Can AI converse with nature?

Researchers are using AI to decode animal language. In lab rats, pain may be detected. Is it the only language that represents emotions?

Mother Nature is loud. You’ll always hear animals in a forest, mountain, or field. Every May, Berlin’s concrete jungle might hear a sparrow symphony or a nightingale’s song.

We all know that primates make warning sounds, mice sing, bugs screech for sex, and cows moo with regional dialects.

Sperm whale “clicks” are very similar to human vowels, according to new research. It seems these whales communicate using a- and i-vowels.

Researchers are increasingly using AI to interpret animal sounds, especially those with complex communication networks.

Animal call analysis resources

Many credit artificial intelligence for the rise in animal communication studies. Researchers can now analyze huge animal audio data in seconds, a job that previously took decades.

Animal call analysis uses hundreds of AI technologies. University of Washington researcher Kevin Coffey built an artificial learning software that decodes mouse chatter. Artificial intelligence branch machine learning says systems and computers can learn from data.

DeepSqueak derives rat “voices” from unprocessed audio data, compares them to similar vocalizations, and makes inferences about their behavior.

Rats employ ultrasonic calls. Many high-pitched sounds from 50 kilohertz (kHz) have been equated to laughing in pleasurable situations like playing, courting, or even during a drug ‘trip’.

Rats also generate 22 kHz sounds when sick or in discomfort. After seeing a trend in these frequencies, Coffey believes his lab rats are in danger.

DeepSqueak and other technology can interpret these sounds, but humans cannot hear them since they are beyond the human ear’s frequencies.

Since 2018, researchers have used DeepSqueak to study autism, drug use, rat social behavior, and more. The equipment works with birds, monkeys, and dolphins.

Coffey believes scientists can save time by automating ultrasonic vocalization spectrogram analysis. The meaning of vocalizations is up to people.

AI/DL tools aren’t magical. Do not expect them to suddenly translate all animal noises into English. Biologists must observe animals in various contexts and relate sounds to feelings, activities, etc., according to the neurologist.

Does language work with non-humans?

The core of communication is information transfer. Every animal communicates by vocalizations, behaviors, scents, or pheromones.

Human views on language and its social importance make the idea that animals speak their own language problematic.

According to our evidence, animals speak. Human language surpasses sperm whale and monkey symbolic connections in depth. Coffey claims that language is a highly complex, human-only communication instrument.

Anthropologists say human language is special because it creates and maintains cultural identities, ideas, and relationships. Language lets us express our innermost feelings and thoughts to others. This is regarded to be impossible for other species’ vocalizations and activities.

Some ideas suggest that language and human consciousness, the summit of metaphorical awareness, developed together.

“There is debate about what exactly defines language, and whether some elements of animal communication are similar to [human] language” , Coffey says. We found highly social and chatty rats. Despite their diversity and complexity, I wouldn’t call their speech sounds a language.

Watch wary for humanizing

People believe Ludwig Wittgenstein argued human speech has meaning but parrot speech does not. Speakers provide message as well as sounds.

Leaving aside Wittgenstein’s validity, some academics claim that humans’ desire to assign meaning to non-natural sounds stems from this idea of human meaning.

Berlin researchers observed that tickled rats “laugh” indicating a sense of humor.

Scientists responded that perceiving rats’ high-frequency chirps as evidence of joy or laughter was anthropomorphization, the tendency to “humanize” inanimate objects like robots. Do rats find tickling “funny”? Experts say science cannot know. A mouse’s mind is unknowable.

Any animal dream?

However, experts think people underestimate animals’ abilities. Thus, research on “unprecedented” finds like pain-feeling fish, intelligent octopuses, and laughing rats is rising.

According to many parrot owners, Wittgenstein was wrong—parrot screams may signify hunger or pain. Scientific knowledge has advanced since the Austrian philosopher’s early 20th-century publications. Coffey believes anthropomorphization benefits humans by bringing them closer to animals.

Mice can play multi-syllable tunes. Men’s appeals to women are more complex than those to themselves. That’s always amazed me. Scholars’ prudence with language and communication is laudable. Neuroscientist promises to keep dolphins and mice ignorant about esports and inflation.

Why bother animals?

Learning how animals interact goes beyond curiosity. AI may benefit animals if Coffey is correct. “I would like to improve the lives of laboratory animals and increase the rate of translatable discoveries in neuroscience,” adds. Understanding how laboratory rats interact is crucial to unraveling this riddle.

Some NGOs and academics use AI to monitor wild animal biodiversity. German University of Würzburg researchers used microphones to capture tropical forest soundscapes and assess biodiversity recovery by analyzing insect and bird cries.

Earth Species Project tracks biodiversity using AI. The effort boldly claims: “an understanding of non-human languages will transform our relationship with the rest of nature.”

Their long-term objective is to employ AI to study animal communication so humanity may better understand and care for all living beings.

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