Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marxist Critique of Obamacare and Palin Derangement Syndrome

The Economist reports that Google is well on its way to developing the world's best translator.

For over four decades the boffins tried to program computers to “understand” the structure and phonetics of language. This meant defining rules such as where nouns and verbs go in a sentence, which are the correct tenses and so on. All the exceptions to the rules needed to be programmed in too. Google, by contrast, saw it as a big maths problem that could be solved with a lot of data and processing power—and came up with something very useful.
. . .
Its book-scanning project has thousands of titles that have been translated into many languages. All these translations are very good, done by experts to exacting standards. So instead of trying to teach its computers the rules of a language, Google turned them loose on the texts to make statistical inferences. Google Translate now covers more than 50 languages, according to Franz Och, one of the company’s engineers.
. . .
The design of the feedback loop is critical. Google asks users for their opinions, but not much else.
[to tune the performance of the translation.]
What's that got to do with the title? This Obamacare is an example of the ruling class believing that because it is smarter than its subjects, it can dictate to them the outlines of the "best" system. But as Google's experience shows the feedback of billions of people will help build the best translation engine, even if it's baseline is designed by experts. In the same way, if the experience of hundreds of millions of patients can be brought to bear on the delivery of medical care it can be improved.

But the problem is larger than Obamacare, it goes to the world view of those who think they know best for us, when in fact, their prescriptions are largely self serving. They seek to form a perpetual ruling class through the imposition of state control that only the experts in the bureaucracy can understand and to which the commoners lack access.

For a fuller treatment and how this leads to Palin derangement syndrome, see B-Daddy's Other Blog.


  1. Can I add that Google's "Babel Fish" translator will in never solve the language problem. Not only does it discriminate against anyone who cannot afford a mobile phone, but against minority language groups as well.

    There are 6,800 languages worldwide, not fifty-two !

    Moreover, if I met a native in Borneo, and he said to me in Hakka "I've lost my mobile phone" how would I understand him :) And how many starving Africans can afford a mobile phone !

    As English loses its economic power, the answer is not for us to move to Mandarin Chinese, but to Esperanto which puts all speakers on an equal footing.

    Have a look at or

  2. Brian,
    I don't think English is losing its economic power. Further, I have learned not to bet against Google solving a technical problem.