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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13346/our-miracle-of-pentecost/

Our Miracle of Pentecost

July 21, 2010 by

For the first time in the history of the world, I’m able to communicate with anyone in the world instantly, regardless of language. The great barrier of all of human history has been overcome. FULL ARTICLE by Jeffrey Tucker

{ 45 comments }

Ryan July 21, 2010 at 8:48 am

Translation is the first step. Education is the second step. A few months ago, I sent what was basically a love letter to the Google company for inventing its transliteration application. I have been learning the Bangla (Bengali) language for the past year, with Google’s help.

Keep in mind that Bangla has a completely different linguistic base, vocabulary, syntax, and script from English or any other Western language most of us are familiar with. To take on a language like that is no small undertaking. In the old days, I would have to scour my area not only for someone who knows the language, but someone who could actually teach it to me. I’d then have to study for years and years just to get to a conversational level.

No more. Anything you want to learn is instantly at your fingertips. I am well on my way to being both literate and functionally fluent in Bangla, after studying on my own for about a year and half. We are in such a miraculous age that it is absolutely shocking to see how few of us actually take advantage of what the internet offers.

Johny July 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

I’d be very surprised, if bengali support is better than czech. If I used google to learn english, you would not understand every second sentence unless you know czech and could imagine the original. This way it works with translation from english, french and german – result is usefull for basic comunication, but useless for daily usage, not to mention any scientific texts.
Translation from chinese to english works for me only with computer texts – I know the technology, so I could assume many things that are missing. The same is true for french-english, spanish-english and german-english. So even support for big languages is not good enough, I doubt that bengali is done in such a great way, it could actualy teach you anything but mistakes and errs.

So, do not be surprised, if you get into trouble the first time you try to use bengali in real. But yes, teaching purposes are from the group where one has no big objections from the ‘sending content whoknowswhere’ point of view.

Allen Weingarten July 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

“There is no one on the planet who could have anticipated this, not one person”, except of course for Algore who created it.☺

JD July 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

ManBearPig is real. Excelsior!

P.S.H. July 21, 2010 at 11:11 am

I’m not sure I follow. If the gentleman from Israel had to use a digital translator to understand your emails, how did he plan to translate a Mises.org article into Hebrew? Or have I misunderstood you?

BioTube July 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Unless you use a language on a daily basis, comprehending something written in it can easily take much longer than machine translating it and reading that(familiarity with the language does make the output easier to understand). And professional translators tend to spend less time doing the actual translation and more time figuring out how to best phrase it.

Puzzled reader July 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

I realize I’m a bit off topic, but I was struck by the CONTENT of the conversation. Jeff often writes that information is non-scarce and free. It’s a bit puzzling to me that this conversation took more than one response from Jeff:

“Mises.org does not believe in Intellectual property, therefore anyone at anytime is free to copy our content and do whatever they please with it, no permission required”

Perhaps this comment belongs on the other topic for today on IP, but it struck me kind of strange that Mises material would be copyrighted at all.

No problem July 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Mises.org copyrights their articles, papers, what have you because if they didn’t someone else would. The new owners might not be so forgiving and all of this might not be possible.

Puzzled reader July 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I’m no lawyer, but in the software field, there is the GNU copy-left declarations. I believe this specifically disallows anyone else to copyright the material. Even if Mises.org placed a copyright on the material, they could have a notice on their website that anyone can freely use their material without getting specific permission. Perhaps they could explicitly declare that each article was now part of the public domain.

I understand why Mises does what it does, but it doesn’t seem very consistent to me. And this makes it a kind of tough sell to others when Mises.org calls for repeal of IP laws.

Matthew Swaringen July 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Search for copyright sticky in the blog search. Kinsella explains.

Stephan Kinsella July 28, 2010 at 12:11 am

This is not right. They don’t copyright it–the federal governemnt grants the copyright automatically. It’s almost impossible to get rid of. Granting the CC license is about all they can do to make it close to public domain.

Cory Brickner July 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Jeff,

Google is a private company. No one ordered this company to invent this technology. It did so and deployed it because it is in the interest of the company to serve others. By serving others, it makes a profit. And it also profits in unpredictable ways, not by selling this particular service but rather by giving it away to you for free. A seeming miracle for free!

