The world is awash in meaning and signal that we are just unaware of. A.I. throws open the aperture of what we can perceive.
Scientists could actually be close to being able to decode animal communication and figure out what animals are saying to each other. And more astonishingly, we might even find ways to talk back. The study of sonic communication in animals is relatively new, and researchers have made a lot of headway over the past few decades with recordings and human analysis. But recent advancements in artificial intelligence are opening doors to parsing animal communication in ways that haven’t been close to possible until now. In this talk from the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival in partnership with Vox’s “Unexplainable” podcast, two experts on animal communication and the digital world come together to explain what may come next.
Tragically, a few months after this conversation was recorded in June, one of the panelists, Karen Bakker, passed away unexpectedly. Bakker was a professor at the University of British Columbia who looked at ways digital tools can address our most pressing problems. She also wrote the book “The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the World of Animals and Plants.” The UBC Geography department wrote of Bakker: “We will remember Karen as multi-faceted and superbly talented in all realms.”
Aza Raskin, the co-founder of the Earth Species Project, a nonprofit trying to decode animal communication using A.I., joined Bakker for this discussion. The host of “Unexplainable,” Noam Hassenfeld, interviewed Bakker and Raskin.