Uncharted Territory


RSS     Archives

Just One World Plastics


The environment
So far, it seems less bad than other kinds of pollution (about which less fuss is made)
Print edition | International
Mar 3rd 2018

MR MCGUIRE had just one word for young Benjamin, in “The Graduate”: plastics. It was 1967, and chemical engineers had spent the previous decade devising cheap ways to splice different hydrocarbon molecules from petroleum into strands that could be moulded into anything from drinks bottles to Barbie dolls. Since then global plastic production has risen from around 2m tonnes a year to 380m tonnes, nearly three times faster than world GDP.

Unfortunately, of the 6.3bn tonnes of plastic waste produced since the 1950s only 9% has been recycled and another 12% incinerated. The rest has been dumped in landfills or the natural environment. Often, as with disposable coffee cups, drinks bottles, sweet wrappers and other packets that account for much of the plastic produced in Europe and America, this happens after a brief, one-off indulgence. If the stuff ends up in the sea, it can wash up on a distant beach or choke a seal. Exposed to salt water and ultraviolet light, it can fragment into “microplastics” small enoughto find their way into fish bellies. From there, it seems only a short journey to dinner plates.

映画『卒業』の有名なシーンjust one world, plasticsから書き始めるケースは以前このブログでも取り上げました。現在のAIみたいな地位をかつてはプラスチックも占めていたのでしょうか。

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Yes, sir. 
Are you listening?
Yes, I am.
Exactly how do you mean?
There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Yes, I will.
I've said. That's a deal.


Lloyd Singleton, Extension Agent II

In the 1967 classic film, “The Graduate”, a conversation between young Ben and Mr. McGuire goes like this: “I want to say one word to you. Just one word.” “Yes, sir.” “Are you listening?” “Yes, I am.” “Plastics.” “Exactly how do you mean?” “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

So, 50 years later, and plastics are ubiquitous in our everyday life. But not without an environmental impact, “microplastics”. Almost too small to notice, the term generally refers to pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm in size, or about 2/10 of an inch. Microplastics can be found throughout the world’s ocean and coastal habitats—from surface waters to deep sea sediments, as well as in the stomachs of a variety of marine life—from plankton to whales.



The perception of plastics as ugly, unnatural, inauthentic and disposable is not new. Even in “The Graduate” they symbolised America’s consumerism and moral emptiness. Visible plastic pollution is an old complaint, too (years ago, plastic bags caught in trees were nicknamed “witches’ knickers”). What is new is the suspicion that microplastics are causing widespread harm to humans and the environment in an invisible, insidious manner. “Blue Planet 2”, a nature series presented by Sir David Attenborough that aired in Britain last October and in America in January, made the case beautifully. But the truth is that little is known about the environmental consequences of plastic—and what is known doesn’t look hugely alarming.


Plastic pollution “is not the Earth’s most pressing problem”, in the words of one European official. But, he immediately adds, just because plastics may not be the biggest problem facing humanity does not make them trouble-free. As scientists never tire of repeating, more research is needed. It is the absence of evidence about how plastics influence health rather than evidence of absence that explains their bit part in the Lancet Commission report, says Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, who chaired it.


パート2対策 一つの単語にも情報が詰まっている




2017年2月14日 (火)





難化したTOEIC Part 2の対策







This software has voice recognition, doesn’t it?
- No. It’s the old version.



Where’s the new fax machine?
- Next to the water fountain.

こちらはさらになんてことのないやり取りに思えます。ウォーターサーバーの横にあるということは恐らくオフィスの共有スペースにあるんでしょうね。コピーなどの機能も備わった大きい複合機のようなものを想像します。まあ、この回答はfax machineがどういうものか、どういう風に使われているか、我々がある程度知っているから、この回答を選んでいるわけです。電卓のように各自の机の上で使うようなものだったらこの回答は途端におかしくなります。



Meaning and machine intelligence: What are you talking about?
Machines cannot conduct proper conversations with humans because they do not understand the world

