This was a machine translation of a sentence in Japanese that I recently got back from a machine translation program considered to be the best MT program around.
Even translators praise it, and quite a few are afraid of it.
Yes, it was GoogleTranslate, my machine translation program of choice.
I was able to figure out the real meaning because I saw which characters were misread by the software. But if I were an MT user who does not know the foreign language, I would have no idea what the sentence really meant.
If a person told you that you need to die if you have a question, you could probably do something about it. But there is nothing you can do when a machine tells you to die, is there?
In the old world, the world that we used to live in only a few decades ago, people mostly interacted with other people. If you called any telephone number, your call would be answered by a person that you could talk to. The seventies and eighties then brought us answering machines, followed a few years later by voice mail and what is affectionately referred to as voice mail hell – people being put on hold by machines programmed to disconnect people after a certain number of minutes.
It is so much more efficient this way!
In the new world, we are increasingly being forced to interact with machines everywhere we look, machines that don=t give a damn whether people interacting with them live or die.
In the old translation industry model, translators interacted as people with other people, namely people who were running a translation agency business. These people got to know you and you got to know them, and if you liked them and they liked you, sometime a working partnership was thus established between a translator and an agency that would last for many years, sometime even decades.
In the new translation industry model, translators are almost never actually talking to a person. At this point they are still exchanging personal e-mails with real persons at a translation agency, but I have no doubts that somebody somewhere is working on a software package designed to replace the person doing the talking for the agency so that the translator would have to interact with software instead of a person.
It would be so much more efficient this way!
Even when a translation agency contacts me personally because it is interested in my service, this is done in a very impersonal manner these days.
The e-mail usually goes like this: “I saw your particulars in the ATA database ….. we are looking for experienced translators of Japanese patents, especially in the field of chemistry and physics …. could you please e-mail us your resume and rates?”
The person sending the e-mail is not really interested in me in particular and my qualifications because she is probably sending the same e-mail to at least a dozen translators.
I did in fact receive such an e-mail two days ago. So I responded by sending them my resume and my rates.
In the old days, a sly but often interesting agency operator would call me to figure out whether I am for real.
But this does not happen anymore. The agency e-mailed me a link to a database with a request to fill in my particulars in the database. The database no doubt has many fields with questions that have nothing to do with what I do, such as whether I transcribe audio or video tapes (no, I do not), or whether I am a “transcreationist” (no, I do not do transcreation either). All you have to do is read my resume if you want to know what it is that I do.
This mad patent translator has an irrational aversion to interacting with machines.
This includes computerized databases, but also machines such as checkout scanners in supermarkets (I refuse to learn how to use them because the human cashier probably really needs her job), and even voice mail (I almost never leave a message unless absolutely necessary), and of course, I don’t click on links leading to databases hungry to feast on my “particulars”.
Older people often exhibit the same kind of aversion to interaction with machines, younger people not so much anymore. They seem to have been programmed from a very young age to obediently follow instructions issued to them by soulless machines, which may in fact be asking them to die should they have any questions.
It can happen – it did happen to me.
Although I will never work for this agency as I don’t want to be registered in a database with dozens of other warm bodies hungry for work, I have no doubt that this database is filled now with a lot of contact information from other translators who do not suffer from this particular aversion of mine.
The agency’s database would probably not tell me to die if I had any questions (unless it has a bug that makes it display this message, which is always a possibility).
But still, I cannot ask a database questions, and I need to be able to ask questions before I make an important decision, such as whether I want to work for somebody or not.
You have to show some interest in me if you want me to work for you.
If you ask me to go to a database, well, you can just go to hell.