Skip to main content

Interspecies Communication

I had once a parrot pet called Cheda. He was incredible - long ago during my university days Cheda was my only friend throughout countless sleepless nights when I was preparing for exams. He came very young and we spent lots of quality time together in my room. I never closed the cage gate so he was as free as possible and used entire flat to spread his wings. He belonged to a Australian cockatiel parrot breed or nymphicus hollandicus, how was his real scientific name. Nymphs are very popular for their ability to mimic human speech and of course for their talent to sing beautifully.

Alex the African Grey Parrot*

Cheda was no different and over time he learned a decent amount of words but what he performed the best was a tune from the movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai". It was not a simple melody for a parrot and you had to see his frustration in all those moments when he missed the note - on a numerous occasions I had to pet him and telling him to take it easy - but eventually he perfected it to the level of supremacy and in fact, if there was a parrot singing contest back then, he would easily took the throne. Without a doubt, "the Kwai" song staid way too long in Cheda's repertoire and soon enough on one occasion I literally begged him to try and learn something else.

I had no idea if Cheda's native parrot language was any good, after all he was born in captivity and spent his entire life seeing other parrots only on TV. To give a little more thought on the matter, even in those custom captivities with multiple animals of the same species sharing the same cage, so to speak, I doubt that they are able to use their 'native language' so well, or at all. Think about this - if a human baby is isolated from any social activity from the moment of birth, how would he or she be different from other animal species? With nobody around to teach him/her the human language, the baby would grow up and communicate only with different sounds and gestures. The same as what appears to be the animal language. But do animals have a language similar to what we humans developed over the eons? To articulate sounds into words and sentences? To actually speak to each other? At least with those species considered to be more intelligent than others? Perhaps among not so many scientists out there who are endlessly researching animal verbal abilities, the best answers we can hope to get is from Denise Herzing, who are contentiously studying wild Atlantic spotted dolphins off the coast of the Bahamas for 28 years.

With technology maturing enough and with computers powerful to help analyzing dolphin language in real time, Denise and her team developed a wearable human-to-dolphin communication device called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). With use of CHAT and tools like hydrophones (underwater microphone and speakers) we are now one step closer to the ultimate goal - understanding and talking to another species and in this case dolphins. Surely, understanding animal languages is not just about sounds in audio spectrum we evolved to use - it is proven fact that dolphins can hear up to 150kHz in the ultrasound spectrum and if we add non-verbal add-ons to the spoken language such as body gestures, it is more than obvious that Denise and other researches only scratched the surface of the ultimate goal toward the computer-based translators as we know them from scifi, especially the one described in the Star Trek universe.

Computers are surely already as fast as they are and digital data retrieved and converted from audio and visual inputs are already processable in real time. However, they are just tools - to make it really work we need to do all the programming and that requires understanding of what we are receiving in the data. To do that a breakthrough in understanding foreign languages without aids such as Rosetta stone is very much expected. The algorithm that would succeed to understand any language only by observation and monitoring. Perhaps the good idea would be to learn more from animals in that realm as well. There was one documented story of a dolphin called Moko appeared to "talk" to two stranded whales before leading them to safety. Two pygmy sperm whales got stuck at Mahia beach on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island and their desperate mood changed only when Moko arrived and as it seemed verbally advised them how to get to safety.

Denise Herzing & Wild Dolphin Project**

The ultimate goal is surely the supreme translator that will fit inside future smartphone with access to the database of all the languages in existence and not just those spoken by humans. Until that many more research is needed followed by at least one breakthrough in understanding interspecies communication of those based on Earth and probably beyond. I am more than positive that it will happen sooner than later, perhaps just like in the fiction stories such as "Breakthrough" novel series written by Michael C. Grumley.

I am finishing the fourth book in connected thriller story and all I can say is that "Breakthrough" is one amazing series fully based on the current interspecies communication research with addition of AI software capable of analyzing dolphin's and gorilla's verbal communications in real time and instant translations in both directions. I am surely not going to spoil the content but if you add decent science fiction twists neatly embedded into one great thriller, what Michael C. Grumley created is one of the best adventures I have read in a while.

Breakthrough novel series by Michael C. Grumley***

It goes without saying that I recommend warmly embedded Denise Herzing TED presentation of her current research within Wild Dolphin Project in Bahamas and Michael C. Grumley's novels. I learned a lot from both sources and definitely earned myself one more topic for the future reading habit. I could only imagine what it might mean if we could really talk to animals and I'd not be surprised if that would be really possible for more than several species and not only those considered with higher intelligence.

Image refs:

Books ref:


© 2023 Milan's Public Journal