Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Social-Media-Crowdsourcing Bubble Takes Another Step Closer to Parallel Universe

[Charlotte tells Carrie about a salesman who gives her free shoes because he is a foot fetishist.]
Charlotte: I don’t think it’s creepy. He makes me feel like Cinderella!
Carrie (shocked): Yes, just like Cinderella… (Thinks to herself): Sick, twisted, parallel-universe Cinderella.
(Sex and the City)

OK, we know MT output remains pretty poor and crowdsourcing only works for websites that are used obsessively for hours and hours.

So how can we leverage the leisure time of the otiose and ignorant to further the dream of bringing the world closer together?

Last year brought us the greatest philanthropic achievement of the McLocalization sector. There is, apparently, a dearth of material in the Thai language, which means that Thai farmers don’t have enough access to information in their own language (never mind the fact that they may not own computers or even have access to the Internet). Well, Thai peasants, you need no longer fear: the MT Crowd gives you… (drum roll)… MACHINE TRANSLATED WIKIPEDIA!

Their standard of living may not have improved much, but at least they’ve got a very detailed discography of Nat King Cole and a smorgasbord of information on the popular American TV show called Hee Haw.

Fresh off this magnum opus, the phalanx has come up with an even better idea: Let’s get people who don’t know foreign languages to translate stuff!

Why didn’t someone think of this before? Our resident Silicon Valley entrepreneur ripostes: “Just because it’s completely moronic doesn’t mean that it’s not a game changer!

He proceeds:

Yes, translate as you learn! Back in the olden days, you had to learn a foreign language to translate. Forget that, my brizzle! The world is moving WAY too fast for that antediluvian paradigm. What’s that you say? That we should learn a language before translating? Geez, Grandpa, go get your slippers and jump into your PJs: Matlock starts in half an hour.

Sound insane? A new venture called Duolingo.com is enginnovating the future at the same time as it boldly goes where no lunatic has ever gone before:
Language differences remain a barrier for the global sharing of knowledge, and computers cannot process human language accurately. The more you learn at Duolingo, the more knowledge you make accessible to the world.
Since you create shared value when you learn, you don’t have to pay for using Duolingo. We believe language education should be 100% free.
Common sense would suggest that a language learner is probably the worst possible candidate to translate a text. (“Well, of course, when you put it that way, it sounds COLOSSALLY stupid…”). But thanks to the magic of crowdsourcing, people who don’t know languages become the ideal workforce for translating texts.

Seriously, guys, what’s next? Are we going to get dogs to translate random stuff on the Internet? Those border collies that know 1,000 words? Better yet: when are we going to crowdsource dolphins? (“We would only use the really, really smart ones. Duh…”)

When historians look back at the Social Media Bubble of the 2010s in search of a peak (i.e., the moment when things got so delirious that even absurd business models began to be taken seriously), I hope they take a look at this venture. Because it’s my candidate.

Of course, anyone pointing out that the Emperor is dancing around in his birthday suit (and, by the by, doesn’t actually know Mandarin Chinese) is a Luddite. Nay, an ignoramus who doesn’t understand that ever-increasing ingenuity is required to achieve this century’s loftiest dream.

No, not curing cancer. Not colonizing Mars, either. Not even realistic breast implants.

No. The Web 2.0 will break down language barriers to achieve the centuries-long dream of selling more online text ads.

Jesus wept.

Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center and H.B.O. International, as well as many small-and-medium-sized brokerages and asset management companies operating in SpainTo contact him, visit his website and write to the address listed there. Feel free to join his LinkedIn network or to follow him on Twitter.


Joan Parra said...

This time I was really anticipating your post, Miguel. After reading certain blogs and listening to Luis von Ahn's talk on youtube, all I could think was: How can anyone take such a crappy scheme seriously just for one second.

Jordi Balcells said...

I don't really know what to say about this moronic initiative without quoting Einstein on the possibility of an infinite universe, so I better stay quiet.