It is likely that our grandchildren – if they survive climate changes, droughts and floods, radiation emanating for many centuries from many new Fukushimas, which will be taking place this time around mostly in Europe and America as hurricanes and earthquakes cut off power supply to nuclear power plants, and incredibly stupid TV reality shows (most of them will contain real sex scenes, because otherwise, who would watch it?), which alone are likely in a few decades to drive many survivors of assorted disasters and radioactive food to suicide – will no longer remember what strawberries and tomatoes used to taste like when they still had a taste, i.e. before genetic engineering turned our fruits and vegetables into yet another bland and tasteless profit center for multinational corporations.
Because I still remember what fruits and vegetables used to taste like when I was a kid, I know that the pretty red and round thing that I bring home from the supermarket does not taste much like a tomato. At the most, it tastes like a 0.15 ~ 0.25% aqueous solution of a tomato essence, if there were such a thing. Do my children know that? I am not sure. I must ask them next time they stop by here, which will be probably on Christmas. Will their children know that something has been lost in their world? Probably not.
I know that I should not really worry about things like that because fortunately for me, I will not be here anymore in this bland and tasteless world. But it still bothers me. There must be something wrong with me.
In the near future, most translators will be forced by market forces to adopt the latest tools in the ever expanding arsenal of amazing translation tools, including machine translation that anticipates the meaning of the sentence in the original language and overrides the intent of human translators to ensure that every translation consists of repeatable units that can be efficiently reused in translation memories and other translation and writing tools. It is much more cost effective this way.
Some books will have to be rewritten even in the original language anyway in this brave new world to delete offensive words and concepts from them – for instance the books of Mark Twain. Once the rewritten books have been efficiently translated with new translation memories and thus purged of offensive words and concepts, people in other countries will also be able to enjoy newly translated editions of old books efficiently assembled from highly repeatable units, without being unnecessarily exposed to dangerous words and ideas.
It is kind of a shame that just like nobody will remember what strawberries used to taste like, nobody will remember what people like Mark Twain were originally saying in their books. But progress is unstoppable. Onward and upward!
Ray Bradbury was getting close in Fahrenheit 451 to what the new world will look like. Except that there will be no need to burn books. Once all books have been edited and translated with the latest translation tools, they will not be dangerous anymore, and Google will then make them available for free to people who don’t mind watching highly targeted and personalized advertising and commercials while they read books.
In a few years from now, most translations will be based on edited machine translations anyway, because it is simply much cheaper to translate in this manner. It will be cheaper because there will be no need to use real translators, who tend to be relatively expensive, for translating. Just about anybody will be able to translate with the new translation tools. It will be only slightly more complicated than making a copy on a copy machine.
With instant access to the latest translation memories, MT and other translation tools, most post-editors of MT, formerly known as translators, will be able to produce tens of thousands of post-edited words per day. In any case, most people who used to work as human translators will have another job. Since post-editing will pay next to nothing, most of them will move into a different field in the service sector and become waiters, waitresses, flight attendants, etc.
Since everything will be translated with the latest technology almost instantly, there will be almost no need to learn foreign languages, especially among people who speak the two dominant languages on our planet in the near future – Chinese and English.
True, some people, especially people who live in tiny countries and speak a funny language like Dutch or Czech, will still be learning foreign languages, but mostly only Chinese and English (to enhance their job promotion prospects).
Most things will still be translated with translation memories and post-edited machine translations will be introduced into other major languages on this planet, such as German, and Spanish, but not as much into French because neither Chinese nor English speakers like the French too much and they will be the ones deciding what should be translated.
Next time when you taste a tomato or a strawberry over your kitchen sink and realize that it tastes like a piece of rubber, I hope you will remember my vision of the future world … which is in fact already here.
The problem with progress, the highly profitable kind, at least for some, is that it is often so tasteless.