Move Over Doctor Dolittle, AI is Talking to Animals

Nov 3, 2022

Thought Question: Describe a time when your morals played a role in an important decision.

The fictional character Doctor Dolittle learned to speak to animals. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is doing the same thing for real!

Researchers have placed digital technologies in spots around the world. They're recording hours of sounds from animals and plants. Then, AI processes the sounds. It searches for patterns that hint at language. Yes, even in the vegetable kingdom! 

Karen Bakker wrote a new book on the subject. She’s a researcher.

The recordings have created whole databases of dancing honeybees and singing whales. They could be turned into an animal version of Google translate, Bakker writes.

Bakker explained to Vox that AI could help species learn to speak to one another. She said researchers are doing this in a simple way. They're doing it with bees, dolphins, and elephants.    

People have different thoughts about the research, though. Scientists long believed only humans use language. That view is changing. But non-human language researchers still face pushback from skeptical colleagues. Also, learning to talk with animals might make it easier to control them. That raises ethical concerns.

German researchers, for example, created a “robobee.” It goes into hives and tells real bees to do tasks.

Bakker told Vox the tech could be a good or bad thing. It could "create a deeper sense of kinship." Or, she said, it could be used to dominate wild species. 

Photo by Damien Tupinier courtesy of Unsplash. 

The author includes _______ in order to provide the reader with multiple perspectives on the topic. (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. a quote at the end of the article
b. an explanation about some controversy surrounding the topic
c. a reference to a well-known fictional character
d. A and B
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