Here, here! There are so many things we take for granted. The state creates none of this. It is no value-add. It can only mandate, steal, and coerce others to do its bidding and its desires. Capitalism is dead. Long live capitalism!!

fundamentalist July 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Google does pretty well with some languages, not so well with others. I love to read Google translations of Arabic. They’re hilarious!

Dominik July 21, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Jeffrey,

I usually like your articles and would consider myself sympathetic to the Mises Institute and its general philosophy. In this particular instance, however, I would like to caution against an oversimplified view of what language is or should be. If language were merely the communication of objective facts then an automatic translation tool would obviously be of great service to humanity. In reality, however, language conveys more than just plain facts. Idiomatic expressions and the choice of phraseology, embedded in the cultural context of a language, give personal flavors to someone’s speech that automatic translation tools cannot possibly hope to capture. Certainly today’s mechanistic translation techniques fall short of producing even remotely acceptable translations. The reason is akin to that dividing the Keynesian and Austrian approaches to economics. In Keynesian fashion, automatic translation tools reduce language to its “quantifiable” outer shell. What they miss is the genius of a language, or its “soul.” A translator, then, needs to be a “praxeologist” of language (to use Mises’ terminology). I doubt that machines will ever be able to do that. To prove my point, I have translated part of this post from English to Hebrew and back to English.

“Surely today’s mechanistic techniques suffice to produce translations translation even remotely acceptable. The reason is that the distribution approaches similar to Keynesian and Austrian Economics. Keynesian manner, an automatic translation tool to reduce the language “armor” for quantifying the outside. What they miss is a language genius, or soul “of his.” Translator, then, should be praxeologist “of language (to use the term” Mises). I doubt the machines would not be able to do it. To prove my point, I need to translate this post and back to English English to Hebrew. ”

It not only mangles the sentences (which could be forgiven) but it twists their meanings, in some cases producing the exact opposite of the original meaning! I would argue this does not reduce, but indeed add to, Babylonian confusion. By the way, it strikes me that people enthused by automatic translation tend to be native speakers of English. Perhaps to relieve themselves of a perceived guilt for not having studied foreign languages, they jump on this false promise of linguistic equality. My native language is German, and I would much rather communicate in English than in some unintelligible Google “Newspeak.” It would be nice, though, to see more English speakers learn a foreign language, whichever one it is. I have studied several languages, and in my experience no phrase book or translation service could bring about the personal connections that arise from talking to people in their own language. THAT is what brings the world together. Reducing everybody to the level of functional communication units does not.

Seattle July 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm

All of this is based on the unfortunately popular fallacy that human brains are somehow special and can perform computations nothing else possibly can.

Google Translator is no substitute at all for fluency at the moment, and I don’t think anyone here will disagree with that. However that does not mean the system cannot improve.

David July 22, 2010 at 1:09 am

Dominick Misses the Point

Jeff Tucker never claimed that Google had invented a machine capable of delivering translation service on par with that offered to diplomats, central bankers, and other people of international letters. He claimed that he had understood a simple request put to him in a foreign language, and that his response had also been understood: “Can I copy the book?” “Yes.” I understood him to then say that he and the person with whom he was communicating had exchanged a few more questions-and-answers, and had that the conversation had then ended.

He then said, “Miraculous.” Amen.

Dominick’s post misses the point. Dominick is right that today’s technology cannot facilitate the caliber of human relationships that people experience while talking to people in their own language. He is wrong to criticize any advance that falls short of what he presumes to be our goal: “bringing the world together.”

Jeffrey Tucker never stated that it is the goal of human society to bring people together. He simply described an event that people have always described as the miraculous fulfillment of prophecy. On the day of the pentecost, i.e. the fiftieth day after the death of the messiah—the early Christians of Jerusalem had conferred upon them by the Holy Spirit the gift of tongues while they were all gathered together in one place, speaking with one other. Good people in Jerusalem understood what they were saying, because they were speaking the good peoples’ different native languages.

The good people wondered aloud about the meaning of the event, until some backbiters in their crowd belittled the gift of the Holy Spirit as nothing more than public drunkenness: The early Christians were drunk, they joked. Simon Peter and the other eleven apostles corrected the record: Jerusalem was witnessing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy—the Prophet Joel had foreseen the “great and glorious day of the Lord” when Jerusalem’s own sons and daughters would offer prophecy.

