In describing a recent experience with a student from China, he ruminates on the simple communicative effectiveness of a good online translator:
...she figured out in a few minutes how to make something useless to her — a 20-minute talk in English — into something useful, via correctly enabled Web tools. This is the kind of world we live in… and yet people still insist that we need to have paper books.
Translating the translatable. It's not rocket science. And yet for so long language has been the barrier.
But it's now on the way to becoming a pre-21st century excuse.
It's true: immediate accurate real-time translation is the next step. The folks making Google Wave sure think so. And true, there have been plenty of crappy online translators that have been ruining the nuance of a participial phrase for some time now, but the possibilities ahead -- especially in the context of a semantic web -- make the hairs on the back of my neck stick up.
Ah, the magic of the 'real' Babble Fish. One wonders where human history would be if we had had this stuff all along.