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AI and some of the world's most ancient scripts

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  • AI and some of the world's most ancient scripts

    A fascinating article from this week's New Scientist magazine. Unfortunately the magazine online is behind a pay-wall and so I will only quote the particularly relevant sections from the print edition. The article concerns the application of AI where computers have been programmed ["trained"] to read and translate cuneiform texts, to reassemble fragmented texts, and help to recreate what was once held in ancient libraries , even predicting sections of missing text. The work being carried out is quite extraordinary. Given that of the 500,000 or so cuneiform texts currently held in the world's museums only half have been transliterated or translated, what has already been discovered, and what awaits discovery, is very exciting.

    Enrique Jiménez is based at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and Irving Finkel is based at the British Museum in London.


    One issue is that cuneiform is incredibly complex. “The script is very ambiguous. There is no single way of writing a word,” says Jiménez. In addition, most of the tablets are incomplete. The majority of cuneiform tablets are broken, chipped or smashed to pieces. Often, the edges have crumbled away, leaving stories without beginnings or ends, or with gaps in the narrative. [...]

    Piecing these fragments together is like assembling a number of complex jigsaw puzzles whose pieces have become jumbled up, with no picture on the boxes to tell you what to aim for, says Jiménez. What’s more, fragments from the same tablet can be scattered around the world. “There’s a tablet where there’s a piece in Chicago, which joins a piece in Berlin and a piece here,” says Finkel. Putting the puzzle back together is a painstaking process that relies on luck and memory. It took more than 100 years to identify the beginning of the Epic of Gilgamesh in a small fragment stored in a museum drawer, for instance. But now computers are involved, things are changing.

    The Fragmentarium, part of the Electronic Babylonian Literature project, set up by Jiménez in 2018, is using AI to reassemble Ashurbanipal’s library and other great collections written in cuneiform by working out which fragments belong together. To do this, Jiménez is using algorithms developed to compare different variants of gene sequences, based on the fact that there are often multiple copies of the same text with minor variations. The AI can be trained on transliterations of these texts, in which cuneiform characters have been written in the Latin alphabet according to the way they sound (in the same way that Chinese characters can be written in Pinyin, their Mandarin pronunciation). The AI can then predict which cuneiform signs are likely to be in the missing segments. It can also search for a particular cuneiform sign in a huge database of fragments.

    In 2019, this approach assisted with the identification of several missing pieces of the Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as revealing a new genre of ancient literature: a text consisting of parodies (including jokes about donkey dung) that was used by school children to help them learn to write. And together with Anmar Fadhil at the University of Baghdad in Iraq, Jiménez is also piecing together another previously unknown genre, a hymn to a city, in this case the city of Babylon, featuring details of temple life and cultic prostitutes.

    Then last year, in the world’s first fully autonomous cuneiform fragment identification using AI, a missing piece of the famous Poem of the Righteous Sufferer (which explores the question of why bad things happen to good people, and seems to be a precursor to the biblical Book of Job) was identified. “Humans would have missed this,” says Jiménez. [...]

    To help wade through this sea of administrative information, the Machine Translation and Automated Analysis of Cuneiform Languages project was set up in 2017 by Heather Baker at the University of Toronto, and coordinated by Pagé-Perron. In the most recent experiments, different algorithms trained on 45,500 transliterated phrases, each consisting of up to 19 words, were tested for their ability to translate Sumerian words into English. Results published last year show that one particular algorithm could translate with an accuracy of 95 per cent. The system also pulls out key information from the texts, identifying categories such as people, places and gods.

    Last year, computer scientist Gabriel Stanovsky at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his colleagues found a way to predict the text on missing parts of fragments, in a similar way to that of automatic prediction of words on mobile phones. They used a deeplearning AI, feeding it transliterations from 10,000 cuneiform tablets, written in Akkadian, and found that it could suggest contextually correct words to fill the gaps with an accuracy of 89 per cent. Another potential application of AI is the dating of tablets whose origin is unknown.






    "It ain't necessarily so
    The things that you're liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain't necessarily so
    ."

    Sportin' Life
    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

  • #2
    I must say I am very disappointed in this thread. I was expecting a thread about how ancient astronauts used AI to write old manuscripts or something.

    I demand a refund!!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Very interesting! It's neat to see what AI can do...
      "What I pray of you is, to keep your eye upon Him, for that is everything. Do you say, 'How am I to keep my eye on Him?' I reply, keep your eye off everything else, and you will soon see Him. All depends on the eye of faith being kept on Him. How simple it is!" (J.B. Stoney)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by lee_merrill View Post
        Very interesting! It's neat to see what AI can do...
        Future results will hopefully prove very illuminating.
        "It ain't necessarily so
        The things that you're liable
        To read in the Bible
        It ain't necessarily so
        ."

        Sportin' Life
        Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

          Future results will hopefully prove very illuminating.
          I look forward to applying this technology to the scrapes of the Dead Sea scrolls.
          Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
          Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
          But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

          go with the flow the river knows . . .

          Frank

          I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

          Comment


          • #6
            Personally, I think the part about "predicting sections of missing text" is horse feathers and more about inserting what someone preconcluded, unless they mean "predict" in the most general way.

            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
              Personally, I think the part about "predicting sections of missing text" is horse feathers and more about inserting what someone preconcluded, unless they mean "predict" in the most general way.
              No one is overly interested in what you think.
              "It ain't necessarily so
              The things that you're liable
              To read in the Bible
              It ain't necessarily so
              ."

              Sportin' Life
              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                No one is overly interested in what you think.
                Iron E.jpg


                I'm always still in trouble again

                "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                  "It ain't necessarily so
                  The things that you're liable
                  To read in the Bible
                  It ain't necessarily so
                  ."

                  Sportin' Life
                  Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                    One of your most profound thoughts to date.

                    I'm always still in trouble again

                    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                    "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                      Personally, I think the part about "predicting sections of missing text" is horse feathers and more about inserting what someone preconcluded, unless they mean "predict" in the most general way.
                      I take the Middle ground. I believe this is very possible, but dependent on the amount of material available to compare and the language involved. In ancient Chinese text where there are in some cases sufficient material the predictions this has been done for a number of years.
                      Last edited by shunyadragon; 09-06-2022, 07:00 PM.
                      Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                      But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                      go with the flow the river knows . . .

                      Frank

                      I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                        No one is overly interested in what you think.
                        This is an demonstrably heinous outright LIE! I am WAY overly interested in me brudder's ramblings and twisted thoughts!
                        The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                          I take the Middle ground. I believe this is very possible, but dependent on the amount of material available to compare and the language involved. In ancient Chinese text where there are in some cases sufficient material the predictions this has been done for a number of years.
                          It isn't about translating the available text, it's the idea of thinking that they can fill in missing text just because they can read what is available.

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                            This is an demonstrably heinous outright LIE! I am WAY overly interested in me brudder's ramblings and twisted thoughts!
                            You only read the footnotes.

                            I'm always still in trouble again

                            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                            "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                            Comment


                            • #15

                              FAO shunyadragon

                              And of course we all know that rogue06 is an expert on all ancient cuneiform texts!
                              "It ain't necessarily so
                              The things that you're liable
                              To read in the Bible
                              It ain't necessarily so
                              ."

                              Sportin' Life
                              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                              Comment

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