March 19, 2012

Can you hear me now?




One of the under-observed consequences of the internet is the discovery that people the world over are far more similar than they are different. Patriotic fervor is fine, but mix it with xenophobia and the cocktail becomes deadly. The trick is to showcase your best side while generously recognizing that the other guy has something as good on offer—just not the same.

The only way to know that is through a shared language. Not Esperanto or Volapuk or even English. But something new. And it is already on your favorite web browser. Automated translation interface is here and it means that we can read any page on the web regardless of language. Translation quality improves constantly as the software accumulates context-based rules of usage. VOiP like Skype or Vonage is next. Your new best friend in France need never learn a word of English. When you meet face to face, you’ll be communicating through a WiFi earpiece, sign language or the old-fashioned way. But you will have the choice.

By the way, although this is not the place you might expect to read about context-based wireless simultaneous translation as The Next Big Technology Thing, doesn’t it make sense that your mobile phone will soon have an app for that? Just ten years ago, the hot item was a Palm Pilot with the stupid stylus. Scarcely more than a glorified Rolodex. Now our phones have GPS, two-way video and take better pictures than most cameras. But why stop there? Two words define the future of technology: organic transistors. That’s all you get on that topic for now but remember, you read it here first.

OK. Back to the theme. If the aforementioned convergent technologies allow us to break through the language barrier between the English-speaking world and la Francophonie, what then? Simultaneous translation as a career option will become as marginal as, say, blacksmithing, lamp-lighting or typing. Once we understand our interlocutors, the tired stereotypes, prejudices and suspicions fly out the window as we realize that we all share the same concerns: family, love, career, taxes, raising our kids, staying safe, being useful.

History, art, architecture, music are definitely worth the effort to show that, gee, you’re not in Kansas anymore. Some might argue that the geographies in France or Britain or America or Mexico are uniquely and unmistakably different. Movie location scouts demand and get big bucks for regularly proving the contrary. Food can’t help us here either. It’s as easy to eat well or badly in any part of the world. The best French chefs work in London and New York. The best burgers are made with Charolais (French) or Kobe (Japanese) beef.

Yes, folks, we are all the same under the dome of the bell curve.



4 comments:

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Point de prise, je vous remercie, mon ami.

SvO said...

J'appuie cette.

Mona said...

moi aussi

Charles said...

I can hear you, still.