Saturday, January 7, 2012

Invisible Idiot

Fifty-eight years ago today, on January 7th 1954, IBM engineers at Georgetown university turned on the Georgetown-IBM experimental translator. Sixty-some-odd Russian phrases were translated into English to the delight of on looking government observers and journalists.

Since 1956 there has been a story, retold countless times, that someone began feeding data to the machine translator after everyone had left the room.

First they fed the idiom:

“Out of sight, out of mind”

into the machine, and asked it to produce a Russian translation. The resulting Russian translation was then fed into the machine for an English translation. The resulting English phrase was:

“Invisible Idiot”

The same treatment was then given to the phrase: 

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

The resulting phrase from its recursive translation was:

“The liquor is OK, but the meat is rotten!"


piet said...

Dear Mr.

To promote skepticism/critical thinking I wrote some questions for the Christian believer. Are you able to put the link to these questions at your blog.

Thank you very much,

Piet - Rotterdam - Netherlands.

The original questions
The translation

adult onset atheist said...

Well...Your comment does contain the links. I'll do you one better ant post most of your questions with a link as an entry. Let me know if you would like a different attribution than simply "Piet from Rotterdam"