The Future of Translation

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Ray Kurzweil is a pioneer in technological fields including speech recognition and text-to-speech synthesis. He also believes one day soon, computers will develop their own consciousness and superhuman levels of intelligence. In fact, in an interview with the Huffington Post, Kurzweil told industry guru Nataly Kelly that he believes computers will be able to translate as well as human translators by 2029.

At the moment, it’s obvious that machine translation has a way to go. But it’s improving all the time,and what if Kurzweil is right? Is there a future for translators in the brave new world he predicts? Fortunately, the answer is yes.  Kurzweil says that:

“These technologies don’t replace whole fields, in general. What they do is replace a certain way of applying them.”

The translation field is always changing, but translation companies that are willing to change with the times should have no problem thriving, according to Kurzweil:

“These tools are going to increase our ability to use, create, understand, manipulate and translate language. The idea is not to resist the tools, but to use them to do more.”

Kurzweil goes on to compare the advances he expects to occur in machine translation to the invention of the electronic synthesizer in the music industry- instead of replacing real live musicians, the synthesizer became another tool in the musicians’ arsenal.

Similarly, Kurzweil understands that translation is an art form, calling it

“the most high-level type of work one can imagine. The epitome of human intelligence is our ability to command language. That is why Alan Turing based the Turing test, which is a test of whether or not a computer is operating at human levels, on a command of language.”

We can live with that!