Vatican, 18 July, 2023 / 1:53 pm (ACI Africa).
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are having their moment. AI image generators such as MidJourney have proven capable of creating almost any picture imaginable — even a fake but compelling image of Pope Francis in a chic puffer coat. Meanwhile, advanced “chatbot” systems such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT continue to stun the public by mimicking human speech with almost frightening accuracy.
But one team of researchers is seeking to put AI to use for a different and more noble purpose — the translation of the Bible into extremely rare languages.
Ulf Hermjakob and Joel Mathew are researchers at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute in Marina Del Rey, California. They recently launched Greek Room, a computer program designed to streamline the process of Bible translation by providing needed quality-control services such as spell checking for translation drafts created by humans.
“We don’t think that AI can replace the human translator. We see it as a support role to help in this very challenging task of translating the Bible into languages where there’s often almost no written records of any kind,” Hermjakob, a native of Germany and a Ph.D. computer scientist, told CNA.
Hermjakob, a lifelong Lutheran, said despite the Bible being the world’s most translated book, it has so far been translated into only about 700 of the world’s 7,000 languages, which excludes many languages that have several thousand speakers — rare, yes, but far from tiny.