Scientists Are Working on an AI to Let Us Talk to Whales

The neural network may be the key to communicating effectively with whales.
Project CETI

A multidisciplinary team of scientists has launched a project to decode and communicate with sperm whales.

Yes. This scene from Finding Nemo could become a reality.

According to Hakai Magazine, the initiative is called Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) and it aims to use artificial intelligence to understand whale language. The team is also trying to decode the clicking sounds that sperm whales use for communication, also known by codas.

The researchers are planning to leverage natural-language processing (NLP), which is a sub-field within AI that focuses on processing spoken and written language. With promising results, the team has already applied sperm-whale coda recordings to an NLP algorithm.



They worked very well with simple tasks at most, Michael Bronstein (the Project CETI's lead for machine learning) said about the codas of Hakai.

Collecting Codas

No matter how amazing the team's goals may be, they still have to collect data.

Project CETI's initial goal is to collect four million sperm whale codas. The Dominica Sperm Whale Project has already collected less than 100,000 codas. This team plans to continue building on that research. Hakai says that GPT-3, a well-known deep-learning predictive-language model, was trained with approximately 175 billion words.

Researchers will need to place all the codas in context. Without context, words don't have any meaning. This will require years of research into the natural habitats of sperm whales.



It is possible that Project CETI will be able to create a language model that can communicate in whale, which would change the way humans interact with nature.

Bronstein No Hakai. If we find out that there is an entire civilization under our nose, maybe that will lead to a shift in how we treat our environment. It might even lead to more respect for all life.

READ MORE: Are we on the verge of talking with whales? [Hakai Magazine]

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