The Dawn of the Human-Machine Era: A forecast of new and emerging language technologies
© the Authors, 2021
New language technologies are coming, thanks to the huge and competing private investment fuelling rapid progress; we can either understand and foresee their effects, or be taken by surprise and spend our time trying to catch up. This report scketches out some transformative new technologies that are likely to fundamentally change our use of language. Some of these may feel unrealistically futuristic or far-fetched, but a central purpose of this report - and the wider LITHME network - is to illustrate that these are mostly just the logical development and maturation of technologies currently in prototype. But will everyone benefit from all these shiny new gadgets? Throughout this report we emphasise a range of groups who will be disadvantaged and issues of inequality. Important issues of security and privacy will accompany new language technologies. A further caution is to re-emphasise the current limitations of AI. Looking ahead, we see many intriguing opportunities and new capabilities, but a range of other uncertainties and inequalities. New devices will enable new ways to talk, to translate, to remember, and to learn. But advances in technology will reproduce existing inequalities among those who cannot afford these devices, among the world’s smaller languages, and especially for sign language. Debates over privacy and security will flare and crackle with every new immersive gadget. We will move together into this curious new world with a mix of excitement and apprehension - reacting, debating, sharing and disagreeing as we always do. Plug in, as the human-machine era dawns. ...
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