Ithaca: AI Restoring Ancient Texts to Rewrite History

Title: AI and Historians: Collaborating to Restore Ancient Texts

In a groundbreaking paper published by researchers Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield, Brendan Shillingford, and Nando de Freitas, AI technology is shown to be a valuable tool in restoring, locating, and dating ancient texts. The collaboration between AI and historians aims to enrich our understanding of ancient history and the potential for cooperation between technology and humanity.

Significance of Ancient Texts

More than 2,500 years ago, the Greeks started writing on various materials, providing valuable insights into their society and culture. Unfortunately, many of these inscriptions have been damaged or moved from their original locations, making interpretation difficult. Modern dating methods also struggle with these materials, making insight into Greek history time-consuming and challenging.

Introducing Ithaca

In a paper published in Nature, researchers introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network developed to restore damaged texts, identify their original location, and establish their creation date. Ithaca achieves 62% accuracy in restoring texts and 71% accuracy in identifying locations, proving to be a valuable tool for historians.

Facilitating Research

To make Ithaca widely available to researchers, Google Cloud and Google Arts & Culture have teamed up to launch an interactive version of Ithaca. Additionally, researchers have open sourced the code, pretrained model, and an interactive Colaboratory notebook, making further research more accessible for all.

Tools and Visual Aids

Ithaca includes various visual aids to help historians interpret its results, including restoration hypotheses, geographical attribution, chronological attribution, and saliency maps. These tools make it easier for researchers to work with ancient texts and provide valuable historical insights.

Contributing to Historical Debates

Research has shown that Ithaca can significantly improve historians’ ability to restore ancient texts and make more accurate dating predictions. This collaboration between AI and historians has the potential to impact the way we understand and write about significant periods in human history.

Expanding Ithaca’s Reach

Currently, researchers are working on versions of Ithaca trained on other ancient languages. Historians can use these models to study various ancient writing systems, promising transformative impacts on the study of human history.

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