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Kurzweil: Human-Level Machine Translation By 2029

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the still-no-klingon dept.

AI 186

An anonymous reader writes "In a video interview with the Huffington Post, noted futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that machines will reach human levels of translation quality by the year 2029. However, he was quick to highlight that even major technological advances in translation do not replace the need for language learning. 'Even the best translators can't fully translate literature,' he pointed out. 'Some things just can't be expressed in another language.'"

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The vodka is good... (3, Funny)

markian (745705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520556)

...but the meat is rotten.

Re:The vodka is good... (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521888)

but does it understand the binary language of moisture vaporators?

Re:The vodka is good... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522298)

Well, it programmed binary load lifters, which are very similar to your vaporators in most respects.

Hello computer (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520564)

Hello computer

Re:Hello computer (2)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521352)

*hands Joe a mouse*

Re:Hello computer (2)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521414)

How quaint !

Re:Hello computer (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36523006)

Can I sell you some transparent aluminum?

Re:Hello computer (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521794)

Not mouse, MOOSE!

Ray Kurzweil's predictions (5, Insightful)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520588)

You know, I'm a big sucker for futurism as anybody, but Ray Kurzweil makes a lot of predictions about future tech every couple of years, most of which never pan out anywhere near what he predicted. And each time Kurzweil makes a prediction, many of which are just way too optimistic or just play goofy in retrospect, the tech-minded people like slashdot lap it up.

Can't tech futurists find a better spokesman than Ray Kurzweil?

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (2)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520700)

Aren't we already supposed to have a working computer model of the human brain?

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520718)

Can't tech futurists find a better spokesman than Ray Kurzweil?

I predict that in 2029 computers will surpass Ray Kurzweil in making overly optimistic predictions. :-)

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521140)

I predict that in 2029 computers will surpass Ray Kurzweil in making overly optimistic predictions. :-)

I think it's almost time to start adding Ray Kurzweil to my annual Dead Pool list.

It must be so frustrating to be so close to immortality that you can taste it but to know you'll never achieve it.

Sorry Ray, but old is old. You could have saved yourself a ton of money and effort and just spent a little time practicing Tai Chi and you'd probably have lived longer than you will.

As arrogant as Kurzweil strikes me, I've got to admit that there's something a little endearing and very sad about a little man shaking his fist at the universe saying "I'm going to beat your" yet knowing that he won't beat the system.

Personally, I decided that by retiring at 50 and practicing the aforementioned Chinese martial art although I may not live longer, I'll enjoy more of the time I have. Like the guy plummeting from the top of the proverbial skyscraper: "so far, so good". Plus, I could kick Ray Kurzweil's ass if he ever were to try to take my kidneys for transplant.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521818)

If I knew dead pool, I would definitively put Kurzweil on his list.

Just sayin'.

No man ahs done so little and leveraged is so much. What a boring has been.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522844)

..and just spent a little time practicing Tai Chi and you'd probably have lived longer than you will.

Maybe so, but that extra time would have been spent doing, ya know, Tai Chi, so it may not be a net positive.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520798)

Yeah, but for years, machine translation was stuck on alta vista's dreary babelfish... which was basically a one to one dictionary translation (often without using the right definition) for hilariously bad translations.

A couple of years ago, Google translate gave a big bump to the whole concept using UN documents (which are usually in 5+ languagels) as a reliable translation. It has a lot of hiccups, but translations often went from unreadable babble babel to something that often ranged from a decent translation to something you can figure out if you put some thought into it.

I have done a lot of work with translators and even they get things wrong, so I think Kurzweil is actually off in a way. IMO, by the end of this decade, machine translation will often be good enough (really, google translate needs to start looking for more context cues and I can't think that will be 19 years away) but there will never be perfection because language itself isn't perfect. Look at humans communicating sometime, it's not a strict protocol, can misunderstandings happen all the time between people. But when a machine gets it wrong, people will point to it as bad, instead of the nature of language itself.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521082)

I agree. Google Translate works great, especially between Romance and Germanic languages. The Chinese to English has some hiccups but it works well enough to be functional. I don't think I've had to use it with any other languages, but I would expect similar functionality.

Will we ever have Douglas Adam's Babel Fish? I'm sure we'll get something close enough such as a Google Translate realtime Android app or something of the sort - it would input what's being said through your phone's microphone and then output a translation to your headphones. Vonnegut had a similar device in his novel Galapagos. Like I've said about Kurzweil many times before: the sci-fi authors know as much.

Re:More than machine translation... (2)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521226)

...we need reliable voice recognition and automatic transcription. Google is also working on it, but

Smartphones need a better input device than a tiny QWERTY keyboard

Re:More than machine translation... (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521244)

Sorry, hit the button without proofreading...

