back to article Excuse me, but have you heard the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Chr-AI-st?

Software has been trained by academics to produce different styles of biblical text, after swotting up on the original sacred texts. The neural network – developed at Dartmouth University and Indiana University Bloomington in the US – is an interesting demonstration of artificially intelligent code poring over writing in one …

  1. frank ly Silver badge

    Accuracy

    "... made burned offerings ..." vs "... burned incense ..."

    There is a practical difference but I've no idea if accuracy is important here. That particular difference is probably due to text differences between the two versions and nothing to do with 'style'.

    I'd be impressed if it could rewrite an article from El Reg in the style of Revelations, etc.

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    "... made burned offerings ..." vs "... burned incense ..."

    Burned incense is incense, burned, Burnt offerings could be anything from a failed barbeque to young debutantes gutted and then charcoaled in the name of the unspeakable rites of the ancient ones.

    Might make all the difference in that unholy ritual to gain wealth and political power you ran through the textual simplifier from the original obscure 12th century occult tract.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    "rewrite an article from El Reg in the style of Revelations"

    Why would you want ElReg to come across as the rantings & ravings of a man whose brain is being destroyed by syphilis?

  4. DougS Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    If they wanted accuracy, they would have translated it from the original text, not the poorly done King James version. That would be a lot more work for them, though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Accuracy

    "There is a practical difference but I've no idea if accuracy is important here. "

    Ask Isaac.

    It could matter for a technical manual being dumbed down. The difference between say "button, knob, switch" helps to distinguish them physically. "Push, pull, slide, rotate" also need to retain their essential action.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Accuracy

    "If they wanted accuracy, they would have translated it from the original text, [...]"

    Is there one? The Dead Sea scrolls are often only fragments. Later versions were Hebrew transcriptions or translations to Greek. Then a Church committee decided what to include or exclude as their schism's official Bible eg the Council of Trent (1546).

  7. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    "... made burned offerings ..." vs "... burned incense ..."

    Indeed, that sticks out.

    But perhaps more telling is what hasn't been changed. Namely, archaisms that might be obscure to the modern reader: "the ark of ...", or "the great stone". Instead of making those clearer, they make the material change you picked up on, to cleanse it of something abhorrent to the modern reader.

    And there's substituting a proper name for "The Lord" ...

  8. horse of a different color
    Coat

    Re: Accuracy

    As long as it translates cheesemakers to any manufacturer of dairy products, I'll be happy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Accuracy

    "... made burned offerings ..." vs "... burned incense ..."

    "burnt offering" has a very specific meaning in the Old Testament, specifically an animal prepared in a certain fashion and burned entirely. (See Leviticus 1.) Incense is not involved. The quoted passage is 1 Samuel 6:15, and there's not ONE SINGLE TRANSLATION that mentions incense - the AI-written passage is factually incorrect.

  10. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
    Angel

    Re: Accuracy

    Holy Computer! We can only assume the inventors not only put their AI through not just rigorous Turing and IQ tests and university exams, but also ascertained that its soul was in a state of grace and if it could *accurately* communicate with the Lord of Hosts through prayer.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    The "original text" meaning the oldest source we still have. What books the Council of Trent decided to include or not include is irrelevant to getting at the original meaning of the books they did include.

    There were obviously politics around the choice of what books to include There was also at least as much politics around the choice of how things were translated into Latin, and how over a millennium later they were translated from Latin (which was already "gamed" in ways the Catholic church wanted) a second time to English.

  12. jake Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    "the Lord of Hosts"

    That's not singular, you know. There are thirteen of them, mostly for redundancy and load sharing ...

  13. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Joke

    Re: Accuracy

    Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah!

    Worse? It cant get any worse...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Accuracy

    "Why would you want ElReg to come across as the rantings & ravings of a man whose brain is being destroyed by syphilis?"

    That's a trick question, I'm sure.

  15. onefang

    Re: Accuracy

    "Holy Computer! We can only assume the inventors not only put their AI through not just rigorous Turing and IQ tests and university exams, but also ascertained that its soul was in a state of grace and if it could *accurately* communicate with the Lord of Hosts through prayer."

    Wait, does this mean it's now a sin to just throw the old computers on the scrap heap, coz now they have souls? We need to have old computers homes, where they can be abused for profit instead. Can I now be arrested for carrying a concealed USB stick with Darik's Boot and Nuke on it, except in states where concealed carry is legal? "It's properly licensed Officer, I've published the source code on my web site."

  16. Andy 97

    Re: Accuracy

    You're absolutely correct, there are concordant translations out there, but are often derided by organised religion.

  17. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    >> "If they wanted accuracy, they would have translated it from the original text, [...]"

    > Is there one?

