Monday, 30 May 2016

babel fish

Via the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we are offered the chance to fund a veritable Universal Translator in the form of an ear-piece that will make speakers of a foreign language mutual intelligible. Admittedly, I am a bit skeptical of such wonders—though I’d surely have gravitated to the same cause—plus at least in theory (not in rigourous practice yet) I was very impressed with Google Translate (especially how it matched the type-face)–but I am willing to defer judgment and vacation with confidence.
The device obviously makes me think of that other plot convenience of Douglas Adams, the Babel Fish, an organism that delivered on the same promises. This specimen willingly inserted in the auditory organs of every civilised and contacted denizen of the Universe was a wholly organic construct (as far as we readers are privy) rather than a learned but artificial feed-back loop, but this product of natural selection raised an important paradox, which I think we tend to miss when congratulating ourselves on our own cleverness. Such a devastating useful creature proved the existence of a divine creator, and thus God who must exist by faith alone and was understood to no longer be in the habit of manifesting himself like that disappears in a puff of logic. A keen little aide that might help bridge the communication gap like this may not in itself present an existential crisis, but maybe the full faith and confidence that we put in technology’s omnipresence and omnipotence does. What do you think? I would definitely try this ear-piece, listening-aid out.