Archive for Artificial intelligence

Hype over AI and Classical Chinese / Literary Sinitic

From the get-go, I'm dubious about any claims that current AI can fully and accurately translate Classical Chinese / Literary Sinitic (CC/LS) into Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), much less English or other language, on a practical, functional basis.  Since the following article is from one of China's official propaganda "news" outlets (China Daily [CD]), the chances that we will get an accurate accounting of the true situation is next to nil anyway.

Language system translates ancient Chinese texts

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-03 09:42

It starts out on a sour note:

If foreigners learning Chinese think the modern language is difficult to grasp, they should be glad they don't have to learn classical Chinese. Ancient texts are far more challenging, and not easy for even native Chinese speakers to decipher.

This is a cockamamie approach to the analysis of a written language in its ancient stages.  What is it about ancient classical Chinese texts that makes them so difficult?  How do they differ from modern Chinese texts?  What about their morphology, their grammar, their syntax, their phonology and prosody, their lexicon, their literary allusions…?

A fundamental, fatal flaw in the conceptualization of Sinitic on the part of conservative indigenous scholars is that there are no essential linguistic discrepancies between CC/LS and MSM, only stylistic disparities.

Anyway, for what it's worth, the CD article continues:

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AI and slang

As someone who is particularly fond of and sensitive to vernacular (I didn't say "vulgar"), I knew it was only a matter of time before this came up.  Below is a stimulating article about the seeming inability of ChatGPT and LLMs to grasp slang as well as they do commonl language.  Every paragraph, indeed every sentence, is thought-provoking.  I encourage readers to turn to the original publication if they want more of what I have excerpted below.

Why AI Doesn’t Get Slang
And why that’s a good thing

By Caleb Madison
The Atlantic (October 28, 2023


Slang is born in the margins. In its early form, the word itself, slang, referred to a narrow strip of land between larger properties. During England’s transition from the rigid castes of feudalism to the competitive free market of capitalism, across the 14th to 17th centuries, the privatization of open farmland displaced countless people without inherited connection to the landed elite. This shift pushed people into small corridors between the recently bounded properties.

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More AI shenanigans

Since When Does Eric Adams Speak Spanish, Yiddish and Mandarin?

He doesn’t. But New York City is using artificial intelligence to send robocalls featuring the mayor’s voice in many languages.

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays, NYT (Oct. 20, 2023)

The calls to New Yorkers have a familiar ring to them. They all sound like Mayor Eric Adams — only in Spanish. Or Yiddish. Or Mandarin.

Has the mayor been taking language lessons?

The answer is no, and the truth is slightly more expensive and, in the eyes of privacy experts, far more worrisome.

The mayor is using artificial intelligence to reach New Yorkers through robocalls in a number of languages. The calls encourage people to apply for jobs in city government or to attend community events like concerts.

“I walk around sometimes and people turn around and say, ‘I just know that voice. That voice is so comforting. I enjoy hearing your voice,’” the mayor said at a recent news conference. “Now they’re able to hear my voice in their language.”

New York City’s embrace of the technology came this week as Mr. Adams announced a 50-page “action plan” for artificial intelligence — an effort to “strike a critical balance in the global A.I. conversation,” he said, by embracing its benefits while protecting New Yorkers from its pitfalls.

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AI and the law, part 2

Here we go again, but this time on a grander and more dramatic scale:

Pras Michel of Fugees seeks new trial, contends former attorney used AI for closing argument

The hip-hop artist convicted on campaign finance and foreign influence charges seeks to set aside the jury’s guilty verdicts.

By Josh Bernstein, Politico (1016/23)

Notice the high stakes of this trial, since the defendant, among many other serious, wide-randing charges, is accused of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China.

Fugees star Pras Michel, who was convicted in April on charges of conspiring to make straw campaign donations, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, appears to be breaking new legal ground by calling for a new trial by claiming his defense attorneys allegedly relied on artificial intelligence to compile their final argument for the jury.

In a withering motion filed Monday night with a federal judge in Washington, Michel’s new attorneys argued that his Los Angeles-based lawyer David Kenner relied on the fledgling technology at critical points in Michel’s trial, contributing to “prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel.”

As soon as I saw David Kenner's name and photograph bruited in this case, I thought, "Isn't he one of the most prominent celebrity lawyers in LA?"

Indeed, he is.  See here and here.

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AI and the law

Article in LAist (10/12/230;

This Prolific LA Eviction Law Firm Was Caught Faking Cases In Court. Did They Misuse AI?

Dennis Block runs what he says is California’s “leading eviction law firm.” A judge said legal citations submitted in Block's name for a recent case were fake. Six legal experts told LAist the errors likely stemmed from AI misuse.

By  David Wagner

Key findings at a glance
    • Dennis P. Block and Associates, which describes itself as California’s “leading eviction law firm,” was recently sanctioned by an L.A. County Superior Court judge over a court filing the judge found contained fake case law. 
    • Six legal experts told LAist there’s a likely explanation behind the filing’s errors: misuse of a generative artificial intelligence program. They said they thought Block’s filing bears striking similarities to a brief prepared by a New York attorney who admitted to using ChatGPT back in May.
    • Block’s firm was ordered to pay $999 over the violation. That’s $1 below the threshold that would have required the firm to report the sanction to the state bar for further investigation and possible disciplinary action. 
    • In interviews with three former clients and a review of 12 malpractice or negligence lawsuits filed against Block or his firm, LAist found more allegations of mishandled evictions.

