Published: 03 May 2024

Video: Professor Robin Setton - Artificial Communication: limits of AI

Watch the full video recording of the lecture Artificial Communication: limits of AI, by Professor Robin Setton. The lecture was delivered on 17th April 2024 as part of the Convergence lecture series promoted by the Centre for Translation Studies, University of Surrey.

Title: Artificial Communication: limits of AI 

Abstract: Automatic translation of speech and text has recently been showcased to demonstrate spectacular advances in artificial intelligence, but S2S (speech-to-speech) systems in particular have yet to prove themselves sufficiently reliable and adaptable to surpass humans in the many key real-life interpreting situations that involve spontaneous, original and contextualized discourse. Since its incorporation into cognitive science seventy years ago, linguistics has split into two tracks with increasingly divergent assumptions, perspectives and goals - roughly, computational linguistics and the study of ordinary language, culminating respectively in the AI project and pragmatics. This exploratory study evaluates (with examples) the performance, promises and potential of current speech translation systems through the prism of Relevance Theory and the professional experience of human interpreters, and asks whether human interpreting and translation might not be one of those stimulating, enriching and pleasurable cultural activities that are better left to humans, rather than a task from which we need to be relieved – a question that speaks to a possible fundamental difference between communication and the mere exchange of information. 

About the speaker: Prof. Robin Setton is a conference interpreter (AIIC 1983-2020, freelance and staff), researcher, trainer, translator and author, of dual French and British nationality, working mainly between these languages and from German and Chinese. He holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics (1997), and has been active since 1990 as a trainer and course designer for interpreting schools and institutions in Europe and Asia (Paris, Geneva, Shanghai, Taipei), and more recently, subtitling Chinese independent films. Publications reflect an interest in the interaction between pragmatics, cognition and culture in cross-lingual communication, and include a 1999 monograph on simultaneous interpreting and the co-authored Conference Interpreting: A Complete Course and Trainer’s Guide (2016). 

This event took place online on Wednesday 17th April 2024, 4:30 pm BST.

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