BCCJ 5.0 AI Under the Hood: turning water into gold

On the 12th of March, two representatives from YUZEN Translation attended an event at the British Chambers of Commerce Japan. The speaker was Darren Cook, data scientist, and director at QQ Trend, who has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, data analyst, and technical director. The purpose of the talk was to fill members in on the current progress and basic workings of AI. The word seems to have become something of a buzzword, recently, thus it was a very timely talk.

AI has been around for a while now, and its very implications have made people nervous about being replaced or even outsmarted by AI. Large corporations have seen the attractiveness of AI and as a result we have seen a tremendous amount of investment in this industry. Indeed, there appear to be many benefits associated with it: from personal assistants to self-driving cars and ships. It is now even possible for us to take an aerial video of ourselves skiing down a mountain thanks to a drone equipped with AI.

A major shift in the development of AI in recent times is the amount of data that is now available and corporate investment has seen this increase significantly. The more information that gets shared, the more everyone gets to benefit, so long as this information is shared responsibly and openly. The speaker emphasized that information should be openly available, so that all can benefit, and that if this were not the case, that it would be costly and a waste of human resources to re-invent.

AI’s basic principles are found in deep learning. Everything gets changed into numbers. For example, as with an image, that image is first converted into three channels (RGB), then each pixel is converted into a number. These numbers are then fed into an algorithm to be analyzed. Words are turned into numbers, too.

The way words are organized is through a set of properties and the relationship between those properties. Basically, machine learning learns the meaning of the words depending on their relationship to others. For example, the king is in the castle and the queen is in the castle. It will know that they have something in common because of the castle.


Human language is difficult. All languages are difficult. People can deal with this. It is always changing because it is forever being re-created. While machine translation has made significant advances over the recent years, the current model does not account for grammar which will greatly affect the accuracy of a translation. Also, when it comes across a word that is unrecognized, it will omit that word. Again, this is also a problem for texts that need to be transcribed accurately, which many do.

AI can be likened to stage magic. The audience is wowed at the magician pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat. But, ask that magician to pull a white dove out of that same hat: he’ll be in trouble. AI is very good at doing what it is programmed to do (this makes it more automation that AI in the philosophical meaning). For it to be more accurate, much much more training data will be needed. However, an infinite amount of data will not necessarily mean improved AI.

While anyone who owns a digital assistant will know the struggles AI has with really understanding language, translators and writers can rest assured knowing that their jobs will not be replaced any time soon. However, as we discussed in small groups towards the end of the session, it was pointed out that although self-driving cars have made mistakes, the proportion of mistakes made by humans has been greater.

The session was very informative and we would like to thank Darren Cook and the BCCJ for offering us this unmissable opportunity.


Autonomous Ships Driving Change

Source: BBC Click television program December 2018

A shipping company in Finland is testing an autonomous car transporting vessel. A female Finish Chief Officer is contributing to the project. She has family commitments and it has been difficult for her to balance the two. In fact, female seafarers make up only 2%* of the maritime industry. The vessel has been retrofitted with sensors and cameras, so that it can be controlled remotely. In future, operators will be able to control multiple vessels all at once, meaning that people will no longer be required to live away from their families for an extended period of time. Rolls Royce predicts that in 20 years’ time most of the ships crossing our shores will be autonomous. However, this raises concerns over safety. Although technology such as radar and GPS have markedly improved and aided safety, they have not been a substitute for the human senses.

*BBC Click

Q: Why may we see fewer seafarers on board ships in the future?

Scroll down to the end of this section to see answer

Nautical English: Make up leeway, All hands on deck, Go like the clappers

It is nearly the end of the fiscal year. Many offices in Japan will preparing all the necessary documents in time for the end of the financial year. This is a busy time of year, and it would therefore seem appropriate to talk about idioms that reflect this.

To Make up Leeway

To get back into a good position or situation after one has fallen behind.

(Merriam Webster Dictionary)

This idiom is commonly used when one is to make up for lost time:

A: How was your holiday?

B: It was great, but I had to make up leeway with the mountain of paperwork that has accumulated on my desk.

Our team fell so far behind in the marathon that we were unable to make up leeway even though one of our runners was one of the fastest in the event.

This term has is origins in the bygone days of sailing, when a vessel is sent off course towards the side by downwind and it is said to not be making leeway. Thus, time is needed to make up for the lost time. This is where the term originally comes from. Its first usage was recorded in the mid-17th Century.

All hands on deck

 This term is used when everyone is to come together and work hard as one team, usually in a time of emergency or something of great importance:

Manager: OK. We will be opening the new store in 30 minutes, so I want all hands on deck to make sure that it is ready to welcome our first customers.

It is clear to see that this term has in its origin in the maritime industry. Deck referring to a ship’s deck, and hand referring to those that work on board. When a ship was to make a manoeuvre that required the whole crew to participate or there was a dangerous situation or something of that nature, the master would call “All hands on deck”.

 Go like the clappers

Although rather an aeronautical idiom than a nautical one, this is one of my favourite terms.  If something is going like the clappers, it is moving at great speed:

A: How is your new Tesla Roadster?

B: Oh, it goes like the clappers. It can do 0-60mph in 1.9 seconds.

This term can also refer to someone who is having to work extremely hard and fast.

I had to go like the clappers to get to get that report done on time.

 This term is believed to have originated during the early 1940s among RAF pilots as a form of slang. If a pilot was being chased by another plane, they would fly like the clappers to escape. It is likely that the term came from clappers found in bells, and that pilots would say “Go like the clappers from hell”. The word hell may have been adopted because it rhymes with bell. Many RAF pilots came from public schools, and a bell would have been rung just before the start of class or chapel. As the bell was rung faster and faster, in the last minute or two, the boys would run to make it in time: they were going like the clappers.




Because it will be possible to control the vessel remotely from land.

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