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A philosophical analysis on the challenge of cultural context to AI translation


Language translation is a fast growing field of Artificial Intelligence, which helps people to learn and better understand other cultures different from their own. Although currently the quality of AI translation is still far less than satisfactory compared with experienced human translators, it is under steady improvement. Correspondingly, the concern over the limit of the quality improvement of AI translation would naturally arise, in a sense similar to the concern over the limit of the efficiency improvement of heat engines a couple centuries ago. Obviously,  this  would  not  be  a  pure  technological  issue,  but  an  essentially  philosophical  issue due to the cultural openness of the human language system. As is pointed out in this writing, the biggest challenge to AI translation is the complexity of the cultural context of the original text in general, instead of the textual context within the  text.  Meanwhile,  the  currently  existing  knowledge  pool  of  human  culture  which  is  accessible to AI machines appears very poor, because the history of AI is still very short and the team of AI scientists is quite small while the human cultural history is very long and the size of the human cultural domain is enormous. Therefore, the major task for the development of AI translation, in terms of dealing with the cultural context, is to catch up with the continually evolving and highly diversified human cultural environment around the world. For this reason, this writing would focus on the comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of humans and AI machines in terms of learning the culture.


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