Language in the human family is an amazing story, it allowed our ancestors to communicate silently on hunts (using gestures), it allowed coordination using specific sounds later using the voice and later still it was useful to encode ideas into those sounds for the purpose of casual communication which for the first time allowed large amounts of acquired individual experience to be shared with a local group, then as these groups grew in size and languages became more complex, methods were invented to codify them put them to stone and parchment and now a permanent record of human thought arose, writing. The advancement of the human family is entirely owed to this shift in going from language as symbolic motions of body parts (face to limbs) to language as symbolic sounds to language as symbolic shapes. The irony is though as all these separately evolving language and writing families expanded, they touched...and in so touching their *differences* became great source for discord, misunderstanding and war. Language the tool that liberated us from the savanna now became our bane! It hampered cross cultural growth (except through war) and for the last 4 or 5 thousand years as these different civilizations touched, they mostly fought! We became prisoners of our language and character families, requiring translation to relay nuances of information exchange, slowing down communication. As the industrial revolution approached and we found ways to relay information quickly (even if it then needed to be translated) we learned to send communication over electric wires using the telegraph, then later the telephone and just over 100 year ago, through the air itself using invisible light. These advances helped mitigated against misunderstandings related to the speed of communication but still the difference in languages persisted, particularly for the purpose of commerce. The common people of nations were still for the most part trapped both geographically and linguistically from the other nations of the world. This isolation kept xenophobia alive and well into the last century as war reached its pinnacle with the deaths of millions over perceived but false ideas of cultural and ethnic superiority. We had some technology but were still prisoners of our languages. It's only in the last 40 years that the final piece to eliminating the barrier came into being, the internet closed the gap on communication so that people other than statesmen could communicate rapidly and over time cheaply. As the web emerged in the early 90's the bulk population of all nations now had a way to interact with the bulk of all other nations, yet still language formed a barrier. In the late 90's companies like Alta Vista began to create translation dictionaries between various languages, in 2002, Google joined the space and made available web based services for translating web pages or snippets of text. These one shot services though only served the needs of the one, in the moment of the request. I saw the need in 2005 for a different solution that could facilitate agnostic language communication in a social context.
As a child I remember clearly the Biblical story of The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), it fascinated me that even in the writings of the stone age writers of that story there was an implicit understanding of the *divisive* power of language. If you'll recall, a coming together of Peoples in the plains of Shinar in those days (when all people spoke the same language according to the Bible) the people wanted to build a monument to Man, a tower that pierced the sky. The Hebrew God did not like this 'arrogance' of Man to believe in his own power (another Irony as our own power is all we have evidence for) and so in the midst of their gathering for the construction he struck them all to speaking different languages. The lack of understanding scattered them off to all far regions of the world and thus we have different languages. The childlike simplicity of Biblical stories (written by grown Men) must be appreciated, it shows how child like all of human understanding was at this time in history only 3,000 years ago. In any event the irony is that the writers of the story knew that having us all speaking the same language would allow us to build the tower! So to explain the failure of this neighboring culture (which spoke a different language!) to build the tower, the Hebrews say that their God struck them dumb...this highlights an interesting historical truth about the time, the middle east was a nexus point of transit from Africa to Asia and back, many peoples and languages formed, evolved, warred and were driven extinct due to these conflicts of migration. Yet still the concept of a single language as a unifying force for Man was implicitly known and in fact actively feared.
I always found this fascinating and it is only in the last 4 years, while engaged in a chat room with a non English (Romanian) speaker, almost 5 years ago that I realized a way I could build a modern digital tower of babel. One day in 2005 I thought it would be awesome if I could simply type in English and have her read Romanian and have her type in Romanian and I read English. I knew that I could co-opt Googles Translate service to get this done and hacked their consumer page to "borrow" the translation service, 3 days later I had a working version of this translated web chat. Unfortunately it didn't support Romanian as Google Translate didn't support Romanian at the time. Since then I've managed to create an efficient and highly scalable distributed solution to the many to many real time language problem of a group chat, unlike a single IM...a group chat requires some way of managing all the spoken languages, translating between them simultaneously. I invented a way to do this that took advantage of the distributed nature of the AgilEntity platform and would not require the conversing clients poll one another (doing it this way would plateau and then quickly lose efficiency as client cross talk increased). The business collaboration service I plan to launch features this and many other implicit translation and collaboration features that are all designed to make language as irrelevant as possible. I am fund hunting and hope to release it as a public service soon, in so doing I want to change human communication by achieving the fear of the Hebrew God, of allowing humans to communicate freely without the barrier of language and thus allow us to achieve our true potential.