Rage against the machine?


Some years ago a translation theory professor advised us against providing clients translations in a digital format. That same professor also laughed about the idea of exchanging points of view with the author of a work before or during the translation activity… because the author might not be among us anymore.

Well, I can tell you that I have been trusting my Bauchgefühl so I have always provided clients with digital files – and I am still around.

It is no secret that a tendency causes reaction when it first starts to show off. That’s simply what it takes to be new. And there will always be people for whom translation is a monologue before the Classics, and who try to bypass technologies.

On the opposite end of the rope there’s the market approach. In a self-motivated, pro-active way, industry interprets the market flows, and draws up strategies that promise to ease its pains. Along the way, it also creates needs for the crowds. Flesh and blood actors of the process are not globally taken into account, which obviously leaves a bad taste in their mouth. The ultimate bile is when market not only ignores them but tries to replace them.

Since the Industrial Revolution, History have taught us that machines and computers are fast learners. So fast that last week Steven Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could end mankind. In his sight, the ability of the software to learn and guess the words he absolutely needs to communicate is becoming spooky.

Yes, I know – literature has long offered us examples of how messers become the messies…

Specifically in the field of translation, this has developed into a never-ending subject matter; at a certain point there was the risk of machine translation. Patent Translator’s Blog recently defended that the activity of human translation, among others, will soon be extinct.

As part of a generation of professionals whose career launched with the advent of IT, it is hard for me to conceive my work with no input of artificial intelligence. We have learned how to make the best out of it, and we have grown our skills based on it.
I have tried not to develop any kind of prejudices against technologies, since that would only distract me from my focus. Instead, I have consciously kept posted, updated and upgraded along the way.

Yes, maybe I am an easy target for the industry. In this particular case, however, I am still not convinced that the solution is to swim against the tide.