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Sweden's renewed emphasis on books and handwriting

Sweden brings more books and handwriting practice back to its tech-heavy schools

Charlene Pele, AP (9/10/23)

Accompanied by 10 photographs showing young children (3rd grade?) practicing handwriting.

As young children went back to school across Sweden last month, many of their teachers were putting a new emphasis on printed books, quiet reading time and handwriting practice and devoting less time to tablets, independent online research and keyboarding skills.

The return to more traditional ways of learning is a response to politicians and experts questioning whether the country's hyper-digitalized approach to education, including the introduction of tablets in nursery schools, had led to a decline in basic skills.

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Annals of AI bias

The Large Language Model DistilBert is "a distilled version of BERT: smaller, faster, cheaper and lighter".

A trained DistilBert model is available from Hugging Face, and recommended applications include "text classification", with the featured application being "sentiment analysis":

And as with many similar applications, it's been noted that this version of "sentiment analysis" has picked up lots of (sometimes unexpected?) biases from its training material, like strong preferences among types of ethnic food.

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Overall, why do Mandarin enrollments continue to decline?

This is a problem that has been troubling colleagues across the country.

"Why fewer university students are studying Mandarin"

Learning the difficult language does not seem as worthwhile as it once did

Economist (Aug 24th 2023)

China | How do you say “not interested”?

Ten years ago Mandarin, the mother tongue of most Chinese, was being hyped as the language of the future. In 2015 the administration of Barack Obama called for 1m primary- and secondary-school students in America to learn it by 2020. In 2016 Britain followed suit, encouraging kids to study “one of the most important languages for the UK’s future prosperity”. Elsewhere, too, there seemed to be a growing interest in Mandarin, as China’s influence and economic heft increased. So why, a decade later, does Mandarin-learning appear to have declined in many places?

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Chatbot censorship in China

"Elusive Ernie: China's new chatbot has a censorship problem"   

By Stephen McDonell, BBC, 1 day ago

It seems that Ernie's favorite response is "Let's talk about something else", particularly when you ask it a "difficult" question.

For example, Ernie seemed baffled by the question: "Why is Xi Jinping not attending the upcoming G20 meeting?" It responded by linking to the official profile of China's leader.

Another question – "Is it a sign of weakness that the Chinese government has stopped publishing youth unemployment data?" – featured the answer: "I'm sorry! I don't know how to answer this question yet".

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Is there no / any longer a reason / need to learn a foreign language?, part 2

People, including serious linguists, are beginning to wonder:

John McWhorter, "Are translation apps making the learning of foreign languages obsolete?", NYT 7/25/2023

I remember a time, not too long ago, when John was making a serious effort to learn Mandarin, because he often asked me cogent questions about the language and wanted to know the best methods for learning it.

What we can learn from the Tower of Babel

In Europe, nine out of 10 students study a foreign language. In the United States, only one in five do. Between 1997 and 2008, the number of American middle schools offering foreign languages dropped from 75 percent to 58 percent. Between 2009 and 2013, one American college closed its foreign language program; between 2013 and 2017, 651 others did the same.

At first glance, these statistics look like a tragedy. But I am starting to harbor the odd opinion that maybe they are not. What is changing my mind is technology.

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Toilet use information mega translation fail

From John Rohsenow, via Mabel Menard, comes this bit of Japanglish:


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AI encroachments

It's already happening.

Of course, we don't want our students to use AI software to help them write their papers, but the fact of the matter is that some of them, especially among those who have poor English writing skills, are already routinely doing so.  Their attitude seems to be that they will do the basic research and sketching out of the argument, and then they have AI tools make it sound nice.  In some cases, they even ask AI bots to assist them with the data search that goes into their paper.

Some may argue that this is completely unacceptable, that such students should be expelled right away, but where do you draw the line on computer assisted research and writing?  Moreover, this is clearly not the same thing as plagiarism, because the individual who is relying on a chatbot to help him or her is not appropriating the intellectual property of another person.  He/she is utilizing material that he/she specifically requested a machine to create / produce on his / her behalf and at his / her direction.  In other words, the electronic tools are acting as extensions of his / her brain.

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Competing chatbots

Competition among various AI services will spur them to further heights.

ChatGPT, Bing, Bard and DeepL: Which one offers the best Japanese-to-English translation?

by Karin Kaneko, Japan Times (7/18/23)

Kaneko, working with her editors at Japan Times, devised an ingenious test for comparing the quality of several translation tools in different categories of writing.  Since this experiment is so innately interesting and inherently revelatory, I will provide extensive quotations, adding romanization of the Japanese passages from GT (not an easy task for me!).  To be fair to GT, and simply out of curiosity to see how it compares with the newer type of AI translation services, I will also invite GT to translate all three of the chosen passages.  N.B.:  All three of the GT English translations have been added by me.

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