The Ethics of Machine Translation

In Helena Moniz & Carla Parra Escartín (eds.), Towards Responsible Machine Translation: Ethical and Legal Considerations in Machine Translation. Springer Verlag. pp. 29-48 (2023)
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Abstract

Language technologies are gradually turning into key modalities of our algorithmic present and future. Real world texts embed patterns and patterns hack natural meaning, following the language structure, word ordering, the underlying values and perceptions of a given semantic agent. Understanding the logic behind computational linguistics and meaning formulation provides the necessary theoretical substrate for ethical screening and reasoning. The present paper aims to map the components and functionalities of a random linguistic system, tracking all stages of semantic rendering throughout the semantic cycle and providing recommendations for ethical design optimisation. We attempt to articulate the information space as a transition process of natural and/or non-natural phenomena into subjective information models, driven by subjective human experience and worldview: To realise the information space as a dynamic space, full of arbitrary features, where the information maker and the information receiver both affect/influence and are affected/influenced by the system. This article is not a practical toolkit towards the application of ethics and further social considerations on Natural Language Processing at large and/or more specifically Machine Translation ones; it is rather a contribution in shaping the appropriate framework within which the Language Technology (LT) stakeholders may identify, analyse, understand and appropriately manage issues of ethical concern. It is a plea for multimodal computational linguistic management, via interdisciplinary groups of professionals, in order to optimise the research around the impact of computational linguistics on human rights, language diversity, self-identity and social behaviour. Language technologies need to articulate complex meanings and subtle semantic divergences. New external metrics need to be added, based on legal, ethical, social, anthropological grounds. This is a necessary puzzle to solve, in order not to discount future structural rewards.

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