Facebook's Translation Service Is Now Managed By AI Alone

Friday, 04 August 2017 - 11:26AM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Friday, 04 August 2017 - 11:26AM
Facebook's Translation Service Is Now Managed By AI Alone
Image credit: Pixabay
If you've seen a post or comment from a friend on Facebook that's written in a language other than English recently, you might have been impressed by just how far automatic translation has come since the early days of Google Translate. Now, not only are automatic translations more accurate, but they're also vaguely coherent, which is a big step in itself.

According to Facebook, there's a reason for this advancement: instead of translating every phrase word by painstaking word (thereby losing context and grammar cues that are important to accuracy and comprehension), Facebook has been increasingly using neural networks to assess an entire sentence at once, taking into account abbreviations, slang, and even the tone of the statement as a whole in order to make something that both reads clearly and better represents what the original message is designed to say.

Having ramped this up over the past few years, Facebook has now announced that, as of August 3rd, their entire translation algorithm is run from start to finish by AI bots. The system is self-sustaining, self-teaching, and will continue to learn and grow smarter as it analyzes more content from its end users.




In some ways, the timing of this announcement couldn't be better—after all, Facebook, AI, and language translation have all been in the news recently for less auspicious reasons. Following a very public disagreement between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg about the future of artificial intelligence, in which Musk accused Facebook's founder of overlooking the potential dangers of AI as the technology continues to develop, Facebook was forced to shut down one of their AI initiatives because the bots had developed their own language that had become incomprehensible to humans.

Essentially, the announcement that Facebook's translation services are provided entirely by AI serves to reassure users worldwide (and Elon Musk in particular) that Facebook has faith in their deep learning initiatives, and that for every potential crisis that's averted, gains are being made in other areas.




All of this goes to show that the march of AI is not slowing down, even with Musk claiming that people won't know what to do until robots are killing people in the streets. And it shouldn't slow down—the development of AI is less black-and-white, "Skynet vs. humans" than Musk makes it out to be, especially when neural networks can make such a positive impact in a hundred small, relatively harmless ways.
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