🇮🇸 Head start for Icelandic

March 16, 2023

Press release from the Government of Iceland

Icelandic was chosen as the first language, other than English, to feature in the development phase of the latest version of OpenAI’s GPT-4  project, which was officially announced today.

Iceland partnered with OpenAI to investigate how to improve the Icelandic language abilities of its new model, GPT-4, which was officially announced today. This cooperation results from the visit of the President of Iceland and ministers to the United States in Spring 2022 when, among others, they met Sam Altman, the founder and CEO of OpenAI. One of the key goals of this collaboration was to begin building a resource that could serve to promote the preservation of other low-resource languages, helping to ensure all languages and cultures are represented in digital technologies.

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, says:

“This is a fantastic milestone for our language and a testament to the amazing work that has been done within the Icelandic Language Technology Program. The rapid development of AI technology is very important for a language such as Icelandic. There are many possibilities, the majority of which are still unexplored, but we gain a distinct advantage through this cooperation. We want the future to be able to speak to us in Icelandic, and artificial intelligence can assist with that. Collaboration is key.”

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland, says, ”New technology must increase the quality of life. It must also support our efforts to promote the world‘s different languages, to help us understand one another, and to maintain diversity in the society of nations. Artifical intelligence can achieve all this if it is implemented with care.“

Jóhanna Vigdís Guðmundsdóttir, Managing Director of Almannarómur comments,:“Four years ago, when we embarked on a mission to secure the future of the Icelandic language in the digital world, it was a priority to bring Icelandic language technology solutions to the tools that people use every day. Thanks to the efforts of our experts in the field of language technology, we were able to approach the world’s leading tech companies for cooperation. The fact that OpenAI is working directly with Iceland to improve GPT4’s Icelandic abilities is a major victory for the Icelandic language in a technological world. The preservation of Icelandic is one of our nation’s largest collaborative projects. This milestone belongs to us all”.

Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson, founder and CEO of the language technology company Miðeind adds: “It is both exciting and fun for me to be able to participate in the beginning of the artificial intelligence revolution in collaboration with OpenAI, which is a world leader in its field. I started my career in the early days of the personal computer revolution and have also experienced the revolution of the internet and the web, firsthand. The AI revolution is not the least of these three. To be able to participate in it from the beginning, and to support Icelandic along the way, is a dream come true. Now we need to keep up the momentum. I look forward to tackling the next steps with my great team at Miðeind.”

What is GPT-4?

The company OpenAI, founded in 2015, is a leader in the global discussion on open access to artificial intelligence technology and its responsible and safe development for the entire world. DALL-E and ChatGPT are the company’s best-known products to date, but they could be described as a text builder and conversation tool that users can question on almost anything. The technology is based on countless texts from the web, on which artificial intelligence is trained to scrutinize, analyze, and base its answers. While it was possible to use Icelandic to some extent in GPT-3 and ChatGPT, the new language model, GPT-4, makes it much more proficient. For the past few weeks, 40 volunteers have been working on behalf of the language technology company Miðeind in collaboration with OpenAI, to train GPT-4 to respond better in Icelandic. The cooperation on the implementation of the Icelandic language is one of six special development projects that OpenAI is working on in connection with the release of GPT-4, but the only one related to a nation’s language. This cooperation may become a model for other less widely spoken languages.

Why language technology?

Language technology includes all technologies that enable software to deal with language, and is now intertwined with the development of such technologies. The increased use of artificial intelligence is opening up unprecedented possibilities in the use of large digital text, language, and information libraries. The language technology program aims to ensure that Icelandic is used in all areas of computer and information technology that affect the daily life of the general public. This includes, among other things, ensuring that software in devices can understand and work with Icelandic as it does with other languages.

Almannarómur is the Icelandic language technology center that has led the country’s implementation of the language technology program. Its website sets out its current core solutions, which include speech recognition, language reviewers, and speech synthesizers. Since the language technology program’s products are open, anyone is able to use them in the development of user software, and the core solutions are available for download and search. Entrepreneurs, companies and startups, linguists, speech pathologists, and language technology experts, from the United States and elsewhere, are among the data’s users. Over the years, the research and development group SM, Cooperation for Icelandic language technology, has built the basic language technology infrastructure for Icelandic.

Join us on March 20, 2023

Next Monday, March 20, at 13:00, there will be an open meeting in Gróska in Reykjavik – The Future answers in Icelandic. This event will present the success and advancements of the Icelandic language technology program, discuss the next steps in the digital roadmap for language technology, and present the collaboration with OpenAI in more detail. The participants will include Anna Adeola Makanju, Head of Public Policy at OpenAI and Angela Jiang, Product Manager.

Originally published on 14 March.

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