New developments in artificial intelligence and technology could help humans communicate with their pets and any other animal species that lives on Earth.
Outside of science, the idea of two-way human-animal communication has been around in pop culture since at least 1967, when the original “Doctor Dolittle” movie was released.
But the idea isn’t just a wacky movie plot anymore; it is close to reality.
Scientists have discovered effective methods for understanding animal language, including the complexity of their different sounds and actions together.
Research on conversation with animals goes back years, but in 2017 scientists discovered a crucial factor in their AI-powered effort: languages, both human and animal, can be visualized as , and these shapes are much easier for AI technologies to decipher. and decode.
“You’re asking the AI to build a shape that represents a language,” said Aza Raskin, co-founder and president of Earth Species Project. “You can take English, you can take Japanese, and you can rotate one shape on top of the other, and the word that is dog is in the same place in both. In the animal realm, when we want to translate animal communication that you can then translate, say, from behavior to what animals say, from what animals say to another dialect of another animal.”
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Raskin and the California-based nonprofit Earth Species Project are on a mission to decode animal communication based on advances in AI combined with growing understanding of how, why, and when animals make certain sounds and shares. Raskin told Newsy about a recent groundbreaking development in AI technology that has brought humans closer than ever to talking with furry friends.
“You can put in three seconds of anyone’s voice – my voice, your voice – and the computer will continue to speak with your voice after those three seconds are up, so it will continue to say what you were saying,” said Raskin said. “He’ll say it with your diction, with your prosody, with your identity, and he’ll maintain semantic consistency for five, six, seven, eight seconds. One of the realizations then is that means the next 12, 36, 48 months, we can do that with animal communication.”
This means that humans could be able to ask their dogs directly why he’s barking or why a cat is meowing, and the animals could theoretically understand the human’s words, beyond the basics.
It’s because scientists are going to take that animal acoustics and combine it with what’s already known about a species’ body language, behavior, and even things like a species’ travel habits to help create a sort of Google translation for animals.
But as humans approach a potential breakthrough in interspecies communication, it’s also important to keep in mind that how and why humans use this technology will have wider social and ethical implications and consequences – not only in daily life, but for the survival of the species that humans may end up being able to talk to. Raskin shared an example:
“For some reason Australian humpback whales are like pop singers, and because humpback whales can sing in ocean basins and they migrate halfway around the world, a song off the coast of Australia can go viral and, within a few seasons, can be sung by much of the world’s population,” Raskin said. “If we just create a synthetic whale that sings, we might have invented the CRISPR of culture and the culture of whales and dolphins that dates back 34 million years. It’s not something we should just mess up or pollute or create the viral meme.”
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