The project, which was launched in 2017 and aims not only to learn but also to recreate the way whales communicate with each other, is now entering its final phase.
Four years ago, the idea of two scientists: Chaffee Goldwasser, director of the Simmons Institute for Computing Theory at Berkeley, and David Gruber at Harvard, might have seemed like a crazy fantasy.
“We met for Radcliffe Grant,” Goldwasser recalls. “The conversation just turned into flickering sounds, and I suggested that maybe we should try to translate it into something people could understand. In my life, I wouldn’t have thought[David – editor]would take me seriously.
An idea floated in passing developed into a program with the vague name CETI. It is an acronym for the Cetacean Translation Initiative, which literally translates to Cetacean Translation Initiative. The name is at least weird, the idea behind it too.
However, over the four years, scientists have constantly pushed forward. Until they reach the point where they are one step closer to achieving their vision.
“In our opinion, the sounds made by sperm whales are the key to deciphering the language of whales” – we read on the project website. “Unlike the grunts of other animals for long periods, they can easily be turned into ones and zeros. Cetaceans live at great depths in the oceans and communicate over great distances. They convey the message.”
However, the ambition of scientists is not to translate sounds into specific content, but to create a program that, using artificial intelligence, will learn a new language and be able to use it continuously, communicating with animals.
The research team working on the program claims to have sufficient knowledge to develop such programs. To this end, CETI is currently working with specialists from Imperial College London.
The final stage will, of course, be the physical tests on sperm whales. Simply put, scientists want to test whether whales react to the sounds made by robots.
If the project could actually be completed, it could turn the current state of knowledge about how animals communicate on its head. For the popular belief that no creature other than humans has a language system that will fail. The second point is to know the life and mentality of other species to a degree never before seen with any other creature.
However, observers stifle enthusiasm by saying that even if we could explain the meaning of the sounds whales make, there is no point in relying on them to be complex messages.
Most experts maintain that animals mainly communicate basic information about the food in their area or call out to each other in the mating season. If someone really wrote a program capable of communicating with sperm whales, what they could do was get such primitive content and pass it on from them.
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