Since we introduced a technology that can estimate the reliability and quality of machine translation, many people have asked me why it is important to know the quality of the machine translations. I’d like to compare the situation to a more concrete situation, namely to a car and its parts. Think about the situation where you can buy car parts or components that are made by either human professionals or automatic machines.
The price of man-made parts would be about 1000 times the price of machine-made components. The man-made parts are practically always good and safe. However, the machine-made parts are sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes terrible, etc. If you aren’t an expert in car manufacturing, you have no way of knowing which components are good.
Because of the limited budget, you would like to use the machine-made parts. But can you do that? Are they safe enough? You might ask someone else to check the quality but it would cost almost the same as making a new part by hand. That would defeat the purpose of saving money. Of course, you can always test the quality of those car parts by driving the car but the risk of serious accidents caused by bad car components might just be too high.
Thus, when you don’t know the quality of the machine-made parts you’ll have two options:
Option A. Take the risk and use machine-made parts. The costs are low but there is a risk for additional costs of fixing problems that are caused by the possible bad parts.
Option B. Play it safe and use man-made parts. The costs are very high but the risk of problems is close to zero.
The ideal option would be to use machine-made components when they are good and otherwise use man-made parts. Understanding of the quality enables just that, both in car components and in translations. That is why estimation of machine translation quality could make translation both cost-efficient and available for projects with smaller budgets.
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