As society advances towards a more automated future, the potential benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more and more apparent. We are starting to recognize its potential to revolutionize various fields, offering increased efficiency, productivity, and improved quality of life. However, we cannot ignore the potential impact and risks associated with this powerful technology as recent advancements in AI have made it clear that these implications are no longer just a sci-fi concept, but a real concern that we must be aware of. This is why tech luminaries such as Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk have called for a temporary halt in the development of AI systems, stating in an open letter published by the Future of Life Institute, that “advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources”. The critical questions we must ask ourselves are what kind of development will this “profound change” bring about? Will it be negative or positive? And which of the two will dominate? To answer these questions, we must consider the implications of AI on various fields, including Language Services, and explore both the potential risks and opportunities that lie ahead.
To evaluate the impact of AI on various occupations, it is crucial to identify who will be most affected by this innovation. This is a complex matter with no straightforward answer. Generally speaking, jobs that rely heavily on programming and language skills are more likely to be impacted by advancements in AI. As a result, translators and interpreters are technically among the top “exposed” professions. However, this reality is more nuanced than it appears. The process of translation is already automated to a certain extent, with traditional bilingual machine translation engines, such as Deepl, Amazon Translate and the likes, often being used by professional translators.
So, what do LLMs (Language Learning Models) such as ChatGPT offer that these translators and the tools they use may not? The answer is simple– the ability to create text in the desired language rather than transfer the text from a target language to a source language in the traditional way. The added benefit we see here is the potential of creating a better fit for purpose copy than what we would have through the traditional process. Have you ever heard the saying: “Something got lost in translation”? Well, it seems that LLMs might be a way to eliminate these losses. Their multilingual capabilities make them a strong contender in the field of translation, both in terms of speed and accuracy, particularly for facilitating global communication. However, while LLMs have certainly raised the bar for translation efficiency, they are not necessarily superior to professional translation services. A study conducted by the University of Lisbon and the University of Edinburgh found that “these models may still generate hallucinations: highly pathological translations that can severely damage user trust and pose serious safety concerns”. It’s important to recognize that while AI translation has made significant strides in recent years, it still falls short in some areas. Most importantly, AI still misses crucial ingredients to provide human like results, such as the ability to understand context and transfer it accurately to the target language.
Despite achieving an impressive 60-90% accuracy rate, AI is still susceptible to errors that can compromise effective business communication. This underscores the importance of exercising caution and not relying solely on AI translations to avoid the risk of mistranslations, which could potentially harm customer loyalty and trust. Ensuring accurate and reliable communication is crucial for businesses to maintain strong relationships with their clients. A failure to meet customer expectations in this way can seriously affect the reputation and overall performance of any business.
On the other hand, eBay reported an expansion in international trade by 10.9% after deploying AI to translate product listing titles, showing that it can be beneficial for business growth. Even so, let’s take a moment to analyze the type of work that an LLM would be undertaking in such circumstances. This translation is a simple, automated task that would not require any significant effort for a human translator to complete. Virtually, it would be a waste of their time and expertise.
Building on this idea, it is clear that the range of human skills that are difficult for AI to replicate in translation include “the ability to understand and interpret local dialects, idioms, and cultural norms”, as translating the complexity of spoken language requires more than just a thorough understanding of vocabulary and grammar. More often than not, translators are faced with clients with varying socio-economic status, as well as with a degree of regional and social variation. That could mean the same word or phrase having multiple meanings depending on the context in which it is used; a context that an LLM may not have the necessary information to disambiguate. Failures in an LLM attempts to decipher these complicated scenarios and additional factors could lead to fatal business miscommunications similar to those previously mentioned.
So what does this all mean? Does Artificial Intelligence have a good or a bad impact on Language Services? Could it have both?
The key lies in the skillfulness and tact with which it is incorporated into the industry. The idea is to bring humans and machines closer together, for these new innovations to augment human beings instead of replacing them. Undoubtedly, humans and machines possess distinct strengths and weaknesses. Hence, it is crucial to integrate these increasingly relevant technological advancements in a manner that capitalizes on their individual strengths, allowing them to work together in a complementary manner and enhance overall performance.
In a recent interview with Professor Toby Walsh, a highly esteemed researcher in the field of artificial intelligence, he stresses the idea that AI can be employed not just to replace humans in mundane, repetitive jobs, but also to liberate them from such tasks and enable them to tap into their skills which are uniquely human. This newfound time can be used to enhance various aspects of business operations, such as refining product design, improving customer service, gaining a deeper understanding of customers, and enhancing customer relations.
Rather than invoking fears of a future where computers overpower or replace humans, AI can be an invitation to cultivate and harness that which distinguishes us as humans in the first place – creativity, empathy, and emotional and social intelligence.
Taking this viewpoint into account, it is valuable to consider the thoughts and insights of computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee, who has been a pioneer in artificial intelligence research for more than three decades in both the United States and China, in his TEDtalk titled “How AI can save our humanity”:
“AI is serendipity,” Lee says. “It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human.”
Nevertheless, Lee recognizes the potential risks associated with AI and emphasizes the significance of responsible development and regulation of this technology. He cautions against over-reliance on AI and urges prudence in its implementation, suggesting that the key to the successful adoption of AI is finding the right equilibrium between its advantages and potential drawbacks. In essence, Lee’s advice implies a universally acknowledged truth: it’s all about balance.
Reach out to Bromberg to learn more about how we use AI tools in our localization process
Established in 1999, Bromberg & Associates is a comprehensive language and technology solutions company. The company quickly grew from a basement start-up to an award-winning internationally recognized language solutions company.
We cover the entire linguistic and cultural spectrum and work in over 200 spoken and signed languages, with clients in a variety of industries in the US and globally. Our services and vast experience include Telephonic, Video Remote and On-Site interpreting, Document Translation and Desktop Publishing, Subtitling, Dubbing, Captioning and Voice Over, Language Training, Multilingual Marketing & Website Localization, Cultural Awareness Training and Federal Language Access Compliance Consulting.