Previous post should read: "Google is also working on it, but it's still far from reliable"

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521468)

Google translate is actually really lousy at certain disparate languages though. For instance, for Japanese to English, here's a cheesy pick-up line:
  (Hey girl, want to get some tea?)
It translates this as:
Hey, girl not tea?
And "" ("Do not enter") is rendered as "Standing prohibition input"...

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521688)

It depends how much time we waste with phantom terrorists.

We wasted an entire DECADE on a false crusade with a disastrously mismanaged run against Osama. "Let's go raid Afghanistan! Where has he been for four years? Pakistan!"

Notice how the media posted five stories then shut up?

X trillion dollars later we're whining about budget crises.

If we had spent that time and money on tech, we'd BE in Kurzweils's land.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521832)

Ironically, those wars have put a lot of money into translation applications.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (2)

santiago (42242) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521778)

A couple of years ago, Google translate gave a big bump to the whole concept using UN documents (which are usually in 5+ languagels) as a reliable translation. It has a lot of hiccups, but translations often went from unreadable babble babel to something that often ranged from a decent translation to something you can figure out if you put some thought into it.

Agreed. For me, the turning point was about two years ago when I was reading a report of a convention in Poland. It took me about halfway down the page to realize that it was actually a link to an automatically-Google-translated version of an original in Polish, as opposed to something written in English by a non-native speaker of English who occasionally used some slightly odd phrasing. It's definitely not perfect, but it's gotten really, really good.

Your post translated and back again on Google (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521960)

Yeah Google translate isn't THAT good at this stage. Here's what it did to your post. My favourite mistranslation: was in Russian. "I did a lot of work with translators and even they get it wrong, so I think Kurzweil is actually a way" can be taken to mean the opposite of "so I think Kurzweil is actually off in a way." which is very misleading. I'd use it cautiously for casual conversation even now, knowing there will be misunderstanding. But I wouldn't dare dream of reliability for anything critical in a decade. It would only need to tranlsate "Well we don't want war" to "We want war" once to kill millions.

Here is your post, translated English -> French -> English

Yeah, but for years, machine translation was blocked on Alta Vista babelfish gloomy ... which was essentially a one to one translation of the dictionary (often without the help of the definition of right) to hilariously bad translations.

A couple of years, Google translate gave a big bump in the whole concept of using United Nations documents (which are usually 5 + languagels) as a faithful translation. It has many failures, but translations of Babel Babble past often unreadable for something that often range from decent translation of something that you can see if you put some thought into it.

I did a lot of work with translators and even they make mistakes, so I think Kurzweil is really a way out. IMO, by the end of this decade, machine translation will often be good enough (really, Google Translate should start looking for context clues and I do not think it will be 19 years away) but n 'there will ever be perfect because the language is not perfect. Watch humans communicate sometimes, it's not a strict protocol, misunderstandings can occur any time between people. But when a machine is wrong, people will point to it as evil, instead of the very nature of language.

Here is your post, translated English -> Chinese -> English

Yes, but over the years, machine translation is boring to stay in Alta Vista's Babelfish platform ... which is basically a one to one translation dictionary (usually not the right to use the definition of) the cheerful bad translation.

A couple years ago, Google translation of a big jolt to the whole concept of using United Nations documents (which is usually 5 + languagels) as a reliable translation. It has a lot of hiccups, but the translation is often unreadable babble from Babel things, often translated from a decent range of things you can calculate, if you want to go some.

I've done a lot of work, even their translation wrong, so I think Kuziweier actually way off. Haishizuzhi, by the end of this decade, machine translation is often not good enough (really, Google translator need to start looking for more context clues, I can not believe it will be 19 years later), but there will never be perfect because language itself is not perfect. A look at human communication, it is not a strict protocol, can be misunderstanding between the people what happened. However, when a machine to get it wrong, people will point to it's bad, rather than the nature of language itself.

Here is your post, translated English -> Russian -> English

Yes, but for many years, machine translation is stuck in a dreary Babelfish Alta Vista in ... which was basically the dictionary translation 12:59 (often without proper identification) to have fun bad translations.

A couple of years ago, Google translate gave a big blow to the whole concept of United Nations documents (which are usually 5 + languagels) as a reliable translation. It has a lot of hiccups, but the translations often traveled from unreadable babble babel to what is often varied from decent translation of the fact that you can find out if you put some thought into it.

I did a lot of work with translators and even they get it wrong, so I think Kurzweil is actually a way. IMO, by the end of this decade, machine translation will often be good enough (in fact, Google Translate should start looking for more context cues and I can not think that will be 19 years away), but will never be perfect, because the language itself by itself is not perfect. Look at the people communicate when something is not a strict protocol may misunderstandings happen all the time between people. But when the machine gets it wrong, people will point out how bad, rather than the nature of language itself.