A “lexicalised” parser might do even better. Take the Groucho Marx joke, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas, I’ll never know.” The first sentence is ambiguous (which makes the joke)—grammatically both “I” and “an elephant” can attach to the prepositional phrase “in my pyjamas”. But a lexicalised parser would recognise that “I [verb phrase] in my pyjamas” is far more common than “elephant in my pyjamas”, and so assign that parse a higher probability.
(構文解析ソフトならもっとうまくやるかもしれない。グルチョ・マルクスのジョーク“One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas, I’ll never know.”を取り上げてみよう。最初の文は曖昧(だからジョークになっている)なので、文法的にはIとan elephantの両方が前置詞句のin my pyjamasにかかる。しかし構文解析ソフトは“I [verb phrase] in my pyjamas”が“elephant in my pyjamas”よりもはるかに普通であることを認識し、この読み取りを可能性の高いものとするだろう)

「ある朝パジャマにいた象を打ったんだ。どうやってパジャマに入ったかは、知るよしもない」は有名な引用のようでAmerican Film Institute – 100 Years, 100 Movie Quotesの一つに選ばれているとか。常識では象がパジャマの中に入るなんてありえないし、「パジャマ姿で〜した」の方が普通だと判断して読み取るのでしょう。ジョークはその判断を揺さぶるから面白くなるんです。語学初学者がジョークを笑えないのはこの当たり前の知識が当たり前になっておらず揺さぶられていることがないからですね。

One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know. Then we tried to remove the tusks. The tusks. That's not so easy to say, tusks. You try that some time...As I say, we tried to remove the tusks, but they were embedded in so firmly that we couldn't budge them. Of course, in Alabama, the Tusk-a-loosa. But, uh, that's entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about.


“Who plays Thor in ‘Thor’?” Your correspondent could not remember the beefy Australian who played the eponymous Norse god in the Marvel superhero film. But when he asked his iPhone, Siri came up with an unexpected reply: “I don’t see any movies matching ‘Thor’ playing in Thor, IA, US, today.” Thor, Iowa, with a population of 184, was thousands of miles away, and “Thor”, the film, has been out of cinemas for years. Siri parsed the question perfectly properly, but the reply was absurd, violating the rules of what linguists call pragmatics: the shared knowledge and understanding that people use to make sense of the often messy human language they hear. “Can you reach the salt?” is not a request for information but for salt. Natural-language systems have to be manually programmed to handle such requests as humans expect them, and not literally.
(“Who plays Thor in ‘Thor’?”相手がMarvelのスーパーヒーローの映画のタイトルになった北欧神話の髪を演じた体格の良いオーストラリア人を覚えていなかったとしよう。彼が自分のiPhoneに尋ねたところ、Siriは思いもよらない返答をした。「米国アイオワ州Thorで上演しているThorに合致する映画は見当たりません」Thorとはアイオワ州にあり人口184人で何千マイルも離れていたし、Thorという映画は何年も映画館で上演されていない。Siriは質問を適切に解析したが、回答は的外れで、言語学者が語用論(pragmatics)と呼ぶルールを逸脱している。これは耳にする人間の言語が乱れていた際に意味を通るようにするための共有の知識・理解である。“Can you reach the salt?”は情報ではなく塩を求めているのである。自然言語システムは人が介在してプログラムを施し、文字通りに受け取るのではなく人が期待する要求として処理できるようにしないといけない)



雑誌記事でのタイトルはSay ARとなっていました。音声認識技術の紹介でNow we’re talking.(待ってました)を使ったように今回は会議で決を取るときに使われるAll in favor, say aye.(賛成の方はAyeと言ってください)からAR技術を肯定的に捉えようとしているとみました。Economistは新技術が好きですねえ(笑)

Augmented reality
Why augmented reality will be big in business first
The technology is coming. But it will take time for consumers to embrace AR

THE history of computers is one of increasing intimacy. At first users rented time on mainframe machines they did not own. Next came the “personal computer”. Although PCs were confined to desks, ordinary people could afford to buy them, and filled them with all manner of personal information. These days smartphones go everywhere in their owners’ pockets, serving as everything from a diary to a camera to a voice-activated personal assistant.

The next step, according to many technologists, is to move the computer from the pocket to the body itself. The idea is to build a pair of “smart glasses” that do everything a smartphone can, and more. A technology called “augmented reality” (AR) would paint computerised information directly on top of the wearers’ view of the world. Early versions of the technology already exist (see article). If it can be made to work as its advocates hope, AR could bring about a new and even more intimate way to interact with machines. In effect, it would turn reality itself into a gigantic computer screen.

