Mar 31, 2015

Hitting a nerve with MpT and bankruptcy

In less than 45 hours a record number of shares and views on Facebook....
In all the years I have blogged (since 2008) I don't think any of my posts have achieved the reach of one simple link on Facebook, which discussed the fate of a Japanese publishing house that committed seppuku by the abuse of machine pseudo-translation (MpT).

This is indicative, I think, of the raw nerves of those whose professional standing has been under siege by a lot of abusive fools who, in their lust for profit and social destruction, have disregarded common sense and listened instead to the nonsense of the Common Sense Advisory and their ilk, only to find themselves circling the drain to oblivion.

At a conference I attended recently, one person involved with MpT development and sales correctly pointed out that it is wrong and foolish to speak broadly of MpT as if there were only one flavor of it. But the problem is really not about the technology itself, however close or far it may be to that out-of-favor-with-the-sausage-set term "quality".

I am not and never have been opposed to the existence of machine pseudo-translation in this world. What I do oppose is its use as an instrument of abuse as well as one to corrupt and distort the minds of university students struggling to find their way into our language professions. In the same way, I oppose any material or immaterial thing which is a critical component of toxic social relations and occupational abuse.

Nonetheless I do keep an open mind for finding new tools and techniques which may provide something useful in the right context. But MpT is nothing new generally, and much of what is out there in practice smells badly of 60+ year-old fish. Nonetheless, dead fish make fertilizer, so let's bury the outdated and harmful notions of most of the carnival barkers hawking MpT Snake Oil bottles and put our focus where it belongs: on human needs and psychology rather than technology. When we do that, the toxicity of many technologies is abated, because the harmful application of these is abandoned.

We should not avoid discussion of the physio- and psychoergonomic risks of any methods or technologies as the profiteers so vehemently do. Instead, by looking with greater care at these problems, as David Hardisty, Dion Wiggins and some others have done recently, we may discover some surprising opportunities to make "opposing" technologies and methods, such as MpT and speech recognition and task separation, become good allies of each other and of us so that we may win another battle or two in the Forever War on Human Stupidity.

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