Here is your post, translated English -> German -> English

Yes, but for years, the machine translation has been put on Alta Vista BabelFish triste ... which was basically a 1-1 translation dictionary (often without proper definition) for comic bad translations.

A few years ago, gave Google translate a large bump on the whole concept of UN documents (usually in 5 + languagels) as a reliable translation. It has a lot of hiccups, but translations were often unintelligible babel of chatter, something that often a decent translation of something that you can find out if you made some thought into it.

I've done a lot of work with translators and they get something wrong, so I think Kurzweil is actually off in some way. IMO, until the end of this decade, the machine translation often good enough (really, Google Translate on the search for more context cues and I can not imagine that 19 years have gone), but it will never be perfect, because the language itself is not perfect. Look at the people can communicate at some point, it is not a strict protocol to happen, misunderstandings between people all the time. But if a machine is wrong, people will point to them as bad, but the nature of language itself.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (5, Interesting)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520802)

That's almost exactly what I was going to post. Kurzweil will say anything to get his name in the news. While I'm sure he's a most interesting conversationalist, his predictions usually make me yawn. They're either too obvious or he anticipates they'll take place so far in the future that it amounts to nothing more than a guess. I assume he puts a lot of thought and research into his predictions, but his success rate seems to be no better than that of sci-fi authors.

Take Fahrenheit 451, replace literal book burning with figurative book burning, and what do you have? Society today.

To me, it seems like Kurzweil's always trying to motivate the scientific community to make him immortal. He was on Real Time with Bill Maher the other day and it was hilarious how excited Kurzweil was over the prospect of immortality whereas Bill found the idea humorous. It's like futurism is Kurzweil's religion: he sees it as the path to eternal life as long as he can rally the scientific community behind his ideas before he dies. So in a way, he's trying to create self-fulfilling prophecies rather than truly predict what will happen.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (3, Informative)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521162)

Kurzweil is an eccentric charlatan who is making money off the gullible nerds who can't see through is bs. If anything he is a good manipulator.

People believe what they want to believe because it takes too much energy, talent and hard work to build sufficient knowledge to see through the bullshit. Most people who believe in that futurism have no background in any major scientific discipline related to his predictions what-so-ever. Big companies like Intel thought in the future we would have 10 Ghz processors unfortunately it turned out leakage and heat became a real issue and we get multi-core CPU's, more ghz may come back eventually but it will take new discoveries/processes that will likely take decades to complete. Sometimes technology gets stuck for a long time until solutions are found or something entirely different altogether emerges.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (2)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521310)

That's a good point. The biggest problem with predicting future technologies is predicting the bumps in the road along the way. The Mesopotamians progressed technologically quite quickly, especially for their time. But Europeans during the medieval period progressed quite slow, especially for the time. Not to mention that the bumps in the road won't always be technological. Look at the political opposition that recently occurred with stem cells. Or to go with a more well known, historic example, the conflict between geocentric and heliocentric ideas. Then there's economics to worry about. Progress costs money.

So what is his success rate? (2)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522140)

He claims 86% [singularityhub.com] .

Got any alternate figures, or some sci-fi authors we can compare to?

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36520826)

I predict that Ray Kurzwell will predict something accurate about the future.

I can only hope to be as accurate as he was.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36520880)

Can't tech futurists find a better spokesman than Ray Kurzweil?

FWIW, this AC predicts that technology will prove Kurzweil wrong yet again. Despite all the research into AI, we're no nearer the self-aware machine than we were in the '50s. Even if we do have high level human translation performed by machines in the next 20-30 years, it won't be that technically impressive. It'll be a greasy hack (like most software) utilizing massive parallelism and a monsterous corpus of data.

Noted futurist Joe User predicts... (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520992)

Can't tech futurists find a better spokesman than Ray Kurzweil?

Sure, I've always wanted to be a futurist.

In the future, things will be similar, but different in interesting ways. $5, pay up.

Ok, on a serious note, evolutionary, not revolutionary changes. The average Slashdot style website is a BBS without the modems. We don't get flying cars because that's not where cars need to be, we get faster cars, more fuel efficient cars, more luxury cars and cheaper cars.

Also, in the future, Slashdot.org car analogies will be replaced with .Slashdot flying car analogies.

I dug through all the replies (3, Interesting)

wurp (51446) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521496)

I dug through this thread looking for the surely inevitable reply to ask you for actual evidence to back your claim (that Kurzweil's predictions are often wrong), so I could mod it up.

I can't find one, so I sacrifice my option to mod this thread to call you out. Can you back up your claim?