Jeffrey Tucker never stated that what the Bible recounts in Chapter 2 of the Acts is consistent with the historical record. He simply argued that today’s technology creates processes, events, and machines that would have been described as nothing short of miraculous only two millenia—just longer than the day before yesterday in the grand sweep of human history.

Who could disagree with that?

Dominik July 22, 2010 at 5:44 am

David, Does Jeffrey need you to explain what he meant to say? He’s free to reply to my post directly, and I would indeed be interested to hear his response. He said, and I quote, “The great barrier of all of human history has been overcome. The great divider of peoples, the cause of war, the root of social division and separation from time immemorial, is being put to rest.” Now, “overcoming” the “divider of peoples” is just a fancy way of saying “bringing the world together.” To this I replied that no, mechanical translation services cannot bring the world together. Not in any meaningful way. Even for technical purposes, as in business, it’s too error-prone to be useful. And people use English in international business anyway. Why do I “criticize any advance” in the direction of automatic translation? Because it lulls people into a false sense of accuracy and reliability of these tools. People aren’t robots, and neither are robots people.

Shay July 22, 2010 at 8:30 am

If you wanted a private reply from Jeffrey, and nobody else, you should email him privately. If it’s a public dicussion, it makes sense for whoever has the time and motivation to respond, even if it’s not the original author. The latter can always respond, but maybe a response from someone else is just as good. I know that when I am putting forth a view and others who understand it make replies I would have made eventually, I am appreciative of the shared effort.

Dominik July 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Ryan,

No offense, but I wonder if your Bangla sounds like that snippet I posted above… Sure, Google may be great to become “functional” if that’s all you want. But frankly I doubt that you’ll ever reach a level of proficiency that could be called anything close to “fluent” by relying mainly on Google. Yes, in the old days learning a language required a lot of effort. Guess what, it still does. Being functional while sounding like crap in a foreign language is one thing (and okay if due to lack of practice, etc.). Believing that that’s an acceptable end point of your studies is another. Persistently speaking to people in a mangled version of their language (say, for decades) may soon convert their initial endearment into frustration at your lack of progress. Pretty soon they’ll conclude that you don’t REALLY appreciate their culture. Think about it.

Ryan July 22, 2010 at 8:05 am

I can tell languages are very important to you. If only you held common decency, patience, and listening skills in such high esteem. You seem to spend more time accusing people than listening to their experiences.

To wit, you have no idea how I use Google’s technology, nor will you ever be able to measure the extent to which it has helped me learn.

Of course, you could ask me. I have a lot of interesting information for you about learning languages on a self-directed basis with the aid of technology. Unfortunately for you, you seem to be more interested in flaunting your self-professed expertise in linguistic studies.

I say this not to insult you but rather to point out that Google’s technology is well on its way toward making people like you obsolete. For the rest of us, that’s extremely liberating.

At the heart of Austrian economics is the belief that knowledge need not be filtered down to “the plebes” by “the experts.”

Dominik July 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Ryan, I’m happy for you that you’ve found Google a useful tool in your language studies. I myself have found old-fashioned study courses, with tapes and books, in combination with actual practice more useful. I can see how people would benefit from online language courses or from watching foreign-language TV programs or reading foreign language books. Forgive me for finding it hard to imagine that people can really attain a good level of proficiency from using Google automatic translation if that’s their main route. In any case, my point was really a different one. And that is that to me Austrian economics means that economics is understood not as a quantifiable, mathematical problem (at least not primarily) but as something that involves people’s choices on an individual-agent basis. Mises defends the need for this “praxeology” nicely in the opening chapter of Human Action. Keynesian economics, on the other hand, looks at the economy from the viewpoint of aggregates and from a purely (and overly) mathematical perspective. It essentially takes the human element out of economics because it sees only numbers. The same is true of automatic translation. In this way, refining automatic translation tools is akin to adding another variable to Grand Equilibrium Theory. THAT’s why I criticize that whole approach. You seem to be enamored with the prospect of automatic translation. Rest assured it won’t make “people like me” obsolete anytime soon. This has nothing to do with filtering knowledge down to the plebs by the experts or any such nonsense. If something is hard to learn, it’s hard to learn. Plebs or no plebs.

