For the third edition of #STEMintheCity, Way2Global and the Civica Scuola Altiero Spinelli organised a conference on Language Industry 4.0, discussing the digital revolution, neural networks and augmented translators.
#STEMintheCity is an initiative promoted by the City of Milan to spread the culture of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). A month of meetings, seminars, training courses, installations, shows and events to debunk the cultural stereotypes that drive girls away from studying technical and scientific subjects, to reduce the gender gap in STEM careers and professions, and to encourage the spread of digital technology.
It is a perfect environment for Way2Global due to its identity as a women-owned company with predominantly female employees and to its specific sector, the language industry, which is made up of 80% IT, a hotbed of innovation and technology. Today, we even refer to our sector as Language Industry 4.0 in recognition of the central importance of digitisation and computerisation, which are continuing to evolve exponentially within the sector.
In this regard, Way2Global is leading the way to promote technological evolution and to implement it by developing new solutions that help make translation increasingly efficient, rapid and precise, while always keeping translators at the centre, because they must remain in charge of controlling the process and tools.
In keeping with this philosophy, Way2Global organised a roundtable, in collaboration with the Civica Scuola per Interpreti e Traduttori Altiero Spinelli, focusing on “new technologies for the language industry” in order to understand the present and future impact of digital technology and AI on operators in the industry, starting with its main protagonists: the translators.
At the roundtable, moderator Laura Gori, founder and CEO of Way2Global, asked questions about machine translation, its evolution and its consequences for the language industry to two distinguished speakers: Hellmut Riediger and Gabriele Galati, two professors at Altiero Spinelli and genuine machine translation gurus who are currently on a roadshow to the main Italian and European universities, together with Claudio Negri, our Marketing & Innovation Manager.
Is AI really destined to replace humans? As Riediger explained, the “singularity” hypothesis, namely the notion that machines and technological progress will one day overcome human beings, is not a new concept, but dates back to the last century. With this in mind, the discussion focused on the likelihood that machines may soon replace humans in various tasks. “Sixty percent of professions are already 30% replaceable by AI” and “according to the professions oracle (https://willrobotstakemyjob.com/), the risk that translators and interpreters will soon be replaced by machines is now considered 38%” (Galati).
As the two teachers explained, with the advent of neural networks, AI and machine translation have made great strides. Translations are increasingly fluid and appropriate at sentence level and are being continuously improved thanks to neural networks’ intrinsic ability to learn and to self-improve.
The result is translations which, although imperfect, appear to admirably respond to the contexts in which translation is perceived as a utility, as pure functionality that is taken for granted. In these cases, technology seems to contribute to a culture of replacing a perfect translation with one that is “good enough” and speed is valued more than quality because, as Riediger put it, “the important thing is to understand the essence”.
In this scenario, translators do not appear destined to vanish, but they will certainly be forced to embrace change and to evolve, proving their value in a different way than in the past.
This is where “augmented translators” come into play: professionals who know how to take advantage of new technology as an extension, as a tool for amplifying their inimitable talent and human abilities.
Professionals who also know how to quickly hone new skills required at the operational level, as in the case of post-editing, namely monitoring and revision of the output of automatic translation engines.
But how can this revolution be facilitated in practice? Way2Global, as a translation company acting as an intermediary between customers and translators, has decided to make all its technology transfer expertise available. As Claudio Negri and Laura Gori explained, Way2Global’s goal as a benefit corporation is to reinterpret technology with a human focus, ensuring that translators continue to play the main role. “Translation companies that can afford to invest in R&D and new technologies must give translators the opportunity to experience and test these innovations. They must be an enabling factor made available to professionals so that those professionals can familiarise themselves with them and start to use them with ease and independence. Only in this way can translators, rather than feeling overwhelmed, retain control and ownership of technological progress, which becomes an extension of human ability.”
“Translation must remain the prerogative of translators. Technology can support, accelerate and enhance... But it will always be the translator who is in charge.” (Claudio Negri).