Let me tell you an NLP tale. by Katarzyna Marszałek-Kowalewska

Let me tell you an NLP tale. by Katarzyna Marszałek-Kowalewska

Once upon a time, there was a researcher, an NLP one. Day by day our hero was writing programs, collecting data, processing it, delivering various analysis and extracting information.

What? Doesn’t sound like a real story full of magic, dragons, and princesses?

Then let me pose a few questions:

How often do you ask princess Siri to show you the way to the nearest coffee shop?
Have you ever used the knight of translate button on Facebook?
Do you use autocorrect feature to fight the error dragons on your mobile?

Add countless applications related to machine translation, named entity recognition, text classification, automatic summarization, questions answering, semantic analysis and voilà, you’ll have NLP MAGIC.

NLP, or actually Natural Language Processing, is a field connected to Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Linguistics and Machine Learning. It helps computers to understand human languages the way they are used by simulating the human ability to understand language.

The interest in NLP started with Alan Turing’s ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ paper in 1950. The most well-known machine intelligence test, called Turing Test, derived from there. Turing proposed a simple experiment in order to evaluate whether a machine can be called ‘intelligent’ or not: “A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.” In 1950 Turing Test was way ahead of its time but here we are more than a half-century later, and there are more and more examples of machines being really close or actually successful in pretending to be humans, e.g. Eugenie (despite the controversy that the computer programme that simulated a 13-year-old boy was indeed cheating).

Why should we care about NLP?

Natural Language Processing research and development is booming and the field is evolving incredibly rapidly. It’s all about how we do interact and will interact with our devices. A decade ago talking to your mobile seemed like a sci-fi whim, now it’s everyday activity. And that’s ‘only’ mobiles. Connected cars and smart houses are also not so far away and it’s NLP that is changing the way that we communicate with our devices.

Will our NLP researcher live happily ever after doing the same things? I don’t think so.
This is just the beginning and as for every researcher, happiness comes not in stability but in constant development and discovery.

Luckily for our protagonist, there is still much to work on in this field and “[t]he science of today is the technology of tomorrow” (Edward Teller).

And so the NLP story goes. ¬

This story was provided by Katarzyna Marszałek-Kowalewska, Data & Resources Manager at YUKKA Lab, and btw. Co-organizer of the Berlin NLP meetup. Katarzyna not only writes beautiful tales but also scientific essays and works on her Ph.D.!