Economistの文章って精読する価値があるなと思えるのはよく整理された論理的であるからです。今回の書き出しではコンピュータの歴史をTHE history of computers is one of increasing intimacy.とincreasing intimacyと言い切ることから始めています(一語じゃなくて二語じゃないかと突っ込みがあるかもですが(汗))。このintimacyを発展させた先に今回取り上げる“augmented reality” (AR)があるというのです。その真偽は脇に置くなら見事な進め方ですよね。


Designing a nifty piece of technology, though, is not the same as ushering in a revolution. Social factors often govern the path to mass adoption, and for AR, two problems stand out. One is aesthetic. The HoloLens is an impressive machine, but few would mistake it for a fashion item. Its alien appearance makes its wearers look more creepy than cool. One reason the iPhone was so successful was that it was a beautiful piece of design. Its metal finish and high-quality components, allied with a big advertising push from Apple, all helped establish it as a desirable consumer bauble.

The other big problem surrounds consent. The history of one much-hyped set of smart glasses should give the industry pause. In 2013 Google launched its “Glass” headsets to a chosen segment of the public. As well as those who thought the product looked silly, plenty found the glasses sinister, worrying that their users were covertly filming everyone they came into contact with. “Glassholes” became social pariahs. Two years later, Google withdrew Glass from sale.

このハードルもBoth of these problems are solvable. と社説では書いていますが、慎重ながらも将来性に期待している感じですね。Economistの力の入れようを感じ取ることができるのは今週のScience & Technologyのセクションはこのトピック一つだけで3000語近くの記事を載せているのです。普段は4-5つの記事があるので異色さが目立ちます。社説では将来性や問題点の大きな方向性を描くだけですが、こちらの記事はより詳しく最新の動向や細かな問題点を知ることできます。

Reality, only better
The promise of augmented reality
Replacing the real world with a virtual one is a neat trick. Combining the two could be more useful

Words checked = [2971]
Words in Oxford 3000™ = [85%]


AR is a close cousin to virtual reality (VR). There is, though, a crucial difference between them: the near-opposite meanings they ascribe to the term “reality”. VR aims to drop users into a convincing, but artificial, world. AR, by contrast, supplements the real world by laying useful or entertaining computer-generated data over it. Such an overlay might be a map annotated with directions, or a reminder about a meeting, or even a virtual alien with a ray gun, ripe for blasting. Despite the hype and prominence given recently to VR, people tend to spend more time in real realities than computer-generated ones. AR thus has techies licking their lips in anticipation of a giant new market. Digi-Capital, a firm of merger and acquisitions advisors in California, reckons that of the $108 billion a year which it predicts will be spent by 2021 on VR and AR combined, AR will take three-quarters.


At the end of last year Google and Lenovo, a Chinese hardware manufacturer, unveiled the Phab 2 Pro, the first phone to implement a piece of Google technology called Tango. The idea is that, by giving the phone an extra set of sensors, it can detect the shape of the world around it. Using information from infra-red detectors, a wide-angle lens and a “time-of-flight” camera (which measures how long pulses of light take to reflect off the phone’s surroundings) Tango is able to build up a three-dimensional image of those surroundings. Armed with all this, a Tango-enabled phone can model a house, an office or any other space, and then use that model as a canvas upon which to draw things.

To give an idea of what is possible, Google has written apps that would be impossible on Tango-less phones. “Measure”, for instance, overlays a virtual tape measure on the phone’s screen. Point it at a door, and it will tell you how wide and high that portal is. Point it at a bed, and you get the bed’s dimensions—letting you work out whether it will fit through the door. Another Tango app is the oddly spelled “Woorld”, which lets users fill their living rooms with virtual flowers, houses and rocket ships, all of which will interact appropriately with the scenery. Place the rocket behind a television, for instance, and the set will block your view of it.


Such glasses do exist. So far, though, they have made a bigger impact on the workplace than in the home. Companies such as Ubimax, in Germany, or Vuzix, in New York, make AR spectacles that include cameras and sensors, and which use a projector mounted on the frame to place what looks like a small, two-dimensional screen into one corner of the wearer’s vision.

