Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagFree Willy (film)

Female humpback whale with calf

Can AI Help Us Talk to Whales? Maybe. But Then What?

In the real world, if we succeed in communicating with whales, it will be much like communicating successfully with dogs, cats, and horses. None of them are furry people.

A recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine holds out the hope that AI can help enable us to talk with whales: The clicks of sperm whales are ideal candidates for attempting to decode their meanings—not just because, unlike continuous sounds that other whale species produce, they are easy to translate into ones and zeros. The animals dive down into the deepest ocean depths and communicate over great distances, so they cannot use body language and facial expressions, which are important means of communication for other animals. “It is realistic to assume that whale communication is primarily acoustic,” says Bronstein. Sperm whales have the largest brains in the animal kingdom, six times the size of ours. When two of these animals…