Many of the great horrors of the world can be derived from language segregation. The Bible speaks of a malevolent God punishing humanity by creating multiple languages to curb collaboration and suppress overambitious engineering at the tower of Babel. Regardless if the story is true or not, the suffering is still very real today. People have always feared and hated who and what they can’t understand. How many wars could have been avoided if everyone could have made themselves understood? Unfortunately, since we’re too stubborn (or cursed) to agree upon a single world language, I believe the only salvation will come through technology.
Imagine a world united by fluent borderless communication, where all information, education, music, plays, ideas and literature were made available for everyone to understand, discuss and improve upon. Where everyone could converse with anyone anywhere about anything. Traveling, working and studying around the globe would be hassle-free. Visiting remote cultures to learn more would be as easy as asking. The mission of integrating immigrants and refugees into new societies would also be greatly aided. There’s simply no limit to what we can achieve if we all work together.
Daryl Plummer, VP and chief of research at Gartner recently urged all companies to stop hiring copywriters this year. This is because of recent breakthroughs in machine learning, natural language understanding and AI’s enabling computers to autonomously write high quality text and articles. Many of the articles we read today about weather, sports and the stock market are already written by computers. Ultimately, most of the news you will consume will have been written in the moment you read it, just for you.
Just like computers are quickly learning to write, they are also learning to talk and listen. In a few years you’ll be able to talk effortlessly to any person on the planet with perfect real-time translation. The language engines will then not only recognize the words you’re speaking but actually understand the exact message in each sentence. This will effectively end all previous troubles with translating irony, allusions, hidden implications and sarcasm.
Step by step we’re building a digital tower of Babel, unlocking the full innovative and peacekeeping power of global collaboration. For me, traveling is one of the greatest pleasures in life and the smartwatch currently strapped to my wrist can already somewhat understand 14 spoken languages. The watch provides me and the person opposite me with instant translations during spoken conversations, even in the Chinese countryside where my cellphone signal is long lost. So I believe It’s time to stop learning second languages and time to start learning something more useful. Why not a programming language?