Dominik July 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

PS: To me, automatic translation is on the wrong side of a larger debate: that between philosophies or theories that account for subjective phenomena and those that dismiss subjective phenomena and only accept objective phenomena. It’s somewhat similar to the dichotomy between, say, Kant’s three-world model (1. material world, 2. world of ideas, 3. world of subjective phenomena) and philosophical materialism. Here’s a short list of issues that I believe are part of this wider philosophical battle:

subj.+obj. theories:
1. Mind and consciousness are separate categories from matter, space and energy.
2. Economics is based on individual choices (Austrian school).
3. Sound and colors are qualia (Chalmers). The physics behind them is just the outer shell.
4. Language is context-dependent and imprecise to some degree.

obj.-only theories:
1. Matter, space, and energy is all there is.
2. Economics is governed by aggregate numbers (Keynes).
3. Sound and colors are (only) waves of a certain wavelength.
4. Language is context-free and precise.

Pick your side. I’ve picked mine.

Dominik July 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Correction: It’s Karl Popper’s (not Kant’s) three-world model. (It does draw on Kantian, or Platonian, ideas).

Ryan July 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

The reason you find it so hard to believe is because NO ONE uses Google Translate “as their [sic] main route” of learning language.

My #1 rule: If something doesn’t make sense then it probably isn’t true.

Dominik July 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

Ryan, You wrote in your initial post an exuberant praise of the “Google transliteration [sic] application” (it’s translation, not transliteration; transliteration refers to converting texts, say, from Cyrillic to Latin script, not to translating them from one language to another) because it saved you the pain of having “to study for years and years.” I took you up on that praise, no more. If you didn’t mean it that way, it wasn’t clear from what you wrote. Au contraire.

Daniel Waite July 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Believing that that’s an acceptable end point of your studies is another.

Oh, my. Quite the judge of another individual’s ends are you?

Jeffrey! Great article, and it was a pleasure to see you in person and hear you live in Las Vegas!

Jay Sax July 21, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Thanks for this article. Excellent.

To keep in mind some, shall we say – cautions, about relying too heavily on automated translation is fine. To imply that using automated translation means you might not relate to human beings as much as you should – well, that’s just silly. Rather, it means that the nature of your relating will be different, that’s all!

Sure: don’t assume anything near perfection. Use care.

We have come a long, long way via automated translation. It’s not to be minimized, Dominik’s hesitations notwithstanding.

My favorite early example was when the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind” was translated from English into Russian and then back, resulting in “Blind idiot.” Cute, eh, even if apocryphal!

But now Google is on to something, IMO, as it incorporates vast swaths of well transated text into its translation database. That’s text that was well translated by human, non-automated means. Now things get better and better at each addition.

pbergn July 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I see little value to this article…

If anything, its entire premise is absolutely flawed. The author contents that all great innovations are a result of hard work of a couple of shrewd entrepreneurs, such as he brings an example of Google…

Need I remind the reader that all the fundamental scientific research is government subsidized?
Need I even tell that all great innovations such as electronics, computers, radars, Nuclear Power, Internet, etc. etc. were first commissioned by Defense institutions?
Need I point out that it was DARPA that had pioneered TCP/IP network architecture, that most modern network applications rely on today? Need I remind that Swiss CERN that created HTML language – the bases of WWW, and Institute for Advanced Research in Urbana-Champagne, IL are both heavily subsidized?

If anything, Mr. Tucker points to an utterly wrong example of free entrepreneurship…

Even the Google guys got grants for their research and education…

In my opinion, Free Market driven enterprises are good in developing the potential, delivering the existing capabilities to the consumer in the most efficient possible manner, but Free Market System falls short when dealing with problems requiring years of investment, and have no clear indication of their possible utility or immediate output… No businessman will throw his money on the wind to conduct years of fundamental research – it is just too expensive… We do not need to be reminded that Free Market enterprises are designed to generate and increase profits, and have a relatively short time-horizon when it comes to investments. It is a hard sell to any investor asking him to fund years of often abstract research, with little or no guaranties of success…

The shortcomings of Free Market System can be easily explained by adapting a self-evident assumption that Free Market system given freedom will simply follow the natural path, and the natural path always tends to go in the direction of least resistance…

In other words, to create new things – to do synthesis, requires a quantum leap – from non-existent or unknown to a new creation or known, but following the path of least resistance very rarely leads to qualitative changes , i.e. to the quantum leap…

I thing only a hybrid solution can work – with a central honest broker – the State in the middle, and Free Market Enterprises on the periphery, much like hub-and-spoke design of the wheel…

Seattle July 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Need I remind the reader that all the fundamental scientific research is government subsidized?

