The RAE enters the 21st century with the entry of a professor of artificial intelligence

The RAE enters the 21st century with the entry of a professor of artificial intelligence

A technological revolution removes from this Sunday the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), with the entry of a specialist in semantics and computer science, an expert in the modern trade of generating machines capable of learning, reasoning and speaking. Professor Asunción Gómez-Pérez, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, 55 years old and mother of three daughters, now occupies the small 'q' chair with a mission: "to put artificial intelligence at the service of language Spanish" and that "the materials of the academy are in the formats of artificial intelligence", he maintained in his admission speech, this Sunday at the headquarters of the RAE, in Madrid.

Supported in her candidacy by Luis Mateo Díez, Pedro García Barreno and Salvador Gutiérrez, the ontology and algorithms researcher proposes that "machines that use the Spanish language be trained with reliable linguistic materials." She also assumes this "immense privilege that I never dreamed of achieving" with the intention of using artificial intelligence to "analyse", "extract" and "catalogue" the words that originate from the internet in real time; and transfer the "materials" of the RAE to cyberspace to contribute to deep learning.

A month after Dolores Corbella joined and there are now 14 women who have been part of this institution throughout its history, Gómez-Pérez asks his new colleagues a series of questions from the latest philosophy. “Do the language models understand what they write? Should regulation or ethics prevail? Is it necessary to carry out a technological stoppage? Her entrance speech is a master class on deep learning technologies and she does not forget the specific questions that concern the RAE: «Do digital technologies help to solidly sustain the Spanish language system and disseminate its standards? What can the academy do to make its resources useful?

profound changes

More used to being in “labs full of computers” than in wooden and velvet rooms, she introduces herself this way: “I teach artificial intelligence and ontological engineering. My laboratory at the Polytechnic University of Madrid is full of computers. In it we imagine technologies at the frontier of knowledge; We carry out doctoral theses and projects that allow public administrations and the business fabric to advance in a multitude of domains”.

Expanded the universe of dictionaries and novels on paper, Gómez-Pérez's proposals bring down to earth an institution that can well spend months discussing the relevance of a tilde. She also wants to change the relationship between the RAE, which she calls a "corporation", and the "actors of the new language economy". Thus, the users would no longer be only the 20 million who now consult the web. To achieve this, however, new 'software', platforms, sophisticated services and dictionary transformation are needed that in the future will mean that "the number of queries from machines can, in a few years, exceed the number of queries from people" .

The business on which this academy is based must open perspectives. It is what Gómez-Pérez calls “governance” and “performance”. "The corporation's materials could be used to build a large Spanish language model," something that "is not within the reach of any company, due to the volume of the corpora, the required computing infrastructure, the enormous amounts of energy used for their training and adjustment”, explains who acknowledges that “my linguistic concerns are closer to the use of the semantics of words by machines and to computational multilingualism than to the knowledge of this learned house”.

risky and daring

Entering the 21st century will require "generating an ecosystem of open innovation", "incorporating more artificial intelligence into the production processes of the RAE to streamline its daily tasks", drafting better "licenses" with "standardized and interoperable terminologies and formats that can be processed and understood" by algorithms, so that the "linguistic materials of the RAE can be massively consumed".

To take the RAE to the top of artificial intelligence that uses the Spanish language, Gómez-Pérez knows that he will find difficulties. It will be “risky and complicated, due to the reliance on big tech companies. In addition, it is daring, since technology advances very quickly and the actions require an open innovation ecosystem, which currently does not exist”. Not a few attendees stirred in their armchairs in the act of this Sunday. There was a question that was not raised, however: will artificial intelligence come to replace the academics of the RAE?