Machines may never master the distinctly human elements of language

Artificial intelligence is difficult to develop because real intelligence is mysterious. This mystery manifests in language, or “the dress of thought” as the writer Samuel Johnson put it, and language remains a major challenge to the development of artificial intelligence. “There’s no way you can have an AI system that’s humanlike that doesn’t have language at the heart of it,” Josh Tenenbaum, a professor of cognitive science and computation at MIT told Technology Review in August. In September, Google announced that its Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system can now “in some cases” produce translations that are “nearly indistinguishable” from those of humans. Still, it noted: “Machine translation is by no means solved. GNMT can still make significant errors that a human translator would never make, like dropping words and mistranslating…


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