So is the entire food industry. If the state pulled out of that tomorrow I guess we’d all starve.

In my opinion, Free Market driven enterprises are good in developing the potential, delivering the existing capabilities to the consumer in the most efficient possible manner, but Free Market System falls short when dealing with problems requiring years of investment, and have no clear indication of their possible utility or immediate output… No businessman will throw his money on the wind to conduct years of fundamental research – it is just too expensive… We do not need to be reminded that Free Market enterprises are designed to generate and increase profits, and have a relatively short time-horizon when it comes to investments. It is a hard sell to any investor asking him to fund years of often abstract research, with little or no guaranties of success…

The shortcomings of Free Market System can be easily explained by adapting a self-evident assumption that Free Market system given freedom will simply follow the natural path, and the natural path always tends to go in the direction of least resistance…

In other words, to create new things – to do synthesis, requires a quantum leap – from non-existent or unknown to a new creation or known, but following the path of least resistance very rarely leads to qualitative changes , i.e. to the quantum leap…

And what, pray tell, is your justification for this assertion?

While coming up with an answer I suggest you ask yourself a few questions:

How do bureaucrats know which basic research projects should be funded and which should not? And what mechanism allows them to gauge this better than entrepreneurs risking their own skins?

The free market is made up of individuals simply acting of their own volition within the bounds of property rights. Why are civil servants capable of long term thinking while all other individuals, apparently, are not? And, if their abilities really are superior, why do they have to make investments with other people’s funds rather than their own?

Finally, why is it that free actors in the market “take the path of least resistance” while civil servants are able to make the hard decisions? What is it about them that gives them special powers other human beings do not have? The market mechanism works because cooperation is mutually beneficial. Why does this not apply to long term, high risk projects?

pbergn July 22, 2010 at 1:17 am

Seattle,

[BTW I am from Seattle myself],

Seattle writes: “How do bureaucrats know which basic research projects should be funded and which should not? And what mechanism allows them to gauge this better than entrepreneurs risking their own skins?”

Well, the thing is that bureaucrats do not know any better… The reason why the State bureaucracy plays positive role under certain conditions, such as in large scale new developments like fundamental science, emergency help and defense is because it does not act for personal gain… The State machine and the bureaucrats, if not corrupt, do not operate on personal gain – they are not programmed to generate more and more revenue…

It is fundamental for large scale projects not having immediate return on investment to be driven by parties that are not profit-oriented in the short term.

The reason why State-scientists model works is not because the government bureaucrats know what projects to sponsor and which ones not. The reason why it works is because the State is setting a general direction, such as increase research in X-ray optics, for example, then the scientists, experts in the field, are hired paid by the government subsidies, the call for research proposals is issued, and the best ones are screened through peer review and selecting board screening. Next, these projects are funded either by public or private funds. The key difference here is that the failure is factored-in into the system, whereas private enterprises that raise funds against concrete business plans will have practical limitation in how abstract they can be in defining their business goals. Private enterprises will have hard time justifying the research and other auxiliary business effort failures to their shareholders, thus having limited times-horizon on investment returns… Of course, this extent will depend on the size of the company and its capitalization.

To be fair, I realize that private companies and research firms can also conduct fundamental research, but generally this is limited to only very large corporations and conglomerates that in most cases act as part of a certain Oligopoly, which essentially is a step closer to becoming a State-like entity.

