Jun 20, 2019 3:00 AM
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"I don't know," says the translator. "I am only qualified to answer linguistic questions."

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"Do you know how long it takes most people to memorize the ones that apply to them?"

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"I don't know," says the translator.

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"Okay. Can you read me any laws covering what happens to people who don't understand the laws?"

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"Ignorance of the law is a partial defense in most crimes with the following exceptions:" It reads on.

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That is extremely alien but probably necessary when you have this many laws. She listens intently to the exceptions.

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Won't let you get away with any substantial violent crime or high-value property crime or treason-type stuff.

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That makes much more sense.

"If I accidentally broke a law that wasn't one of these, what would I need to do to demonstrate that I didn't know better?"

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The translator translates a section that is about the definition of ignorance of the law, to wit: serious learning disability, being a child, being a generally confused immigrant who also makes more innocent mistakes of a similar magnitude, having had to make a decision under time pressure that didn't allow looking up the law, and not having ever belonged to a profession where knowledge of the law was required.

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"What happens to a child or someone with serious learning disability who breaks a law?"

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"That is not listed in this legal code."

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She asks questions that are more likely to have answers.

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The translator will skip around to whatever parts of the document are obviously relevant.

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After a while it's too much to take in at once.

"What language are these translated from?"

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"English, with reference to the other languages of the Federation where the shades of meaning inform the translation."

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"Is English the language I would need to learn to do business in the Federation?"

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"No. Federation residents are equipped with universal translators, which will accept update propagations from this instance."

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"...Accept update propagations? They learn from each other?"

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"Yes."

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"Can they be used to communicate with other people who have them?"

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"Translators do not work as telecommunications in their own right. Separate devices must be used for that."

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"Can anyone with one of those devices contact anyone else with one?"

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"I do not know. I know things about languages and about translation software."

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"That makes sense. Can I learn to perceive and pronounce all the languages you know about?"

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"Some of them will be unpronounceable with your anatomy."

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