I certainly don't think Kurzweil has been perfect in his prediction, but I think he does quite a good job. Here is my evidence: http://singularityhub.com/2010/01/19/kurzweil-defends-predictions-for-2009-says-he-is-102-for-108/ [singularityhub.com]

The predictions criticized in that article are definitely not entirely accurate, but they're also pretty damn good for having been made in 1998. We are close to where Kurzweil says we should be.

Please defend with counterexamples :-)

Re:I dug through all the replies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522042)

Two words: The Singularity.

Everything Kurzweil says about this topic is W-R-O-N-G wrong!

Re:I dug through all the replies (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522048)

I dug through this thread looking for the surely inevitable reply to ask you for actual evidence to back your claim (that Kurzweil's predictions are often wrong), so I could mod it up.

I can't find one, so I sacrifice my option to mod this thread to call you out. Can you back up your claim?

I certainly don't think Kurzweil has been perfect in his prediction, but I think he does quite a good job.

From the article you linked to "As you can tell by my gratuitous use of hyperlinks, many of these technologies are in development if not in commercial use. None, however, are so widespread or dominant in their field that we can point to them and say “oh, well that’s obviously come to pass.". I think that sums it up nicely. While some of the things he talks about are now possible, that isn't a difficult prediction since a lot of these things were in early development. Predicting what will be common place and dominant is much harder. e.g. Flying car prototypes exist but the Jetsons future we were all promised isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Have you ever used a text to speech interface deployed by a phone or utility company. Frustrating and I always end up at the human operator because it is unhelpful.

Re:I dug through all the replies (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522276)

I am personally interested in this subject so I've done a lot of reading. There is a lot of criticism of Kurzweil, but on the whole, he's been pretty good in my view. If you're looking for a series of predictions and how close he was, check this page out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions_made_by_Ray_Kurzweil [wikipedia.org]

He's been wrong about some (perhaps some would say many) predictions, but in my view I think he's pretty damn good in determining the general trajectory of the accelerating nature of tech. If you consider exactly what the response would have been in 1990 when according to the wiki article he predicted by 2010 "PCs are capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the Internet." or in the early 2000s "Exoskeletal, robotic leg prostheses allow the paraplegic to walk." his predictions aren't that far off. The progress has been truly amazing and in 1990 would have been nearly unbelievable to most people (esp for something like Watson, I will add)

To be fair, his projection that "Telephone calls are routinely screened by intelligent answering machines that ask questions to determine the call's nature and priority." and "Most books will be read on screens rather than paper." are off... but not as much as the general direction was on, in my opinion.

How much raw computing power needs to be created before it equals a human? We are not that special and the power is literally doubling and doubling and doubling as it has for decades... http://www.conceivablytech.com/8027/products/intel-exascale-computing-arrives-in-2018 [conceivablytech.com]

Re:I dug through all the replies (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522292)

This is nothing other than the usual Kurzweil white-knighting. Going down the list:

1: The author defends the "computers in jewelry and clothing" prediction by pointing to smart phones, health monitors, and hearing aids. The latter two are not reasonably computers (and they existed in only marginally less advanced forms in 1998 already). Smart phones seem like a good defense here, but there is a fundamental problem. We can either say that smart phones are not clothing/jewelry (and therefore ineligible as defense of the prediction), or we can accept that they are -- but then why do the PDAs of 1998 not similarly qualify? The author is unable to produce a single example defending this that was not in some sense extant in 1998. Either the prediction has not been defended (because phones/PDAs are not clothing/jewelry), or it has been defended but is meaningless (because PDAs already existed in 1998 when the prediction was made).
2: The author doesn't even attempt to defend the actual ridiculous part of the claim -- that speech-to-text would account for the majority of text created.
3: The technology to project an image onto the eyes existed in 1998. Kurzweil once again managed the incredible feat of predicting the existence of something which already existed.
4: I don't know enough about chip fabrication to confirm or deny the author's argument. I'll accept it as probably true and say that this is one he got right.
5: Kurzweil predicted telephones capable of translation, and the author supports it by pointing to translation apps for smart phones. To anyone in 1998, the prediction meant a phone that could translate speech to another language -- that was the context in which phones were understood to function. They still do not do this (unless there are some new apps I'm unaware of). You could argue that Kurzweil is technically correct here, but I would say that (a) he is correct not through any foresight or wisdom, but because a wildly different application than what Kurzweil imagined came about and (b) that what we have is only an incremental update on the technologies of 1998 (eg electronic dictionaries) rather than the transformative capabilities Kurzweil predicted.
6: Kurzweil predicted drones would dominate combat, they don't. Author conveniently ignores this.
7: No need for me to comment, since even the author can't muster a defense for this embarrassment.

