INNOVATION

Scientists Want To Understand The Language Of Dolphins By 2021

Artificial intelligence technology may be the key to figuring out how dolphins are communicating.

12/05/2017 12:47 PM AEST | Updated 12/05/2017 12:47 PM AEST
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Two dolphins in a pool.

We live on a planet where it’s often difficult to engage in meaningful, intelligent conversations with our fellow humans. But what if interspecies communication with non-human creatures could occur ― specifically, between people and dolphins?

Bloomberg reports that a Swedish language technology company called Gavagai AB is teaming up with researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Using artificial intelligence language analysis software, the plan is to create an actual dolphin-language dictionary. 

The researchers will monitor and record the sounds of bottlenose dolphins who live at a wildlife park outside of Stockholm.

“We hope to be able to understand dolphins with the help of artificial intelligence technology,” Jussi Karlgren, a KTH language adjunct professor, told Bloomberg.

“We know that dolphins have a complex communication system, but we don’t know what they are talking about yet,” he said.

According to Futurism.com, a site that presents current science and technology news and information:

Bottlenose dolphins in Africa use signature whistles to identify each other.

Most dolphin species rely on a wide variety of sounds in their day to day lives. They use sound to find food and navigate, as well as communicate with each other.

These signature whistles are exchanged by groups of dolphins when they meet at sea and are used to address each other, similar to how humans use names.

For years, movies and television have depicted dolphins as warm and friendly creatures of the sea, eager to play with and rescue humans in various predicaments ― think “Flipper.” And the implication is generally that dolphins understand human language.

But what about the reverse? Are we any closer to translating the sounds, whistles and clicks emanating from dolphins as anything resembling an actual language?

Last year, researchers at a nature reserve in Russia claimed to record a possible language between two bottlenose dolphins that seemed, at the time, like a pattern of words and sentences.  

But not all scientists believed this was a true language breakthrough.

The current four-year dolphin language project, if successful, would give us a huge breakthrough by 2021. It could also lead to other applications, including preparing to ultimately communicate with intelligent alien life.

“One of the problems with finding extraterrestrial life, as exciting as the prospect is, is that we will need to find ways to communicate,” reports Futurism.com. “Since Gavagai’s systems have already mastered human languages, moving on to other life forms seems like a smart next step.” 

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