Last weekend, I had the pleasure of presenting in Brussels a talk titled “AI, Interpretation, and the Dynamics of Change” on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the AIIC – The International Association of Conference Interpreters.
Here are some highlights from my discussion:
👉 We’re witnessing remarkable progress in AI’s proficiency in spoken language processing, a trend set to continue and accelerate in the future.
👉 Yet, despite its advancements, AI is intrinsically limited to understanding language devoid of direct experiential and contextual depth.
👉 Despite these limitations, AI has matured to a point where it enables the creation of both augmentation tools that support experts in their work, and automation tools that allow users to overcome language barriers without the necessity of an expert.
👉 The potential for AI augmentation in interpretation remains largely untapped. It’s likely to become a critical factor in helping professionals meet the increasingly high-quality expectations of clients.
👉 The market for AI augmentation, however, suffers from its small size, deterring substantial investment in the development of innovative tools.
👉 In contrast, automation has attracted substantial interest from research and industry, with advancements expected to come quickly in the coming years.
👉 As AI continues to master language manipulation, and as it begins to grasp nuances and cultural references, issues such as accountability, trust, and risk management, to name just a few, will become essential assets for future professionals.
👉 Managing these changes, particularly for the benefit of professional communities, requires expert insight. The current lack of comprehensive expertise in AI is a challenge that must be addressed across all professions.
The intersection of AI and interpretation is undeniably a fascinating topic. As you know, we’ve seen enormous strides in natural language processing and machine learning that have led to increasingly accurate and nuanced translation capabilities. AI-powered interpretation and translation tools are now able to understand and translate not only the literal meaning of words, but also capture some aspects of context, nuance, and cultural idioms. However, it is still a complex task and there is still a long way to go in order for AI to fully master the subtleties of human languages and the variety of accents, dialects, and cultural nuances.
On the other hand, there are valid concerns regarding the impact of AI on the interpreting profession. AI could be seen as a threat by some professionals, as it could potentially automate some of their tasks. But I believe that AI is more of an opportunity than a threat, in the sense that it can serve as an assisting tool that can help interpreters perform their jobs more efficiently and accurately. Interpreters, for example, could use AI tools for real-time transcription, to look up words or idioms in the heat of the moment (see InterpretBank ASR), or even as a form of quality assurance to check their own translations.
The impact of AI on our society and professions is undeniable and here to stay. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to not only enhance the services offered by professionals but also to extend language access to everyone, a first in human history.
pic by aiic