In short, what we see here is nothing different than what we normally see from Kurzweil-defenders (and Dead Sea Scrolls-defenders, and Psychic Hotline-defenders, &c). Six of the seven predictions are only accurate if you reinterpret the predictions to match reality (or worse, reinterpret reality to match the predictions), which frequently involves either neutering the interesting aspect of the prediction or making the prediction so vague as to be meaningless.

Kurzweil's ridiculous futurism is nothing but a religion for people who not uncommonly pat themselves on the back for being "too rational for religion."

Re:I dug through all the replies (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522628)

I'd mod you up if I had points.

Re:I dug through all the replies (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522418)

1) iPod shuffles, health monitors, hearing aidsthese are all computers that can be worn on the body and fit the prediction.

This reads like a post-hoc rationalization... if someone were given the prediction they would not describe the given items. Predictions aren't validated because you can force things to fit them after the fact, they're valid because they predict and accurately describe what will be in the future before it is actually available.

2) Speech to text is gaining ground. It’s available in hand held devices, and as (semi) popular Apps on smartphones.

The prediction was that a majority of text is done by Speech-to-Text. "Gaining ground" doesn't give you credit.

5) Like speech to text, this technology is gaining ground and has related Apps for smartphones.

Like Speech-to-Text, "it's available" is not the necessary condition. The prediction was "commonly used".

6) Drones are a major part of the war in Afghanistan. Some of their explosive ordinance is the size of birds and contain their own navigating intelligence.

Post-hoc rationalization, and the condition was not "are used" or "major part", it was "dominated".

Seriously, this post is a horrible example of post-hoc rationalization from people who want to believe... like Nostradamus apologists. I mean, Ray Kurzweil believes in "alkalinized water" and dismisses just adding sodium bicarbonate, because the HNO3- molecule won't work as well as the HO- molecule... which entirely disregards that HNO3- interacts with H2O to make H2NO3 and HO-. http://glowing-health.com/alkaline-water/ray-kurzweil-alkaine-water.html [glowing-health.com]

Re:I dug through all the replies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522550)

IAACS and I agree with the parent. We are right on track for Kurzweil's predictions. Why people can't see this I'll never know. I think it's because people exist in their own bubbles of science/technology and rarely connect the dots between fields. I have been following state of the art in AI for quite a while, and his predictions are spot on, if not slightly conservative. If parallel processing continues at its current rate I can EASILY see human level translation by 2025 if not sooner.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521570)

Well, I'd vote myself in however I don't see myself winning anytime in the near future.

"Some things just can't be expressed in another language."

BS on that unless you can't make sense of it and it's up to anyone's guess. Like math, languages have their own set of rules. Some of these rules aren't completed yet but for the most part they are and general assumptions of just knowing is based off of rules that we learned. I guess this person also believes that art cannot be created by a robot. I guess you can say that I'm a futurist but also a realist where things that are "human" are human just because we say they are without a logical point of view.

Re:Ray Kurzweil's predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521902)

Ray Kurzweil seems to think that our current society is going to lead to all these wonderful things, when it clearly produces little more than slavish consumers, violence, waste, and plutocrats. Continuing down this path of individualism, conflict, and self-interest is going to lead to the endangerment or extinction of the human species, not some magical utopian singularity society. He's as much of a futurist as Nostradamus; that is, broken and correct twice a day.

Jacque Fresco is not only a futurist but understands what causes most of the problems in our society and how to fix them. He was designing technology that was far ahead of his time before Kurzweil grew out of his diapers.

Yes we can. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520594)

'Some things just can't be expressed in another language.'

Then it's not a human idea, and probably wasn't expressed in the original language.

Culture notes (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520656)

Then how about this: Some things can't be expressed in another language without having culture notes [wikipedia.org] as long as the original work itself.

Re:Culture notes (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520788)

Exactly--and there are even some things that probably couldn't be translated into another language at all at one point or another in a given language's evolution. Consider that "snow" as a concept to a Tahitian islander in the mid-1700s probably would have been complete nonsense as would "ice"... water is always wet... and what does "frozen" even mean?

If not for the colder parts of our planet, our understanding of chemistry might have lagged for thousands of years.

Re:Culture notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521168)

Consider that "snow" as a concept to a Tahitian islander in the mid-1700s

Sand so cold that it burns. They had sand, they had cold at night.

as would "ice"... water is always wet... and what does "frozen" even mean?

Rocks made out of water like the way smoke is made out of wood.

Re:Culture notes (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521460)

I stand corrected. Thank you.

Re:Yes we can. (1)

rainbow127 (2292500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520686)

'Some things just can't be expressed in another language.'

Then it's not a human idea, and probably wasn't expressed in the original language.

Well, while that may be the case for a lot of technical documents, a lot of puns can't be translated into another language. So the original statement true for that matter.

Re:Yes we can. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522242)

Puns aren't expressed in language.

They're a deliberate breakage of a language.

