Artificial Intelligence: AI Could Soon Decode Whales’ Talk And Let Us Chat With Them

November 2, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News

It is not inconceivable that AI could enable human beings to talk to whales.

A massive project is underway to collect recordings of the clicks that sperm whales emanate when they seemingly communicate with each other across vast distances below the surface of the sea. Researchers hope that by applying AI, machine learning and natural language processing to these ‘codas’, they would decode a sperm whale language if it exists. Who knows, what may follow is a two-way conversation! (Hakai Magazine)

Project CETI, an interdisciplinary scientific project is seeking to deploy artificial intelligence to decode the sounds that sperm whales exchange with each other.

Why sperm whales?

According to CETI, sperm whales have the largest brains of any species and share traits strikingly similar to humans, having lived in the oceans for over 30 million years. What’s more, they have higher-level functions such as conscious thought and future planning, as well as speech and feelings of compassion, love, suffering and intuition. They live in matriarchal and multicultural societies and have dialects and strong multigenerational family bonds.

Another reason – they are able to use their clicks even at the greatest ocean depths and across huge distances, without having the advantage to see each other’s body language and facial expressions. Plus, sperm whales’ clicks are easy to convert to ones and zeros for use in computer systems.

By feeding huge neural networks with language data, or sperm whales’ codas, scientists are hoping the networks could unravel structures in their communications through statistical inferences.


Image: CETI

Further, meaning and context could be gleaned if the data includes, in addition to sound bytes, details of their behaviour, location, which whales were involved in the conversation, and reactions.

Unfortunately, all this requires a huge amount data, that too annotated. This is being collected under the aegis of CETI.

“I think it is very arrogant to think that Homo sapiens is the only intelligent and sentient creature on Earth,” says Michael Bronstein, Israeli computer scientist. “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.”

Related Story: AI For Deeper Insight Into The Mysterious Narwhals

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