Nonetheless, I still believe that an entity not driven by immediate profits, or having a very long time-horizon is critical for development of new technologies and for driving the progress of the civilization as we know it, in general…

Seattle July 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

Well, the thing is that bureaucrats do not know any better… The reason why the State bureaucracy plays positive role under certain conditions, such as in large scale new developments like fundamental science, emergency help and defense is because it does not act for personal gain… The State machine and the bureaucrats, if not corrupt, do not operate on personal gain – they are not programmed to generate more and more revenue…

It is impossible to not act out of personal gain. When people donate to charities and volunteer in soup kitchens they do so because it makes them feel good because they enjoy helping people. They’re still acting out of self-interest. The idea of the “selfless bureaucrat” is a far-fetched one indeed, as it implies they will always value the good of society over filling up their own coffers.Even if these selfless bureaucrats existed, how would they know which projects are the best ones to invest in? Even for the state, there are an infinite number of possible ways to spend money and a finite number of dollars to spend. How are the selfless angels supposed to calculate which investments will do the maximum good for society? Entrepreneurs do so with the profit and loss system, imperfect as it is. Bureaucrats do not have such a mechanism at all. Their decisions can at best be arbitrary and at worst solely designed to line the pockets of them and their friends.

It is fundamental for large scale projects not having immediate return on investment to be driven by parties that are not profit-oriented in the short term.

This is not an exclusive feature of bureaucrats. (They are not profit-oriented ever) Before we can understand this assertion, we have to understand what “short term” means. No investment will return results immediately. Some take seconds, some take weeks, some take years. Private enterprise is just as capable of performing high-frequency trading as it is capable of embarking on construction projects taking several years to complete, and probably even longer before the revenue pays for the initial cost of production.Austrians understand Time Preference. Time Preference is the value one places on time. If someone’s time preferences are high, then they’ll tend to favor “short term” over “long term” thinking. However if one’s time preference is low, then having to wait won’t seem so bad, and the reward might outweigh the cost.Prevalent high time preferences is a current problem among entrepreneurs, but this is not an issue with the market structure itself. It is a problem of state intervention in the economy that punishes long term thinking.

Nonetheless, I still believe that an entity not driven by immediate profits, or having a very long time-horizon is critical for development of new technologies and for driving the progress of the civilization as we know it, in general…

An essential teaching of modern economics is value is subjective. It is meaningless to talk about progress except from the perspective of a particular set of arbitrary value judgments.Let’s say we lived in a world comprised entirely of Amish-style folks who would reject any kind of improvement to their lives even if offered to them for free, due to their enormous respect for tradition. In this world, would scientific research be a useful activity?

By the way, I’m not from Seattle. It’s just a name ;p

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

Nice post. I always imagined you were honoring the great Chief Seattle (although I really don’t know much about him, maybe his “greatness” is PR?)

Seattle July 22, 2010 at 10:18 am

No meaning behind the name. I read the blog for a long time before I decided to make my first post, and “Seattle” was the first thing to pop into my head. I could change it yeah but what would be the point of that?

Dangit, why does editing a comment remove all the newlines?

Johny July 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

How about Thomas Edison? Leonardo Da Vinci? Vast numbers of great people in history made these quantum leaps on their own, on their debt or because they managed to persude some bussinesman to give them money to fund years of often abstract research, with little or no guaranties of success…

This is about the volume of funds you have from the bussinesmas point of view. He has no greater utility from an expensive painting than from funding something he sees useful, one invest in painting, another one in people and last one in public infrastructure.
Here in Prague, Czech republic, we have a bridge from Mr Hlavka, who needed it for his bussiness – today it accommodates far more than he could have envisioned 80 years ago. We also have some parts of great highways planned by Antonin Tomas Bata, who simply started building those to show the state, that such a thought is possible. Second war came too early to let him finish it and we got communists here after it.
A.T.Bata’s sons were very different from their father, especialy the one, who destroyed the other one’s wealth and made that worldwide shoe bussiness for himself…

So the whole goverenment has to do it is a fallacy – if I have not been robbed by my government of two thirds of my wages, I’d be more than happy to give much of it for something usefull. I’d do itwith my own money, so I’d check for efficiency and if my money was misused, I’d give no more. If state misuses my money, I have no way to stop it, so everything state buys is from three to twenty times more expensive than it is in local grocery – if I spend one third of my taxes on something I see usefull, the result would be better.

Gil July 22, 2010 at 12:11 am

Then again one phenonemon is helping the translation problem becoming easier – most languages are going extinct. Why bother learning a langauge that is spoken with next to no one outside a small group? On the other hand, if you are aspiring to be a business operator dealing in the international arena then learning English, Madarin and Cantonese allows you converse with billions of people.

