DOI: 10.1515/applirev-2023-0122 ISSN: 1868-6303

Artificial intelligence and posthumanist translation: ChatGPT versus the translator

Tong King Lee
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Although automated translation has been available for decades in myriad forms, the implication of the current exponential advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) for communication in general and translation in particular is more starkly affrontational than ever. Although Large Language Models, of which ChatGPT is exemplary, were not specifically designed for translation purposes, they are attested to have attained a sufficient degree of technical sophistication as to generate translations that match or surpass dedicated translation systems in the market like Google Translate and DeepL. This impacts the modus operandi of communication and the self-concept of language professionals including, of course, translators. This article asks how translation as a field of practice can best respond to this development. It critically reflects on the implications of AI for the conception of translation, arguing that an alternative framing around the idea of distribution allows us to rescale translation toward broader competencies and conceive of AI as a prosthesis of translators’ minds. The article advocates a posthumanist perspective on translation with a view to expanding its spectrum of skills, modes, and media as well as transcending the traditional personae of translators.

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