German literary translators want strict AI regulation

German literary translators want strict AI regulation

German news site heise reports that German-speaking literary translators associations are demanding stricter regulation of Artificial Intelligence (usually abbreviated to AI) due to its threats to art and literature.

“Art and democracy too are being threatened.” This is being said by German-speaking literary translators associations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in respect of the increasing “automation of intellectual work and human speech“. They have therefore collaborated on an open letter (PDF) in which they are demanding strict regulation of AI.

Artificial Intelligence graphic combining a human brain schematic with a circuit board.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Regulation must ensure that the functionality of generative AI and its training data must be disclosed. Furthermore, AI providers must clearly state which copyrighted works they have used for training. No works should be used for this purpose against the wishes of copyright holders. In addition to this, the open letter states that copyright holders should be paid if AI is trained using their works and a labelling requirement should be introduced for 100% AI content.

“Human language is being simulated now”

“A translation is the result of an individual interaction with an original work”, the translators write. This interaction must take place responsibly. How a sentence is constructed and what attention is focused on guides the inner experience of readers. The language skills needed for this are developed and honed in the active writing process. “The creation of a new literary text in another language makes the translator a copyright holder of a new work.”

However, text-generating AI can only simulate human speech, according to the translators. “They have neither thoughts, emotions nor aesthetic sense, know no truth, have no knowledge of the world and no reasons for translation decisions.” Due to their design, language simulations are often illogical and full of gaps; they contain substitute terms and statements that are not always immediately recognised as incorrect.

“AI multiplies prejudices”

The translators continue by saying that When AI products are advertised, it is suggested that the AI can work independently, “understand” and “learn”. “This means the huge amounts of human work on which the supposedly ‘intelligent’ products are based are kept secret.” Millions of copyrighted works are ‘scraped‘ from illegally established internet libraries to create language bots.

These and other arguments are combined in a “Manifesto for Human Language”. In it the translators write as follows: “Bot language only ever reproduces the status quo. It multiplies prejudices, inhibits creativity, the dynamic development of languages and the acquisition of language skills.” Text-generating AI is attempting to make human and machine language indistinguishable. It is not designed as a tool, but a replacement for human skill.

However, AI is not intelligence at all, since this also includes emotional, moral, social and aesthetic intelligence, practical sense and experience which arise from physicality and action. “In this respect, the technical development of language bots cannot be termed ‘progress'”, the open letter states.

Author: Steve Woods

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