Using Technology to Master the Tower of Babel


Imagine being at a dinner party with eight people at the table speaking eight different languages, and the voice in your ear will always be whispering the one language you want to hear.

Alec Ross, the author of “The Industries of the Future”, predicts that everyone will soon be able to converse in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier.

Along with more powerful translation tools, there will be significant developments with respect to the human interface. Instead of using Google Translate on your smartphone, in 10 years a small earpiece will whisper what is being said to you in your native language nearly simultaneously as a foreign language is being spoken. The lag time will be the speed of sound.

Nor will the voice in your ear be a computer voice, a la Siri, but  will re-create the voice of the speaker, but speaking your native language. When you respond, your language will be translated into the language of your counterpart, either through his or her own earpiece or amplified by a speaker on your phone, watch or whatever the personal device of 2025 is.

Researchers are also working on innovations that will help the speaking and hearing impaired. Ross notes that while traveling recently in Ukraine, a group of engineering students showed him a shiny black-and-blue robot glove called Enable Talk that uses flex sensors in the fingers to recognize sign language and to translate it to text on a smartphone via Bluetooth. The text is then converted to speech, allowing the deaf and mute person to “speak” and be heard in real time. Before long, the language spoken could be one of dozens chosen from a drop-down menu on the phone.

There seems to be many possible repercussions to such advances in technology.

  • Will students still need to take courses in a foreign language, or can such courses be replaced with ones that focus on the culture and history of various countries?
  • Will the U.S. lose some of its influence and prestige since English will no longer need to be the standard language of the world?
  • Will there be significant growth in international business as a result of the breakdown of the language barrier?
  • Will I stop being paranoid when I walk past two people speaking a foreign language and then laughing?

No matter the repercussions, it is a development that I look forward to with great anticipation. Any technology that offers the promise of helping people from all parts of the world better understand each other seems to be a movement in the right direction.

Once we understand each other, hopefully peace and justice will not be far behind.

Have a good night.

And to my friends around the world:

‘atamanna lak laylat hania


hav en god aften

bonne nuit

gute Nacht

Καλή σου νύχτα

go mbeadh oíche mhaith



dobrej nocy

спокойной ночи

tenga una buena noche

har en god natt

Selamat malam

좋은 밤 이

testimonium habere bonum nocte

chúc một đêm ngon giấc



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