Creating with style…

In search of inspiration for improving computer-based text translators, researchers at Dartmouth College turned to the Bible for guidance. The result is an algorithm trained on various versions of the sacred texts that can convert written works into different styles for different audiences.

Internet tools to translate text between languages like English and Spanish are widely available. Creating style translators – tools that keep text in the same language but transform the style – have been much slower to emerge. The Dartmouth-led team saw in the Bible “a large, previously untapped dataset of aligned parallel text.” Beyond providing infinite inspiration, each version of the Bible contains more than 31,000 verses that the researchers used to produce over 1.5 million unique pairings of source and target verses for machine-learning training sets.

“The English-language Bible comes in many different written styles, making it the perfect source text to work with for style translation,” said Keith Carlson, a PhD student at Dartmouth and lead author of the research paper about the study.

As an added benefit for the research team, the Bible is already thoroughly indexed by the consistent use of book, chapter and verse numbers. The predictable organization of the text across versions eliminates the risk of alignment errors that could be caused by automatic methods of matching different versions of the same text.

“The Bible is a ‘divine’ data set to work with to study this task,” said Daniel Rockmore, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth and contributing author on the study. “Humans have been performing the task of organizing Bible texts for centuries, so we didn’t have to put our faith into less reliable alignment algorithms.” (1)

In the beginning there was Logos.

And we tried to express God with words.

We were bad at it in the beginning.

But gradually we learned.

To use words better.

To express ourselves.

To make art with lifeless marking on white paper.

And people read and wept.

And people believed and followed.

And people forgot.

And people became indifferent.

At the end, the markings on the paper were dead.

Being nothing more than sad reminders.

That we once upon a time were alive.

That we used to be part of God.

In the beginning there was Logos.

And we tried to express God with words.

We were so good at it in the beginning…

PS. Dartmouth College has a long history of innovation in computer science. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined at Dartmouth during a 1956 conference that created the AI research discipline. Other advancements include the design of BASIC – the first general-purpose and accessible programing language – and the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System that contributed to the modern-day operating system.

Death and life in books…

Ngrams analysis of words used in books throughout the ages provide interesting insights of the way people think in various ages.

In the past the use rates of the words ‘life’ and ‘death’ were similar and their patterns followed each other in fluctuations over the year. However lately and especially after the French Revolution and “Enlightenment”, the use of the word ‘death’ in books seems to be dropping while at the same time the use of the word ‘life’ seems to be increasing. (1) It is also important to note that in parallel with the decline in the use of the word “death”, we also see a decline in the use of word ‘God’ in books during the same period. (2)

One upon a time we were used to the notion of death.

And we accepted it as a part of life.

We then suddenly became “enlightened”.

And we started to dogmatically reject death and God. We started loving life as life, without paying any attention to the major components it consisted of. And we developed psychiatry, we started becoming depressed, we started thinking of suicide (3), we started wanting more and more to feel “happy”.

Once upon a time the books were dark.

Once upon a time the books were full of death.

Now we have Marie Claire.

Do you feel happy?

One last spaghetti…

He had just come back from the funeral. His mother had just died. She was his most beloved person. She had taken care of him for so many years, raised him, she… his eyes wet, started crying again. From a small child he had been pondering on the possibility (it was just a… possibility back then) of his parents dying. And whenever he thought about it, his mother always came and reassured him that everything will be OK… But today she wasn’t there. She would not be there anymore. Not now. Not ever again. And that “Never” really made his heart ache. It was that sense of security that he missed the most. A person who loved him so much that would do anything just to make him feel better. He felt good around her. Now he felt void.

With heavy feet he opened the door. Entered the lounge, then went slowly into the kitchen. He hadn’t eaten since the previous day. Since he heard the bad news… He thought eating was an insult to his mother. He could not put anything into his mouth after her death. But now biology came to overcome his will. He had to eat something. Mechanically and unwillingly he opened the fridge trying to find something editable. He opened the door and saw a plate of spaghetti. Tears started pouring from his eyes. Tears he couldn’t stop. It was the food his mother made for him yesterday just before she died. Ready as he liked it. He couldn’t even see the plate with his blurred eyes. Took it. Placed it on the table. Started eating it. Slowly. Each time he ate, he remembered of his mother preparing it. He cried even more. Every bite brought more sadness to his heart. The sauce. As he preferred it. With a lot of vinegar as he liked it. Another bite. And another. He kept on crying while finishing his food. She had even put extra chesses as she only knew he liked it. And another bite. The food was getting less and less. The last meal from his mother. He ate it but at the same time wanted to leave it as it is. It was the last thing he had from her. Another bite. Every time he felt so pleased from the excellent food, he also remembered of who prepared it and the pleasure went away instantly. Tears again. Mechanically he ate it all. When he was a kid, he would always ask for more. And she would – with all her love – give him more. Smiling.

He fell sleepy. Slowly he bent over the table and laid his head on it. His eyes closed and he dreamed of the only thing that would make his soul pleased. Another plate of spaghetti with cheese… And in his sleep, just for a fleeting moment, he smiled…

Spiros Kakos

02/2013 –  Athens, Greece

Space marines. Space marines. Space marines.

UK toymaker Games Workshop has been criticised for asserting a trademark claim to the phrase ‘space marines’.

The claim emerged when it was used to get an American ebook about the futuristic soldiers taken off Amazon. Science fiction writers have called the firm “absurd” for saying it has a trademark to the use of the term in fiction. (1)

I must agree with them. Word are not subject to trademarking! Word are nothign but the bricks. An architect does not claim novelty by using nice shinny bricks. Writers use word to build masterpieces. And they should be allowed to use any word possible…

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