wade tillett on 16 Nov 2000 01:46:38 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] <nettime> The bias of translating programs

felix stalder wrote
> For me the most interesting aspect of this experiment was not so much to
> show "how bad" these translation programs are. Of course, if you translate
> back and forth several times, distortions occur.... 
>(all translators are liars).

For me, the interesting part IS the distortions. I think what I got out of it was infinitely more interesting than what I put in. I think the real cultural bias of translating programs, or programs in general, stems as much from the user's expectation of output as the programmers. 

The largest bias of a program is that it should produce something. And the user (and programmer) judges what this production is. Bugs, errors, inaccuracies, distortions, degradations... are all names for productions which do not mean the user's expectations. The user judges whether this is accurate or what the author intended, as opposed to finding what is interesting in it and following that direction. I have, over the past couple years, been collecting this junk output. I have a whole stack of printer test sheets, printer error sheets, and other papers with errors that I weeded out of the final version of what I was working on.

What translators give us is an opportunity to re-invent multiple degradations of a text rapidly. It would be really interesting to cross these translators with some sort of random number program and see what sort of results we could get. What if these translations were created simultaneously as we type, so that there is no original, only simultaneous parallel deviations of which none can be called the true original? A sort of fuzzy creation without borders (without limits?) which is free from the user's expectation of the original....?

In a sort-of-related project I did a while ago...

(all of the numbered links show files that i sequentially derived from the_scheme article published yesterday.) 
i started with some simple find and replace. 
changing spaces to h 
then i did some formatting by changing letters to numbers, tabs, paragraphs. 
after it was sufficiently broken down (at no. 17) 
i decided to see what bill gates could do to make sense of it. 
i laughed out loud at the ridiculous suggestions the stupid animated staple gave me like, 
"Fragment. If the marked words are an incomplete thought, consider developing this thought into a complete sentence by adding a subject or a verb or combining this text with another sentence. Instead of "meteors the entire night." Consider "we watched meteors the entire night." 
the technology can not understand that it is nonsense because who would ever use a program to make nonsense? to deconstruct. to not produce. 
so i changed and autocorrected everything bill told me to, seeing what he can construct. 
the technology isn't quite there yet but i am sure in a couple years i will be able to feed in no. 17 and get a perfect essay. probably win the pulitzer. (fragment, consider...) 
no. 18 is what i got after receiving the message "spelling and grammar check complete." 
i decided to help our buddy the staple out and change the weird formatting and numbers to letters. 
finally i rechecked the whole document and removed anything bill didn't have any suggestions for except 'ignore'. i also removed all orphaned letters with find and replace 

some outtakes from this experiment (see the whole thing at the website http://members.uss.net/kkim/life_series/frame1.htm )
can we produce a framework for life, for chance, as with the sheet in the wind.  provide criteria which will take life w/ chance.  where upon we let go + give it a life of its own.  free of our control.  (spark memory and let it burn)  we set up a context which will incorporate life + chance.  something which self perpetuates + renews + changes.  like a sheet in the wind.  random lights on a skyscraper.  curtains in the breeze.  rain on the roof.  sand on a black floor.  headlights on the walls.  neighbors voices laughing in the gangway.  the smell of coffee.  or bacon.  crickets.  shadows.  drafts and breezes.  the clang of pots and pans.  soft voices in the morning.  the creak of a house.  the squeak of a floor.  a refrigerator hum.  the clanging of the gate.....
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