The irony inherent in the breakage is why they're funny. Cross-coupling ideas that don't belong. Also funny when done right. Funnier when the new idea belongs but you hadn't quite got there yet (comedic timing is about getting there just slightly before it bubbles up from the observer's subconscious to conscious). But then you can explain it in language.

Even if it's a pun. Funny how that works.

Translate this (1)

korgitser (1809018) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520770)

sisu == perseverance (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520978)

"Sisu" sounds a lot like the kind of "perseverance" that U.S. elementary school children hear about every February when teachers drop everything and teach Black history.

Re:Translate this (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521160)

Fortitude.

Re:Translate this (1)

alexhs (877055) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521336)

From your wikipedia link :

Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is sisu

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different

Therefore, sisu=insanity, right ?

Re:Yes we can. (1)

isj (453011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520878)

Italian does not differentiate between mitts and mittens - I guess there has never been the need.

Re:Yes we can. (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521656)

Serendipity is a famous English example: the concept of finding something when looking for something else. For instance you might be looking down the back of the sofa for the TV remote, fail to find it (it's actually under the sofa) but you do find a £2 coin while you're there.

I disagree with the quoted point that some things are expressible in one language but not in another, but there are some ideas that have a single word in one language but not in another. As another example take Schadenfreude; I could explain what it means to another anglophone, but we had to borrow the word because we didn't have a direct translation.

Re:Yes we can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521968)

Some things, which are easy to express in one language, require a long explanation to express accurately in another language. To take a somewhat artificial example, if I want to translate "1/3" from the "language" of rational fractions to that of decimals, I need to write it as "0.333333333...".

Re:Yes we can. (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522876)

Then it's not a human idea, and probably wasn't expressed in the original language.

How did you come to this conclusion? Languages have grown, changed and splintered over time often as a direct result of growing, changing and splintering human ideas. If anything I would think ideas would be the hardest thing to express correctly across different languages.

Who pays Kurzweil for these "predictions"? (2)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520630)

I can pull stuff out of my ass too, and I'd like to get paid for it.

Re:Who pays Kurzweil for these "predictions"? (1)

city (1189205) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521210)

His classes are like $20,000 for tuition. Or here http://singularityu.org/programs/executive-programs/ [singularityu.org] the Executive courses are $12,000 for a 7 day course. I'm not sure Kmdrtako Academy can charge that.

I predict... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520642)

He's full of bullsh*t. Watson proved that machine learning is possible and all that is needed is enough processing power / memory.

If you get to a place where you can associate every word sequence in a language to a correspondent word sequence in another, then we'll have almost perfect translators.

We'll be doing full translations a lot sooner. I predict this, so GIVE ME A SLASHDOT ARTICLE PLEASE! :)

Re:I predict... (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520714)

> We'll be doing full translations a lot sooner [than 2029].

Then we'll have it by 2029, won't we? Which is what he said.

Re:I predict... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520748)

"According to Kurzweil, machines will reach human levels of translation quality by the year 2029."

That's from the article, by the way.

I say, it'll happen way sooner. Not by 2029, I'd say that in 10 years we'll get there.

Re:I predict... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36520964)

I agree but that would mean that we would have solved the AI problem by then. We cannot achieve full language translation without true AI in my opinion.

Re:I predict... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521042)

well, "true AI" is relative. If you have enough computing to support a complex combination of sequences of words, sequences of sequences of words (etc), the current AI is enough. You just need enough processing and storage to be able to distinguish patterns within patterns within patterns.

That's my opinion obviously, but great steps have been made in this area lately, and I strongly believe in what I'm saying :)

Re:I predict... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36520864)

There are idiosyncrasies in any given language that cannot be directly translated, period. They can be explained (in many words) but not translated. Having said that, I believe that Kurzweil is being very cautious in this particular prediction.

Re:I predict... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521940)

If you know the explanation, the machine will know it too. That's not the limitation, the biggest problem is the same expression used in different contexts. Markov models and neural networks can only get you so far if you can't analyse everything. That's why I say that what we miss is power

Re:I predict... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520882)

If you get to a place where you can associate every word sequence in a language to a correspondent word sequence in another, then we'll have almost perfect translators.

"You may be a cunning linguist, but I'm a master debater!"

Re:I predict... (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521134)

I predict that a tall, dark stranger will tell you that you know nothing about translation.

Re:I predict... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522334)

Watson is a semantic search engine. Full machine translation is FAR more difficult than that. It's so difficult that there are only a few really good human translators in the world. I personally think that full machine translation equivalent to a good professional translator will require *actual* AI, which is still far in the future. Most people have a very simplistic view of what is involved in machine translation. I have no such illusions for one good reason: I've actually worked in the field.

