Issue No. 8

April 2024

Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with the newsletter as we recap Missional AI 2024, consider how to be more focused in our daily work, catch up on a bundle of LLM releases, and renew our awe for human ingenuity.

Analog productivity in a digital world.
Image generated by Dall-E 3.

But first, what is TechNews.Bible?

TechNews.Bible is intended to be a community resource that enables Bible Translation technologists to discover, learn, share, and collaborate. Read about the backstory and intentions of the newsletter here.

∴ In the News

The Wildfire of LLM Innovation
Since our last issue, we've seen the release of Anthropic's Claude 3, Meta's Llama 3, Microsoft's Phi-3, Apple's MM1, and Apple's OpenELM. There may be a next-gen OpenAI offering lurking in the wild. Claude 3 has incredibly good recall from its large context window. It's matching or beating GPT-4. I've been personally surprised by the quality of the output from the smaller Llama 3 model running on my local machine. We're seeing larger context windows, better recall, higher quality results, and decreasing model size. There are ongoing questions about how we will let this technology shape our world and communities, but technological progress continues.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab repairs Voyager 1 from 15 Billion miles away
In the past week, I've been humbled by the latest of NASA's work with the Voyager 1 probe. Voyager 1 is 45+ years old and more than 15 billion miles from Earth. It takes 22 hours to send or receive a message from it. Last year, it suffered a hardware failure. This year, engineers at JPL managed to work around this failure and bring the probe back to a functioning state by reprogramming it from Earth.

The engineering team's grit and ingenuity amidst the project's constraints are astounding. This well-written article from NASA is commendable for simply communicating the technical problem and solution. I long for the day when our communities publicly share problem-solving stories like this. More information is available at Ars Technica.

Bible Translation Conference 2025 Announced
The 2025 Bible Translation Conference (BT Conf) will be held in Thailand (I believe for the first time). I've said before that BT Conf is one of the best conferences for understanding the pulse of the Bible Translation movement.

Global Bible Tools: Resources for Biblical Study and Language Learning
Global Bible Tools is a new project aimed at providing study resources to the global church. Today, they have an interlinear that integrates glosses and LSJ lexicon entries. It's great to see yet another project dreaming about and striving toward open data and tools. Listen to the podcast or read the white paper for more information.

GitHub Copilot Workspace Technical Preview
This not-yet-released product from GitHub promises to integrate large language models into software developer workflows in new ways. The 2-minute video linked above probably explains the idea better than the full blog post. GitHub emphasizes that this tool is intended to fuel developer creativity and productivity rather than replace it.

The most interesting part of the demo (for me) was how working with an AI requires certain things of a development workflow. Like working with real people, one does not simply begin by coding. The issue is first documented, and the problem is specified. The copilot can assist because the problem and the proposed solution are encoded into natural language. The copilot then builds a plan made of smaller tasks and offers the initial implementation!

∴ Learning and Development

How to Manage Your Tasks with a Notebook (Not an App)
Opportunities, obligations, and information exponentially multiply regularly in our work as technologists. There is always more to do, and we often feel overwhelmed. What if the infinite capabilities of the digital tools we use to track our work and to-do lists are not a good match for our finite nature? In this short video, Ryder Carroll explores the use of notebooks as a potential solution via his Bullet Journal Method. Using a notebook might seem like a gimmick, but again and again, logging my tasks and thoughts on a piece of paper each day reduces my feeling of being overwhelmed and helps me focus.

The Mixture of Experts (MoE) Technique
The Mixture of Experts approach to large language models is increasingly being discussed. The linked article helpfully explains what this means concretely. An additional HuggingFace blog post goes into more technical depth.

∴ Missional AI 2024 Recap

I'm grateful that I could attend the Missional AI Global Summit this year. It was an excellent opportunity to network with other technologists working in Bible Translation, but I was surprised by the breadth of attendees. The conference has been growing so quickly that there is a new need for volunteers and funding (See the MAI Going Forward Panel). There were talks from those working in academic, non-profit, and for-profit sectors. Below, I'll outline some of my favorite items from the conference. Kudos to Missional AI for sharing all the conference presentations online.

The AI Collective
Missional AI has been growing year after year, and as a result, a community called The AI Collective was launched. Sign up to learn more.

The Greek Room: Quality Checking Tools for Bible Translators
Joel Mathew + Ulf Hermjakob

I've previously covered the Greek Room, but this presentation gives an overview and updated demo of its checking capabilities. This is a must-watch if you are interested in translation checking and QA.

Ten Ways To Make Sure No One Uses Your AI Tool
Mark Woodward

The last presentation of the conference was a practical set of reminders about developing tools for real people. In the talk, Mark highlights the importance of seeking to understand users' needs. As technologists, getting carried away with the excitement of implementing a new idea is very easy. Successful projects always have strong feedback loops with their users.

Talking Gods: How the Church Should Ready Itself for Ethical AI Adoption
James Poulter

This entertaining talk underscores a more non-technical emphasis found in many presentations at the summit: the urgent need for the church to ethically engage with AI. There was a powerful sense among the speakers at the conference that with the rapid adoption of tools like ChatGPT, we are part of a moment that stands to be as world-shaping as the advent of the internet. Speakers like James called for churches and ministries to engage with these cultural shifts and technological developments.

The Augmentation Dilemma: A New Challenge for AI Innovation
Stuart Cranney

This is an excellent example of a ministry heeding the call to engage with AI technology ethically. In this talk, Stuart outlines the impact and lessons learned by the AI Lab at Christian Vision.

As always, thanks for reading! If you have questions, ideas, or content worth sharing, please drop me a line.