Scientists are building AI that lets humans chat to whales – and other animals

Move over Doctor Dolittle—artificial intelligence could soon be advanced enough to let humans speak to whales.

A team of scientists have launched a project to translate whale-speak in the hope of one day making it possible to communicate with them.

They want to create a natural language AI that could interpret the clicks and wails that whales use to communicate with each other over long distances.

It could finally solve the age-old question of whether animals possess language. For centuries, it has been assumed that humans are the only creatures with language.

However, this is changing quickly as we learn more about how animals vocalise and communicate to each other.

With brains six times bigger than humans, whales are a strong candidate for being able to speak, particularly as they chatter for long periods of time over huge distances.

Researchers say that they will start with sperm whales, because their 'clicks' are easy to translate into computer language.

They will attempt to gather around four billion whale sounds into a massive database, and train an AI to decipher what the whales are on about.

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After that, they hope to build a chatbot that can speak to whales directly.

As we have no idea what whales are talking about, it could be that they are boring conversationalists, or are completely uninterested in speaking to us.

"Maybe they would just reply 'Stop talking such garbage!', computer scientist Michael Bronstein told Hakai Magazine.

To translate what whale noises mean will require researchers to observe whales in real-life settings in order to understand the context of the noises.

The technology to do this isn't quite there yet, and would require expensive sensors to record individual whales and track their locations.

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The scientists believe that, if we are able to communicate with whales, it could utterly change the world.

"I think it is very arrogant to think that [humans are] the only intelligent and sentient creature on Earth," said Bronstein.

"If we discover that there is an entire civilization basically under our nose—maybe it will result in some shift in the way that we treat our environment. And maybe it will result in more respect for the living world."

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