Can AI let us understand animal language?


A group of researchers are looking to use machine learning to translate animal "languages" into something humans can understand — and they want to apply it to the whole animal kingdom, a highly ambitious plan to say the least. 

In the interview, Raskin likened the group's ambitions to "going to the Moon," especially given that, like humans, animals also have various forms of non-verbal communication, like bees doing a special "wiggle dance" to indicate to each other that they should land on a specific flower.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges the group is facing, the project has made at least some progress, including an experimental algorithm that can purportedly detect which individual in a noisy group of animals is "speaking."

The project is named the Earth Species Project, or ESP for short. I personally do not think we'll ever be able to communicate with animals, in the sense that humans communicate with other humans. But I do not feel that using AI to further interpret animal communication is a fool's errand; humans have already made huge progress in that area already. 

And would it be a good thing if we could understand what the animals are trying to say, or what they're thinking? I'm reminded of a quote from Jack Handey: "If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier in our attitude towards cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."

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