    Not only is there no 'original text' but there never was. Nothing was written down before 'first temple' - around 10thC BCE. That is because there was no form of written hebrew before then. So for several hundred years it was just oral tradition and changed at the whim of the teller. Or maybe it was just invented much later.

    Then in the 3rdC BCE or so all the written copies they could find were brought together and a single authorized version was formed. In some cases two of more of the versions were woven together which is why there are two different accounts in Genesis for several things.

  18. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    > the AI-written passage is factually incorrect.

    And the difference between this and any other text is ?

  19. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    Re: Accuracy

    > and how over a millennium later they were translated from Latin (which was already "gamed" in ways the Catholic church wanted) a second time to English.

    No. Wrong.

    """The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England.[9] In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin. """

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version

  20. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Le's link the Neural Nets together.

    Other researchers have already performed similar experiments with the latter. DeepTingle, a neural network developed by researchers from New York University, could spit out text in the style of Chuck Tingle, a gay erotica author.

    Coming from Northern Ireland, I'm quite excited by the idea of plugging the bible one into the above mentioned one.

    I'm quite sure I could cause many of the more self-righteous members of the local community to go into a frothing fit.

  21. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Re: Le's link the Neural Nets together.

    Or try it the reverse way, to see if you could persuade those same folks that you'd found some missing verses from Leviticus...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Le's link the Neural Nets together.

    A gay erotica version of the bible? Those passages certainly would be interesting.

  23. jake Silver badge

    Re: Le's link the Neural Nets together.

    AC, may I introduce you to the Song of Solomon?

  24. MacroRodent Silver badge

    No impressed

    The sample makes it look like it mainly made different word choices, something even age-old joke programs could do (like the classic "jive filter"). Changing style meaningfully requires more. For example, one author could use shorter sentences, another one longer, present things in different order, use more or less similes, and so on.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: No impressed

    Thirty years ago a colleague would run his technical reports though a "management speak" translator for his bosses' consumption.

  26. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Re: No impressed

    Was the translator his seven year old son?

  27. find users who cut cat tail

    text could be re-written to allow a layperson to better understand the meaning of something highly technical

    No, it couldn't. If a technical text isn't crap (and then AI rewriting would not fix that) problems with understanding always originate in inability to think in the respective problem domain. Essentially, a lack of context.

    You can replace the name of a chemical compound with any other name, drawing or biblical story. It will not magically make the reader able to think about its functional groups, how it might react, ... You still need chemistry background for that. Sure, the text has to explain things interesting/important in the particular case, but if you don't get the basic concepts and can't think about them correctly, there is no substitute for that.

  28. Teiwaz Silver badge

    No, it couldn't. If a technical text isn't crap

    Science technical, you are probably right.

    But the 'legalese' sort of technical - the type of technical written to preserve the legal babble and extend the need for a paid 'expert' to interpret.

  29. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Legalese isn't just written that way to preserve the income of lawyers. It also has to be written that way in order to avoid ambiguity, at least as much as is possible. Otherwise you'd have even more arguments about how law should be interpreted - which would actually mean more legal opinions required and thus even more money for lawyers.

    Like any industry jargon, certain words have specific meanings - which should be the same across different laws and contracts. And thus allow you to avoid defining every single term in every single piece of legal writing, every single time. That requires expertise to interpret of course - but so does any important area with a large body of knowledge.

  30. Jay Lenovo

    The meaning and is important, but don't discount the needlessly complex writing(or opaque writing style) shoved in there to obfuscate the real meaning to anyone but the anointed few.

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse, yet it is allowed to be routinely transcribed in a cloud of pompous gobbledygook.

    Even the politicians who vote for these laws are not held accountable to read and understand it beforehand.

    The ambiguity is largely build-in with poor simple explanations. The courts are then tasked with making sense of it all and it is their opinions that give laws in any quality, teeth.

  31. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    How much legislation have you actually read? I never have a problem when I have to. It's not always easy, because it deals with complex subjects. But the water regulations are a big part of my job, and they're pretty straightforward. And come with a handy guide.

    When I've done jury service we got a paper with the indictments and the legislation in question, which was all pretty straightforward. Plus a judge's summing up to help of course.

    And I've had to look up specific laws to write nasty letters in a couple of financial disputes. Got the money back too.

    It's only as hard as reading a technical manual. You have to concentrate, and often make notes. Which is because laws are modular. They refer you to a specific section rather than repeat the relevant text, to make them easier to amend later.

    You do get a lot of obscure crap in contracts. Much of it seemingly pointless arse covering. But then if you read the technical spec for a building design it's usually 400 pages of irrelevant bullshit about working in avcordance with the right standards, with 50 pages of actual description, 50-100 pages of equipment schedules and 100 pages of drawings. I bet it's no different in many other industries.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theological AI, what could possibly go wrong?

  33. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    Theological AI, what could possibly go wrong?

