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Cross-Species Communication? Researchers Say AI is the Key

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Technology Could Help Us Understand Animals

Although animals don’t “speak” like us, they do communicate.  In 1973,  Karl von Frisch discovered that honeybees tell their hive-mates about the distance and the direction of food by “dancing” — a revelation that earned him the Nobel Prize [1]. Other researchers have found that many more species, including whales, parrots, and iguanas, communicate via a variety of visual, auditory, tactile, chemical, and electrical signals. [2] 

A non-profit called the Earth Species Project aims to translate these signals into human language using artificial intelligence. They hope that cross-species communication will make humans more conscious of our ecological impact by unlocking a greater depth of understanding between us and other species.

The end we are working towards is [decoding] animal communication [and discovering] non-human language. Along the way, [...] we are developing technology that supports biologists and conservation now. 

Earth Species Project Co-Founder & President, Aza Raskin, to Discovery [3]

The Earth Species Project’s goal is ambitious but not unprecedented. A team of researchers led by the University of Copenhagenhave developed an algorithm that decodes pigs' grunts to identify whether an individual animal is expressing positive or negative emotions. [4] In the short term, this tool could help farmers evaluate pig welfare. In the long term, it could fundamentally change our relationship with livestock. 

The Future of Conservation & Other Animal-Centric Industries

An algorithm can tell us how pigs are feeling. In the future, more sophisticated tools might be able to decode what they feel — happy, sad, grateful, mad — and why. The implications are profound. Imagine what an animal specialist could achieve with the power to communicate with their subjects. Will future park rangers warn endangered species to avoid poachers? Will future veterinarians ask their patients, “Where does it hurt?”

These questions are highly speculative. We can’t predict how exactly artificial intelligence (AI) will advance cross-species communication. But we can be confident in AI’s growing presence in wildlife conservation, animal husbandry, and other fields connecting humankind to the natural world.  At Synaptiq, we understand that AI can help people live synergistically with nature. That’s why we say, “AI is the natural path forward.”


About Synaptiq

Synaptiq is an Oregon-based artificial intelligence and data science consulting firm. We engage our clients in a collaborative approach to developing human-centered products and custom solutions while maintaining a strong commitment to ethics and innovation. 

Contact us if you have a problem to solve, a process to refine, or a question to ask. You can learn more about our story through our past projects, blog, or podcast

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