Tim Carmody wrote a fascinating article recently on the future of computerized translation, noting that Google recently shut down its Translate interface for programmers (and later reopened it, but now as a paid service).
Apparently more and more of the data Google were using to refine its translation technology were drawn from pages that had themselves been generated by being run through Google Translate. As James Fallows put it:
The more of this auto-translated material floods onto the world’s websites, the smaller the proportion of good translations the computers can learn from. In engineering terms, the signal-to-noise ratio is getting worse.
One wonders what implications this has for the project suggested by the likes of Ray Kurzweil and David Chalmers to resurrect the dead by recreating minds from their artifacts, such as letters, video recordings, and so forth: if the mind is a “fractal,” as Kurzweil likes to claim, would such a project be magnifying more the signal or the noise?