Used in warehouses, for instance, that screen—in combination with technology which tracks workers and parcels—can give an employee instructions on where to go, the fastest route to get there and what to pick up when he arrives, all the while leaving both of his hands free to move boxes around. Ubimax reckons that could bring a 25% improvement in efficiency. At a conference in London in October, Boeing, a big American aeroplane-maker, described how it was using AR glasses to give workers in its factories step-by-step instructions on how to assemble components, as well as to check that the job had been done properly. The result, said Paul Davies of Boeing’s research division, is faster work with fewer mistakes.




Universal TranslatorとかBabel Fishなんかの例を挙げるとピンとくるようです。文化が違うとイメージしやすい例も変わる、こういった部分も翻訳の難しさです。ちなみに米国版ドラえもんでは「ほんやくコンニャク」はTranslation Gummyだそうです。どうしても日本語の音遊びの部分はなくなってしまいますね。

Machine translation: Beyond Babel
Computer translations have got strikingly better, but still need human input

IN “STAR TREK” it was a hand-held Universal Translator; in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” it was the Babel Fish popped conveniently into the ear. In science fiction, the meeting of distant civilisations generally requires some kind of device to allow them to talk. High-quality automated translation seems even more magical than other kinds of language technology because many humans struggle to speak more than one language, let alone translate from one to another.

いきなり3番目のTechnology Quarterlyの記事を紹介してしまいましたが、最初の記事は全体のまとめなので最初だけでも目を通すのがいいでしょう。映画『2001年宇宙の旅』を引き合いに出して現状の技術でできる段階を示すところから始めています。まだまだの部分があるということですね。


Language: Finding a voice
Computers have got much better at translation, voice recognition and speech synthesis, says Lane Greene. But they still don’t understand the meaning of language

I’M SORRY, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” With chilling calm, HAL 9000, the on-board computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, refuses to open the doors to Dave Bowman, an astronaut who had ventured outside the ship. HAL’s decision to turn on his human companion reflected a wave of fear about intelligent computers.

When the film came out in 1968, computers that could have proper conversations with humans seemed nearly as far away as manned flight to Jupiter. Since then, humankind has progressed quite a lot farther with building machines that it can talk to, and that can respond with something resembling natural speech. Even so, communication remains difficult. If “2001” had been made to reflect the state of today’s language technology, the conversation might have gone something like this: “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” “I’m sorry, Dave. I didn’t understand the question.” “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” “I have a list of eBay results about pod doors, Dave.”


Speech recognition: I hear you
Computers have made huge strides in understanding human speech

Perhaps the most important feature of a speech-recognition system is its set of expectations about what someone is likely to say, or its “language model”. Like other training data, the language models are based on large amounts of real human speech, transcribed into text. When a speech-recognition system “hears” a stream of sound, it makes a number of guesses about what has been said, then calculates the odds that it has found the right one, based on the kinds of words, phrases and clauses it has seen earlier in the training text.


Advance knowledge of what kinds of things the speaker might be talking about also increases accuracy. Words like “phlebitis” and “gastrointestinal” are not common in general discourse, and uncommon words are ranked lower in the probability tables the software uses to guess what it has heard. But these words are common in medicine, so creating software trained to look out for such words considerably improves the result. This can be done by feeding the system a large number of documents written by the speaker whose voice is to be recognised; common words and phrases can be extracted to improve the system’s guesses.

音声合成の記事では実際の音声を聴き比べることができます。An advanced sampleは本物と言っても気づかない人がいそうなほどの出来栄えです。ただ短文レベルではうまく読めてもストーリーを語るレベルにはまだまだのようです。

Hasta la vista, robot voice
Machines are starting to sound more like humans

But prosody matters when someone is telling a story. Pitch, speed and volume can be used to pass quickly over things that are already known, or to build interest and tension for new information. Myriad tiny clues communicate the speaker’s attitude to his subject. The phrase “a German teacher”, with stress on the word “German”, may, in the context of a story, not be a teacher of German, but a teacher being explicitly contrasted with a teacher who happens to be French or British.


Meaning and machine intelligence: What are you talking about?
Machines cannot conduct proper conversations with humans because they do not understand the world


How do natural-language platforms know what people want? They not only recognise the words a person uses, but break down speech for both grammar and meaning. Grammar parsing is relatively advanced; it is the domain of the well-established field of “natural-language processing”. But meaning comes under the heading of “natural-language understanding”, which is far harder.

