November 20, 2018

Artificial Intelligence may have Decoded Mysterious 600-Year-Old Manuscript

Computer scientists at the University of Alberta claim to have decoded the mysterious 15th-century Voynich manuscript with the help of Artificial Intelligence.


Since its discovery in the 19th century by a Polish book dealer, Wilfrid Voynich, many cryptographers tried and failed to decipher the text in the manuscript written in an unknown language. Dated between 1404 and 1438 on the vellum, the 240-page document includes diagrams illustrating plants, nude figures, and astronomical symbols and also handwritten text from left to right. Artificial Intelligence is the most important thing these days. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Artificial Intelligence is not going to harm any humans. According to Elon Musk, Artificial intelligence is the largest threat to mankind. Now what? Demis Hassabis has got a way through. His team is working on ethical AI as a part of major projects in Google’s Deepmind.


After decades of trying by various professional cryptographers, Greg Kondrak and his graduate student Bradley Hauer at the University of Alberta used artificial intelligence (AI) to decipher the code. Initially, they trained the AI by feeding in over 400 different languages to know the language of the text. It turned out that it was the Hebrew language, though the scientists initially hypothesized it to be written in Arabic.

“That was surprising,” said Kondrak. “And just saying ‘this is Hebrew’ is the first step. The next step is how do we decipher it.”

The scientist duo initially suspected if the words were alphagrams which are anagrams arranged alphabetically. Later they came with an algorithm to translate the text. They found out that “over 80 percent of the words were in a Hebrew dictionary”, but they “didn’t know if they made sense together”.


In the next step, the researchers decoded the opening sentence of the manuscript and then sought the help of Hebrew scholars to validate their findings which turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt. However, when they turned to Google translate for help, “it came up with a sentence that is grammatical” which said, “She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people”.

However, the researchers aren’t entirely confident about the algorithm. They just claim to found the language used in the manuscript and encoding pattern i.e alphagrams. Kondrak said the entire meaning of the manuscript won’t be known without the help from historians of ancient Hebrew.

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