WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Google’s decade-old service, Google Translate, is freaking out users with strange and prophetic translations.
- Some results even “ predict” Doomsday and the second coming of Jesus.
- But tech experts agree that these strange results are most likely because of Google Translate’s algorithm.
A few Reddit users have recently scoured weird results from Google Translate, a 10-year old feature that can now decipher messages in about a hundred languages. One example would be typing the word “dog” 19 times in the Google Translate field, selecting Maori to English.
The results show a prophecy that reads: “Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve. We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.”
As some users speculate that the text might be from private emails and messages, Google spokesperson, Justin Burr, says in an email that Google Translate learns from examples of translations on the web and does not use ‘private messages’ to carry out translations, nor would the system even have access to that content.
“It’s more likely that the strange translations are related to a change Google Translate made several years ago when it started using a technique known as “neural machine translation,” says Alexander Rush, assistant professor at Harvard.
He adds that that type of modification can get caught by internal quality filters.
“The models are black-boxes, that are learned from as many training instances that you can find,” Rush added. “The vast majority of these will look like human language, and when you give it a new one it is trained to produce something, at all costs, that also looks like human language. However, if you give it something very different, the best translation will be something still fluent, but not at all connected to the input.”
BBN Technologies’ senior scientist, Sean Colbath, agrees that the weird results are most likely because of Google Translate’s algorithm. Somali, Hawaiian and Maori have been noted as the languages that produce the strangest translations – and these languages, compared to vastly spoken languages like Chinese or English, have less translated texts.
It’s a possibility that if Google used biblical texts from the Bible (which has many translations) to train the system translator in those languages, then it would result in religious text. On this matter, Google spokesperson, Justin Burr, refused to confirm if Google Translate’s training materials include biblical texts.
Another possibility of the eccentric outputs could be a result of users who are abusing the “Suggest an edit” button to mess with the algorithm, and the system accepts suggestions for translations of the text.