    Answer, by Frederick Brown

    He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

    The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

    "Yes, now there is a God."

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks. I hadn't see that before. I've even ordered the book it's from off the interwebs. Strange it's only available in America though.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Theological AI, what could possibly go wrong?"

    ... (I don't know but) I expect it would be an ecumenical problem!

  36. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    Can it re-phrase this into a form that doesn't cause schoolboys to fall asleep?

    And spotteth twice they the camels before the third hour, and so, the Midianites went forth to Ram Gilead in Kadesh Bilgemath, by Shor Ethra Regalion, to the house of Gash-Bil-Bethuel-Bazda, he who brought the butter dish to Balshazar and the tent peg to the house of Rashomon, and there slew they the goats, yea, and placed they the bits in little pots. Here endeth the lesson.

  37. onefang

    "Can it re-phrase this into a form that doesn't cause schoolboys to fall asleep?"

    Balshazar rammed the two spotted camels and the four buttered goats into Rashomon's house with a tent peg, slewing them into little bits. Yeah, then they smoked pot while watching Kim Kardashian's gash for three hours. Here endeth the lesson.

  38. The JP

    Rab C Nesbit

    What about using AI for something more worthwhile. What about a plug-in that will automatically translate articles in the Register into the words of Rab C Nesbit?

  39. Paul Kinsler

    Re: Rab C Nesbit

    I'd rather the style of one N. Molesworth, but each to their own...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would help if the first chapter of Genesis was correctly translated as a series of epochs rather than days. The original ancient Hebrew means period of time and not necessarily a day. The same word is used at the start of Genesis 2 to refer to a series of creation days, meaning it has to be epoch as the correct translation rather than a literal 24 hour period.

  41. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I thought the first chapter of Genesis went something like:

    1And lo, it came to pass that Peter Gabriel had left the building and gone unto the land of the poptastic. 2So Phil Collins laid down the care of his drumsticks and raised up his microphone of destiny. 3And he vouchsafed unto the people, "turn it on again." 4And there was great rejoicing in the land. 5Not 'alf pop-pickers.

  42. Teiwaz Silver badge

    It would help if the first chapter of Genesis was correctly translated as a series of epochs rather than days.

    Not by much if by help, you mean minimise the barely rational insistence by some believers that the bible be taken literally ending up with creationism and poor dating of the earth.

    Someone would still insist on getting their dates by extrapolating from the passages on 'who begat who'.

  43. onefang

    "Someone would still insist on getting their dates by extrapolating from the passages on 'who begat who'."

    From my vague recollections from the one and only time I tried to read the bible, in the bit where they are claiming ridiculously long life times for some people, I think if you substituted "months old" for "years old", they would come down to more likely ages.

    I gave up on the old testament when things got horridly violent, and picked things up again at the beginning of the new testament. Apparently I missed the fun and games in Solomon.

  44. SVV Silver badge

    Old computing principles still ring true then

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  45. analyzer

    Samo old, same old.

    Just goes to prove that some things never change regarding computers and computing.

    In this case that old adage, "Garbage In, Garbage Out" comes to mind.

  46. Paul Dx
    Pint

    With a computer rewriting the Bible

    Isaiah 11:6 becomes "The iron will lay down with the lamp"

    Leopard lager naturally ------>

  47. Alister Silver badge

    This could be ultimately used, for example, to turn complicated information into an easy-to-understand explanation, automatically by a computer, of course.

    This makes me think of Douglas Adams' "Reason" software created by WayForward Technologies, where you gave it a desired outcome and the software constructed a plausible line of arguments to lead to the required result.

    Dunno why...

  48. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Explicator Extraordinary

    This could be ultimately used, for example, to turn complicated information into an easy-to-understand explanation, automatically by a computer, of course.

    If the AI can provide a rational, coherent and consistent summation of the events of the Day of Resurrection, incorporating all the reports in the gospels and not leaving anything out, then I might think it could one day have some real-world value.

  49. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Believing AI?

    Surely garbage in, garbage out should be the watchword here. Sure the dataset was fare too tempting to pass up but how universally applicable will a system trained on the Bible be?

    For potential problems I refer people to the Electric Monk from the late, still lamented Douglas Adams Dirk Gently books.

  50. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Let us translate the RFCs into King James Bible language

    For now, we can translate it to Shakespearean. There is an online app for that. This is the Preface of RFC791 in the Bard's lingo:

    "This document specifies the dod standard int'rnet protocol. This document is bas'd on six earli'r editions of the arpa int'rnet protocol specification, and the presenteth text draws heavily from those folk. Th're has't been many contribut'rs to this w'rk both in t'rms of concepts and in t'rms of text. This edition revises aspects of addressing, 'rr'r handling, option codes, and the security, precedence, compartments, and handling restriction features of the int'rnet protocol"

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