Predict this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36520712)

Why is anybody listening to his opinion exactly?
Have you seen BLIO? I seem to remember him predicting that it would NOT be a piece of sh*t. But he was wrong.

Ray Kurzweil is an authority on nothing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36520726)

Wow! Someone who's predictions are always wrong (and are obviously wrong to anyone who knows anything about what he's predicting) is predicting something cool! Yay! Let's put it on Slashdot!

Server translation error... (1)

markian (745705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36520762)

, HAL (If you can't see the above, multilingual posting doesn't work; ah, the irony!)

Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (2, Insightful)

LS (57954) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520780)

This guy has been wrong on his previous predictions as everyone already has been emphasizing, but what the fuck is the deal with such a specific year for his prediction? Why not round up to indicate it's a rough measure? 2029, really??

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (4, Insightful)

count0 (28810) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520984)

Just like the Rapture dude, having a specific date makes it more credible. Kurzweil is nothing if not a master manipulator of credibility...

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521008)

Well, he says "by 2029", so that's just the conservative end of his prediction. Could be sooner. He already says that mind uploading will be possible around 2030, though, and once you have that, you can just simulate the brain of someone who knows two languages and get the answer to any translation problem, so his prediction would have to be earlier than that.

He also says the technological singularity will happen around 2045, so maybe we shouldn't waste our time working on machine translation in the meantime.

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521882)

Singularity will never happen.

It makes no sense. If we can create machines that have the things we would nee to achieve singularity, why the hell would the machines want to be tied down with us?

It's like hum saying, well, I'm going to merge my mind with a chimpanzee.

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522156)

Why the hell would a parent ever want to send their kid to college? Because it is the nature of parents to care about kids (hopefully). Why would a machine care about a human? Because we made it that way.

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521088)

I take issue with saying "machines will reach" instead of "programmers" or even "computational linguists"

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521904)

Well, there is a computer that figures out science on it's own, simply through observation. In fact, it has solved certain biological puzzles. It came up with 2 formulas that explain an observation, and they work. No human know why the formulas work, just that they do.

Think upon that.

Re:Ray Kurzweil is full of shit (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522544)

Well, there is a computer that figures out science on it's own, simply through observation. In fact, it has solved certain biological puzzles. It came up with 2 formulas that explain an observation, and they work. No human know why the formulas work, just that they do.

Think upon that.

That sounds extremely interesting! Got any links or search terms I could use to read up on that system?

One word: preciseness. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521480)

He past incorrectness was vague, but now he is perfect in his errors. I call that an improvement.

KURTZIE IS A BIT KOOKIE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36520816)

The guy is off his rocker !! It's the subtle kind of lunacy !!

And the machine goes ... (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#36520934)

"wtf?!? stuf! lol cul8r"

"What did my son say?"

"Sir, he inquires if things are quite as they seem. He wishes to seek tranquility, though is in good humour and will be pleased to visit again with you anon."

Give me a turing-complete language.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521014)

..and I can express the universe with it.

Just after I've finished computing my own goedel number...

Re:Give me a turing-complete language.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521200)

43?

in the year 2x2x (1)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521028)

((letsee... average human male mortality 74 - current_age + 2011 ....))

In the year two thousand forty-two
Man shall ride as eagles flew
On monopoles of magnets blue
Machine and man as one will hew
...yadda...yadda...
---Mother Shitdon

Sophisticated crackpot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36521142)

We don't understand how the brain works, which happens to be the most complex object known. Not only that, but we don't even fully grasp how a simple neuron actually works. Besides we can hardly define what intelligence actually is.

So IA is not a computing power problem, but a much deeper algorithmic/architectural issue. We just don't have a fucking model. Comparing a computer with a brain is like comparing a car with a horse and telling "look how superior a car is", which happens to be utter bullshit.

And that guy is telling us that in less than 20 years, we'll have a machine that can do one of the most complex operations of the brain? Just bullshit... As was his "documentary", The Transcendent Man. Unstructured, without a serious opposing view, without even trying to define or explain what "intelligence" is, but showing Kurzweil in a zero G plane trying to look at the camera. And he commands speaker fees of like $10000 to tell that stuff.

Media whore pulls predictions out of his behind. (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521150)

Nothing so see here, move along.

Reverse trend (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521152)

Kurzweil never predicted crowdsourcing. This [ycombinator.com] didn't make it to Slashdot yet, but apparently the creator of reCaptcha is launching a service of human-aided mass translation.
It might just turn out that language problems are easier to solve by throwing social networks at them rather than hardware. Even if we eventually get hardware that would be able to do it, it would then be used for other problems that computers are already better at than humans.

Here's how to translate when (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521204)

somebody says something is X years in the future. The translation of "10 years in the future" is "I don't know. If they say "20 years in the future" that means "I really don't know" and if they say "50 years in the future" that means "Go ask my dog, he's more likely to give a correct answer than me."

