by Jaap van der Meer
No Government, No Innovation The
translation industry is quickly becoming a high-
So we say… But fear not. Translator’s jobs are not going away. Although Google Translate may be considered a big innovation, the company keeps hunting for more and better human translators who can produce the most readable and best localizations
and its economical application in the next millennium. But, as I wrote in my recent blog article “The Brains but not the Guts”, very often, at the end of a project, researchers join the companies that have the guts to make it work.
of its products.
“With all respect to the companies innovating in language today”, says Lane Greene in his column in this issue of TAUS Review, “no-one has achieved anything like that roll-up…” He refers to Uber and “Uberization”, a neologism that has become synonym for disruption of traditional and fragmented industries. Nothing of the same scale is taking place yet in the global translation industry. Mergers and acquisitions in our sector aim at increasing market share, but up to now they have not lead to real innovation. Where then is the real big innovation in the translation industry coming from, we asked our columnists. From insiders or invaders?
Where is the real big innovation in the translation industry coming from? Insiders or invaders?
Luigi Muzii refers to the conclusion that Mariana Mazzucato arrived at in her book “The Entrepreneurial State”: no government, no innovation. We’d like to think perhaps that the companies we admire bring us great inventions, but in fact the research underlying them is often funded by governments. One example for all: the ideas and mechanics behind Google Translate go back to, among others, Verbmobil, a research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology until the year 2000. The project was aimed at giving Germany a top international position in language technology
What the global translation industry needs now is ambitious government-funded research programs that exceed national borders. In analogue to the Human Genome Project, in the past we coined the idea of a Human Language Project in various TAUS conferences and articles. The Human Genome Project – after thirteen years of research funded by European and US governments – delivered the first documented human DNA in 2003 and since then the project ignited a revolution in human science. The original funds amounted to 2.7 Billion US Dollars. According to some reports, the benefits of the Human Genome Project now already hover around 1 Trillion US Dollars, or $178 for every public dollar spent. The discoveries delivered by the Human Genome Project have incubated a company like Illumina. Illumina’s machines for sequencing human DNA potentially rewrite the way we manage healthcare in the world. Disruptive innovation in optima forma. In the meantime, the translation industry is just spinning its wheels. Localization project managers are burnt out on repetitive jobs and highly educated translators are exploited to produce more for less. The sector prides itself as an enabler for globalization, but it is just scratching the surface. Ninety percent of the content and ninety percent of
What the global translation industry needs now is ambitious governmentfunded research programs that exceed national borders. 5