Dominik July 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

Daniel/Jay Sax, I’m not the “judge of another individual’s ends.” I do not doubt that Ryan, or anyone using Google as a learning aid, does so out of a desire to learn Bangla or any other language in order to relate to the native speakers of that language. What I did do was caution against believing that this will bring you to a level that — in the long run — will earn you recognition, admiration, respect, whatever you want to call it, from the people whose language you’re learning. If you believe that a functional level is enough then yes, the “nature of your relating will be different.” It will be as different as a technical document is from a personal letter. I don’t think that communication on a technical level alone will further worldwide communication. We’re not robots but humans.

Johny July 22, 2010 at 7:39 am

Well this is also about who you want to read your messages, how are these products licensed. For example if anyone reads license of icq, skype or facebook, he has to drop usage of that service immediately if he fully understands the meaning I do not know licence of gmail or it’s translator, but I know the original license of chrome browser which means, that google is triing to take as much as you allow.
So this is probably not so available service, it could be used for something, but is foolish to use for other. And how could you know before the thing gets translated?

For great bunch of people this service would simply mena, that they do not need to learn any foreign language ever. That is going to be the biggest impact and it is surely a negative one.

Michael A. Clem July 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

What impresses me is that Google Translator is improving, through user contributions, I guess. Phrasing that came out strange in Alta Vista’s Babelfish usually makes much more sense in GT. The “Detect Language” feature is also a nice touch. Even if you can tell what language it’s translating from, the feature saves time and keystrokes (or mouse actions).

Johny July 23, 2010 at 5:29 am

Specialy the detect language is close to useles as it detects very often something which is near the real source.

Michael A. Clem July 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

I’ve never had it detect the wrong language on me yet. Not saying it couldn’t, or that it’s perfect–I’m just stating my experience. And I doubt that they’ve stopped trying to improve it at this time.

Milan July 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Sometimes I am really baffled by the arguments here on Mises website. Note that I do respect the authors and the content here (obviously I’m here reading the articles).
(I should also add that I am a software development professional, by profession sympathetic of Google)

But I think that this article is rather emotional, and wrong in several points.

- Success of Google, and this one in particular is no proof of any exclusivity of free markets in anything. Actually it proves nothing at all, on its own. Especially not that capitalism “bestows blessings on one and all”. This looks like “Hasty Generalization” fallacy (and some others).

- Technology cannot approximate miraculous things. Sounding a word or a sentence is not that miraculous. Movement of a hand is not that miraculous. Comparing two strings in order to match them and find a proper translation (in CPU or in one’s head) is not that miraculous.
However, the idea behind the word is miraculous. The source of a word is miraculous. The birth and growth of one’s vocal apparatus is miraculous. The energy that initiates our movements is miraculous. The life is miraculous. Approximate that Google!
Technology cannot approximate life, it can merely copy discrete elements on the surface.

- You compared this to what happened at Pentecost. Here is a worldly example to show why is this so wrong and pretentious: Try buying a set of Legos and then build buildings and pretend it’s a university where (for example) a Mises course is held. What’s missing? Well, everything of importance: the vast material, the atmosphere, the learning and understanding process of the deep truths of society and how it functions, the nature of people, their wishes, needs, the complex interactions, …, and after all, the meaning and the source of it all, including the Legos.

Best

Johny August 31, 2010 at 3:49 am

After today’s experience, I have to share some new thoughts.

Google translate went completely mad. It omits neither and nor making a full positive statement in german, spanish and french from negative in czech. This is not even funny as translating “Zen, to be a full human” title once correctly and once as “Woman are fully human” – both on the same page from same original sentence – it is useless now.

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 4:53 am

It omits neither and nor making a full positive statement in german,

is that common to german anyway?

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 5:05 am

Success of Google, and this one in particular is no proof of any exclusivity of free markets in anything.

do we have a free market??? but if you consider free markets to exist then their ability to bringn goods to people in free-ness would be exclusive.

Actually it proves nothing at all, on its own. Especially not that capitalism “bestows blessings on one and all”……

i dont see how capitalism bestows blessings.

Howard Schoen September 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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