常識というと大げさに聞こえるかもしれませんが、普段なら意識することがなく理解していることも機械で処理させるには苦労させることがあるようです。This is not drinking water.という文を例に挙げて説明してくれています。

First, parsing. Most people are not very good at analysing the syntax of sentences, but computers have become quite adept at it, even though most sentences are ambiguous in ways humans are rarely aware of. Take a sign on a public fountain that says, “This is not drinking water.” Humans understand it to mean that the water (“this”) is not a certain kind of water (“drinking water”). But a computer might just as easily parse it to say that “this” (the fountain) is not at present doing something (“drinking water”).


Shared information is also built up over the course of a conversation, which is why digital assistants can struggle with twists and turns in conversations. Tell an assistant, “I’d like to go to an Italian restaurant with my wife,” and it might suggest a restaurant. But then ask, “is it close to her office?”, and the assistant must grasp the meanings of “it” (the restaurant) and “her” (the wife), which it will find surprisingly tricky. Nuance, the language-technology firm, which provides natural-language platforms to many other companies, is working on a “concierge” that can handle this type of challenge, but it is still a prototype.

Such a concierge must also offer only restaurants that are open. Linking requests to common sense (knowing that no one wants to be sent to a closed restaurant), as well as a knowledge of the real world (knowing which restaurants are closed), is one of the most difficult challenges for language technologies.


Proper conversation between humans and machines can be seen as a series of linked challenges: speech recognition, speech synthesis, syntactic analysis, semantic analysis, pragmatic understanding, dialogue, common sense and real-world knowledge. Because all the technologies have to work together, the chain as a whole is only as strong as its weakest link, and the first few of these are far better developed than the last few.

The hardest part is linking them together. Scientists do not know how the human brain draws on so many different kinds of knowledge at the same time. Programming a machine to replicate that feat is very much a work in progress.



今週のEconomistは一番楽しみにしている3ヶ月毎のTechnological Quarterlyでした。しかも自然言語処理というYutaにとってど真ん中のトピックで7つの記事を一気に読んでしまいました。やっぱり興味のあるトピックを読むのが一番ですね。


Now we’re talking
How voice technology is transforming computing
Like casting a magic spell, it lets people control the world through words alone

From the print edition | Leaders
Jan 7th 2017, 00:00

別に世の中の動きなんて興味ないしという英語学習者の方(残念ながらTOEIC学習者にもいますね)は社説のタイトルのNow we’re talkingというフレーズだけでも知ってください(苦笑)Now you’re talkingと同じで「待ってました」という意味で、これまで期待倒れに終わっていた音声認識技術がようやく実用に耐えるようになり、まさに人間とコンピュータがtalkingできる状況になったと言いたいようです。

No. 995 “Now you’re talking.”

“Now you’re talking.”

“Now you’re talking.”

ブログのUIというのはuser interfaceですがEconomistはbeing able to talk to computers abolishes the need for the abstraction of a “user interface” at all.と話せるようになればUIなんか不要になると言っています。

This is a huge shift. Simple though it may seem, voice has the power to transform computing, by providing a natural means of interaction. Windows, icons and menus, and then touchscreens, were welcomed as more intuitive ways to deal with computers than entering complex keyboard commands. But being able to talk to computers abolishes the need for the abstraction of a “user interface” at all. Just as mobile phones were more than existing phones without wires, and cars were more than carriages without horses, so computers without screens and keyboards have the potential to be more useful, powerful and ubiquitous than people can imagine today.


Although deep learning means that machines can recognise speech more reliably and talk in a less stilted manner, they still don’t understand the meaning of language. That is the most difficult aspect of the problem and, if voice-driven computing is truly to flourish, one that must be overcome. Computers must be able to understand context in order to maintain a coherent conversation about something, rather than just responding to simple, one-off voice commands, as they mostly do today (“Hey, Siri, set a timer for ten minutes”). Researchers in universities and at companies large and small are working on this very problem, building “bots” that can hold more elaborate conversations about more complex tasks, from retrieving information to advising on mortgages to making travel arrangements. (Amazon is offering a $1m prize for a bot that can converse “coherently and engagingly” for 20 minutes.)

Technological Quarterlyの一つ一つの記事も大変興味深いです。音声を正確に聞き取るには「予測」と「トピックの理解」が重要という指摘は英語学習者にとっても十分うなづけるものです。長くなりそうなのでまずはこのあたりで終わりにしたいと思います。