ChatGPT: Shaking Up Industries One Translation at a Time

Created: Jun 21, 2023 | Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Tracing the transformative journey of machine translation, this article explores how AI technologies like ChatGPT can significantly impact various industries. It delves into the parallels between machine translation's evolution and the potential future of ChatGPT, offering key insights for businesses navigating the AI revolution.

The introduction of machine translation (MT) has revolutionized the language industry, but it was not without its share of skepticism and criticism. Initially, translators, agency owners, and linguistic purists alike dismissed the idea of machines taking over the art of translation. 

Early MT systems were often riddled with errors, leading to translations that were, at times, barely comprehensible. According to the evaluation done by the BLEU System (Bi-lingual Evaluation Understudy), the IBM-Georgetown experiment had a 50% error rate. These limitations made MT suitable only for getting the gist of foreign language texts, rather than creating polished translations for professional use. Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, an Israeli Philosopher and Linguist once said that a “fully automatic high-quality translation…” (FAHQT), as he called it, was unattainable “...not only in the near future but altogether”.

Little did they know that technology would soon advance rapidly, leading to increasingly sophisticated and accurate MT systems. This article will explore the journey of MT from its early days to its widespread adoption, drawing parallels with ChatGPT, and offering insights into the potential impact of AI technologies in various industries.


The Evolution of Machine Translation

Early MT systems were based on a rule-based approach, which relied on a set of predetermined linguistic rules and dictionaries to convert text from one language to another. These systems were limited by their inability to understand the nuances of language, idiomatic expressions, and cultural context, often resulting in translations that were stilted, awkward, or even outright wrong

The development of statistical and neural machine translation techniques significantly improved the accuracy and fluency of MT. These approaches leveraged large parallel corpora and machine learning algorithms to model the translation process, allowing for more flexible and natural translations. 

As the quality of MT improved, its adoption across various industries grew exponentially. Large corporations and language service providers started leveraging MT as a cost-effective and efficient solution for their translation needs. Organizations like Google, Facebook, IKEA and Airbnb now use MT for a large portion of their language needs.


Machine translation


ChatGPT's Potential Impact on Industries

The journey of machine translation serves as a valuable case study for understanding the potential impact of OpenAI ChatGPT on various industries. As MT evolved from a rudimentary tool with limited capabilities to an essential tool for globalization, it demonstrates the power of continuous improvement and innovation in AI technologies. By examining the factors that contributed to MT's success, we can gain insights into how the ChatGPT app might evolve in the coming years. Unlike Machine Translation, which only affected one profession/industry, ChatGPT has a potentially wider impact across numerous industries (according to ChatGPT’s own analysis of its potential impact). 

ChatGPT's analysis of its impact on jobs

While it is difficult to predict the exact trajectory of ChatGPT adoption, we can draw some parallels with the adoption of MT. Similar to how MT gained traction as its capabilities improved, ChatGPT is also likely to see increased adoption as it becomes more refined and reliable. Industries that can benefit from AI-generated content, data analysis, or customer support may be among the first to embrace ChatGPT and similar technologies.


Key Takeaways

  1. Governments and regulated industries are slowest to adopt: As witnessed with the adoption of machine translation, governments and regulated industries tend to be more cautious when embracing new technologies, due to concerns over data security, privacy, and compliance with regulations. 
    With AI, we expect to see a similar trajectory. Whilst companies like HubSpot, Shutterstock and others have been quick to adopt generative AI, we have seen governments and certain industries adopt a more cautious approach, as with the case of Italy’s privacy-led restriction of ChatGPT, and UMG’s request to Apple & Spotify to prevent music downloads for AI.
  2. Overestimating short-term impact, underestimating long-term impact: It is common to overestimate the impact of new technology in the short term while underestimating its long-term potential. As we have seen with MT, early scepticism gave way to widespread adoption as the technology matured. This will likely be the case for ChatGPT & similar AI technologies initially, but just as with MT, professionals and industries will find a way to properly integrate.
  3. The shift towards end-to-end solution providers: Companies require solutions, not tools. As technology evolves, companies are increasingly seeking complete solutions that address their specific needs, rather than individual tools. This shift was evident in the translation industry, where businesses sought efficient ways to communicate in different languages, and MT helped streamline that process.


The rise of machine translation serves as a powerful example of how technology can reshape industries and challenge traditional ways of working. As ChatGPT and similar AI technologies continue to advance, they hold the potential to revolutionize various sectors, just as MT has done for the translation industry.

To prepare for this future, businesses and individuals must be open to embracing change and innovation, while also understanding the importance of balancing AI capabilities with human expertise. By learning from the successes and challenges of machine translation, we can better anticipate the impact of ChatGPT and other AI technologies on our industries and adapt accordingly.



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