This afternoon I went to check out superpower nation. This was a live online/offline forum for people from around the world to come together and talk about anything they liked both by speaking and typing. The language barriers were removed using Google Translate.
The plan was it would seem to avoid prompting conversation and allow it to just happen. You can check out some of the results on
The technology certainly did it's job but the absence of any kind of common theme to the conversation led essentially to noise. It also appeared that there were more experimenters than there were guinea pigs.
It would be easy to say this chaos was predictable from experience of human nature, or reading about Douglas Adams' Babel Fish but I would like to be a lot more positive. The more interesting question is where could this technology be used to come to conclusions, make the world a better place? Could micro-events be linked up for the next climate-change negotiation for example? Some form of global debate? I hope such things will evolve organically as we become more used to the technology being available.
Another interesting way to use voice translation would be management training in large global organisations. In my days as a grad student I spent a very rewarding couple of weeks at a graduate training excersise, solving problems working with people from completely different disciplines. An international element would have really put the icing on the cake.
So in conclusion, many thanks to @RoxDog for an intriguing invitation, plenty of hope for the future of Google translate but quite questionable what genuine insight was gained from the Superpower nation experiment.
Perhaps it's just me though, Google and the BBC where pretty happy... Did anyone else go along? What where your thoughts