Will machines ever truly eliminate the need for human translators and interpreters?

Human vs. Robot

Photo credit: Human vs. Robot by Franz Steiner

“Machines will not rival human translators and interpreters until they gain consciousness and social intelligence equal to that of humans. Language can only truly be understood in the context of culture. Culture is a social function and so can only exist among conscious creatures. Therefore, translation of nuanced language involving critical information and subtle cultural entanglements must be left to those who actually understand. Machines will not rival human translators and interpreters until they gain consciousness and social intelligence equal to that of humans.” – Ryan Foley, Manager, Training and Assessments, MasterWord Services, Inc.

“Yes. Because according to Moore’s Law, computer processing power will increase indefinitely. The recent breakthrough in quantum processing suggests that it is only a matter of time for the development of new supercomputers. This will represent a “quantum leap” in the ability of machines to mimic the processing powers of the human mind. Thankfully, however, there should always be translation work for our generation (and indeed for the next in the provision of language services to the computer and robotics industry)!” – Sabina Metcalf, Senior Advisor, European Operations, MasterWord Services, Inc..

The bottom line is that in theory anything is possible. Language is not, however, a simple puzzle. It is a complex and ever-changing compilation of tones, sounds, characters, gestures, expressions, and grammatical features that hold literal and abstract meaning. As the situation stands right now, the work interpreters and translators perform is so complex, machines cannot come close to competing.

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