Showing his age (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521404)

He has predicted a lot of things but seemed far too optimistic about the time lines. This one seems more reasonable. The real prediction is whether any humans will still be reading enough to care.

translation is the art (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521416)

of mapping one culture to another. machine knows nothing about that. you can load all the databases in the world, but what machine lacks: immersion in the culture, being part of it, have the attitude about it, system of values, so to speak.

The stuff Kurzweil says, well, it's meaningless He's a great inventor, yes, no one argues about that. But the *big picture* he's trying to promote - well, it's mostly about promoting himself.

Re:translation is the art (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521956)

"He's a great inventor"

hahaha. He rounded out some technologies, decades ago.

Re:translation is the art (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522352)

Yeah, just like a computer will never play chess at grandmaster level. On language you can do anything with enough data. Consider how easy translation is if you've got a table that translates every sentence or even every document that anyone is likely to write. Just look it up in the table. The world doesn't have enough language data to create such a table, so the trick is improving the algorithms so they can work with a smaller amount of data than that. The computer doesn't need to be immersed in the culture because the people who created the language data it is processing are immersed themselves and their knowledge of the language and culture becomes embedded into the data they create. At that point it is an algorithm challenge to make sense of the data. Even then, there is nothing preventing computers from analyzing billions of hours of video recordings of a culture or even being embodied in a robot body and directly interacting with the culture. The question is not whether it is possible for computers to do human-level translation, the question is just how hard it will be to make that happen. I think robot bodies won't be necessary.

They'll improve but not that much... (2)

Jeeeb (1141117) | more than 2 years ago | (#36521964)

I can see machine translations improving significantly but until we develop proper machine AI I don't think they're going to be near perfect.

I've done translations from Japanese -> English occasionally for work and I can tell you that sentences often encode different things. As an example I once did a translation of a letter regarding animal imports. Japanese has no distinction between singular and plural and gender isn't encoded at a grammatical level to the degree it is in English. This created problems because nowhere in the original letter was the gender or number of animals involved mentioned. In order to translate the letter into correct, natural English I ended up having to ring around to find the number and gender of the animals involved. As another example, I have a friend who did a translation for a court where the original Japanese had been scattered with borrowed English terms written in Roman characters. It created real problems for her because they definitely didn't fit into the English sentences at all but they were still there and needed to be translated accurately. These were after all documents that had the potential to decide a court-case!

Language is hard and translations definitely have a degree of creativity and artistic skill involved, even technical translations, as in significantly different languages you often find yourself having to rewrite sentences structures that simply don't exist in the target language for the translation. The summary highlights it to a degree but it's not just literature where you come across things that can7t be directly translated.

Prediction: By 2029 Kurtzweil will be wrong (2)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522054)

and most likely deceased. Not to be mean, but the guy keeps adjusting his time frames sooner rather than later. Unless there is some massive push for I-Robot the idea we all used robots for our physical chores can never happen when people need to earn a living, and no we aren't all going to be dealing with Future Crime either.

Alternate headline: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522142)

"Transhumanist with no domain-specific experience makes unambitious prediction about state of technology in distant future".

5 years away... (1)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522214)

Good machine translation is five years away, and has been for the last 40 years.

Kurzweil is totally reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36522252)

He's totally reliable.... in that he is systematically wrong. One could make a bundle betting against every single one of his "predictions", if you could find any bookie dumb enough to take the bet.

Human-Level??? BFD!!! (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522552)

If you want to see some good examples of what "human-level translation" might mean, look around on the engrish.com site, which shows you just how good humans can be at this task. Note that almost everything there is "official" in some sense, intended to inform the public of something; very few of the examples are intended to be funny.

There's also a good "Engrish" classification at failblog.org, if you want lots more examples from a different source.

The Language Log [upenn.edu] blog has lots of discussions of examples such as these, generally trying to answer the question "How did the translator go so wrong in this case?" You can learn a lot about the "gotchas" of human languages by reading these discussions.

So I'm not too impressed by yet another prediction of "human-level" machine translation. That's a pretty low hurdle to cross, if it means the level of accuracy that current human translators routinely consider good enough to put on signs, menus, etc. Yes, professional translators will generally do a lot better. But that's not what the summary or TFA predicts; they just predict an unspecified "human-level" capability, which would be satisfied by the examples in the above "Engrish" sites.

Countable reals and all that (1)

John Allsup (987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36522894)

Kurzweil believes in Strong AI which, amongst its absurdities, appears to claim that the reals are countable. In more detail, the continuity of consciousness that we experience is inexplicable in a universe in which Strong AI could be true. Unfortunately the proof is a little complicated and I haven't got all the fine detail figured out yet.
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