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.
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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.
He says, "The analogy that we can use is Kodak and digital photography - Kodak didn't see it coming … and before that, Corona typewriters and word processors
"Two years ago, translation technology would produce something that at best would let you get a general understanding of what the text was about – but in most cases, a professional translator would tell you they would rather just translate from scratch because they couldn't understand a lot of the output.
“Today with neural machines, for a growing amount of material and categories, they only need to make a very small number of changes to what a machine outputs, in order to get a human-quality translation.”