So goes the Yahoo News headline of an Associated Press article by Matti Friedman: http://news.yahoo.com/israeli-algorithm-sheds-light-bible-163128454.html
It’s a frustrating article. One looks in vain for details of who developed the software, under what funding program they did so, and any other associations of the developers and funders. But one does read that a certain Michael Segal of the Hebrew University’s Bible Department was NOT involved in the project! But I suppose the “Israeli” label in a headline speaking of the Bible does have power to attract attention among many bible believers.
We read of the program:
The program, part of a sub-field of artificial intelligence studies known as authorship attribution, has a range of potential applications — from helping law enforcement to developing new computer programs for writers. But the Bible provided a tempting test case for the algorithm’s creators.
How could the Bible possibly provide a “test case” for law enforcement applications? Is a scholarly construct of criteria for priestly and yahwist identifiers in OT texts to be used as verification tool to determine real life criminal guilt?
The (software) Code’s Secret
Over the past decade, computer programs have increasingly been assisting Bible scholars in searching and comparing texts, but the novelty of the new software seems to be in its ability to take criteria developed by scholars and apply them through a technological tool more powerful in many respects than the human mind, Segal said.
Finally the article is beginning to make some sense. The software is nothing more, as one would expect, a tool for “faster than human” applications of scholarly constructed criteria (e.g. how often a certain word is used for “God”) to large quantities of texts.
One wonders if a more informative article headline would have read something like:
Forensic tool has potential to shed no new light on biblical studies, but sure can save a lot of time in doing them
Then maybe one can add in the story that there may be a few curious anomalies between human and machine conclusions and if one wants to conclude that the humans will accordingly see the machine results as enlightenment then one might need one’s head scanned.
And thanks to the blog reader who alerted me to this news story.
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