16 January 2013

New IT Job for Language-Loving Creatives

The next generation of virtual assistants (VA) will probably have to learn better interpersonal skills by parsing humans in all their infinite variety of linguistic skills. Most of all they will need to interpret not just strings of language but entire speech acts - the forms of psychological intent encoded in utterances

This must be why Apple has recently place an ad on LinkedIn in search of a human to help educate Siri become even more conversationally adept.

 "We’re looking for a uniquely creative individual to help us evolve and enrich Siri, our virtual personal assistant. Siri’s known for ‘her’ wit, cultural knowledge, and zeal to explain things in engaging, funny, and practical ways. The ideal candidate is someone who combines a love for language, wordplay, and conversation with demonstrated experience in bringing creative content to life within an intense technical environment."
 Much of the task will presumably involve working through the massive amount of paraphrases that humans exhibit in their discourse, or should I say people use when talking, or even speakers utter when conversing, etc etc.

Expecting VAs to learn similar (but subtly different) meanings through brute statistical force could be more costly than getting a wordsmith to train them explicitly. The Apple ad also specifies a preference for someone who knows other languages and has some experience of translation. What is translation but a cross-lingual paraphrase?

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