🏆NLP – The brainless translator created by some very brainy people

🏆NLP – The brainless translator created by some very brainy people

February 8, 2019 DATAcated Challenge 0

“Alexa, what is Natural Language Processing?”

“Natural Language Processing is a field of Artificial Intelligence that makes it possible for people to interact with machines by using everyday language instead of code.” 😊

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is not a new idea. We’ve always been fascinated with language and looked for ways to explain how it works, how it affects us, how to use it for greater impact, how to eliminate the communication barriers that come from using different languages.

It’s impossible to tell when NLP started, but here are some events that are part of its history:

  • In the 1600s, famous polymaths Leibniz and Descartes were already looking for ways to automate translation.
  • In the 1930s, researchers like French-Armenian Georges Artsrouni and Russian Peter Troyanskii were submitting the first patents for automated translators with names like “mechanical brain” and “translating machine”.
  • In the late 1980s, researchers’ strategy changed from setting rules for automated translation, to using machine learning for identifying patterns in language and coming up with translation algorithms.
  • In 2014, Amazon introduced Alexa, a voice activated virtual assistant inspired by computer communication systems from movies like Star Trek.

Alexa is probably the best-known example of an NLP application. Alexa users can speak to it in natural language and ask it to:

  • read news, jokes, ebooks, weather forecasts, and sales reports;
  • play music and trivia games;
  • create to-do lists, reminders, and routines;
  • book conference rooms;
  • make phone calls, etc.

Alexa doesn’t have answers for everything. Ask it things like:

  • how do you care for a cat wound,
  • who’s a better Mr. Darcy: Colin Firth or Matthew Macfayden,
  • add the updated sales table to the KPI spreadsheet and generate a bar chart based on the new data,

and Alexa will say “Hm, I’m not sure about that,” or, “I don’t know the answer to that one.”

Sooner or later, NLP technology will be advanced enough to make sure Alexa (and similar devices) will no longer be stumped by questions like those. Alexa will be an incredibly useful personal assistant that can flawlessly carry out complex instructions. That doesn’t mean it understands them.

If I tell Alexa and my best friend that I’m in love, they might both tell me, “I’m happy for you.” Alexa will do so because algorithms calculated that as the optimal answer. My friend will do so because she truly knows and understands how I feel.

In my opinion, NLP will never be more than a zombie translator (no brain nor heart, just automated action). The brain and creativity that will make the most of NLP will all come from humans.

By: Bianca Aguglia


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