incorporate translation technology while acknowledging the fact that technological advances do not represent any sort of panacea. At the moment, human translators need to be kept in the equation.

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