We can’t control everything

But that doesn’t mean we can’t control anything.

Welcome to another thought-provoking journey into the heart of change and its inherent tension, as presented by Gabriel Fairmain. In this post, Gabriel challenges us to reconsider our perceptions of change and dive in to discover how the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis shapes our evolving relationship with technology and translation, and what this means for the future of our work.

whatawonderfulweld2-1Just as the blacksmith fears the advent of welding, many translators fear modern language tools. But today the whole world has access to metal products, something that used to be prohibitively expensive. Soon, more people and businesses will have access to internationalization thanks to modern tools. But, this process will be difficult.

I speak about how this works in this episode of Merging Minds, but I focus on the broader economic forces behind my prediction. Here, I want to focus philosophically on an inherent trait of change: Tension.

Tension makes change feel like it has an inherent moral character, when in reality change is an ambivalent force. This is not to say that change is neither good nor bad, but that in fact it is both. And, that it marches forward without pausing to consider which it is. Change does not have a moral character and it does not self-reflect, but it does create tension. Tension, in turn, is what provokes a moral perspective in us and makes us self-reflect.

The tension that comes with change can be understood through this framework: Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis (shoutout Fichte).


The thesis in our industry seems obvious: Tech providers and LSPs are using advanced MT and AI to drive down rates and reduce the human role in translation. If we look at “thesis” in terms of a challenge to the way things were, this is certainly true.

However, if we look at “thesis” from the perspective of an accepted truth, things change. The thesis of our industry would then be the implicit (and now sometimes explicit) idea that only humans can manage, manipulate, and traffic in language. This is how I see the current thesis of our industry, but it is important to note that however we view the thesis, the synthesis will be the same.


If the thesis of our industry is that only humans can work with language, the antithesis is everything that we see now. Machines are accessing and manipulating natural language, and in some ways they are outperforming humans (namely speed, for now).

On the other hand, if we take the thesis to be the challenge that machines present, then the antithesis would be the reassertion that humans are always and inevitably superior to machines when it comes to language work.

As I mentioned, either way, the synthesis is the same.


The difficult part of synthesis is that it is not a state, and it certainly is not a promise of anyone’s happiness or comfort. Synthesis is the process by which the conflict between thesis and antithesis is resolved, and it is brutal. In the case of our industry, it is likely to be an ongoing process as technology develops, humans adapt, and the economy adjusts. Synthesis may be the resolution of conflict, but this resolution is not without tension.

A good example of synthesis for our industry is MTPE- it brings together the thesis of human language processing and machine language processing. It creates a lot of tension because it is unsatisfactory to many people, but it resolves the conflict between human and machine. Resolving or "canceling" the conflict is the definition of synthesis, doing it without tension is not.

One way that I like to think about synthesis is that it is the broader trend of the graph, and the tension represented by the thesis and antithesis are the smaller fluctuations (see below). This is not a value judgment (the graph goes up and right, but that does not necessarily mean the direction is favorable), but an illustration that change continues in a specific direction despite fluctuations in the thesis and antithesis. This directional change is the synthesis, but if we look at how far the trend line is from the thesis and antithesis fluctuations, we can see why any given person is unhappy. The trend line does not satisfy the thesis or the antithesis, it resolves them. Resolution and satisfaction are hardly ever the same thing.

Moral Character

This synthesis has no morality of its own. We as humans have moral character and the ability to self-reflect, but that capacity exists only in the space between the synthesis and our claim (thesis or antithesis). This is the space of influence; where we have the ability to make an impact. By broadening the impact we make between our thesis (or antithesis) and the synthesis line, we can drag the line towards our goals. However, we must always recognize that we cannot send the line backwards or in a completely different direction. We are shepherds of the trend, not lords over it.

This means that it is our responsibility to drag the trend line in a direction that is more favorable for more people. For me, this means working for a future in which humans use the most advanced tech to produce exquisite translations. We all know that there are many forces dragging the synthesis line to the point of least possible human involvement; my goal is to pull it away from there. By using the right tech to provide impeccable translation at speeds that meet or exceed market demands, we can drag the line to a place where humans are still in charge of this process.

In other words, we have the power to create a synthesis of humans using machines rather than humans yielding to them. We do not have the power to create a synthesis without machines. Influencing the synthesis towards favorable and possible outcomes is where our responsibility lies, and it is what Bureau Works is all about.

Our Industry

Right now, the thesis and the antithesis that we are navigating are clear. What isn’t so clear is what the synthesis looks like.

In the talk that I give above, I allude to this synthesis. I talk about how the industry will arrive at a place where there is more language work to be done, but that it will look different from the work we have been doing. This is both an opportunity and a challenge; a gift and a curse. There will be more opportunities, but there will also people who lose out on work and/or leave because they are unhappy.

This is the sad truth of synthesis. It is a pretty, harmonious word for a brutal, unforgiving process. It churns out opportunities and casualties in equal measure, with no morality of its own to direct it. But, synthesis and morality are what we language professionals are left with, so let’s put them together and make the best of them. Doing that is certainly within our power.

Topics: translator, translation, AI, Artificial Intelligence

Gabriel Fairman

Written by Gabriel Fairman

Gabriel Fairman is the Founder and CEO of Bureau Works , a cloud-based TMS that leverages generative AI to enhance the human authorship and translation experience. Gabriel has been translating professionally for 20 years. To hear more about AI and translation, follow Gabriel on LinkedIn, Substack, and on the Merging Minds podcast.

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