Dr. Denise L. Herzing intends to do something no person has ever done in the long history of the human race: establish a real dialogue with another species. Her goal is simple, achieve a two-way conversation with dolphins, perhaps the smartest mammals on the planet next to Man, and get them to start it.
Dolphins and humans — a long term relationship
The friendship between dolphins and humans extends back thousands of years. Greek fisherman told tales of how dolphins would come out to greet them and some shared incidents of the pleasant sea creatures rushing to save humans in trouble.
Scores of swimmers have been saved from drowning by a helpful dolphin appearing on the scene. Other swimmers. under attack by hungry sharks have been rescued by dolphins driving off the deadly predators…and then staying with the person until sure they were safe.
Dolphins have had a symbiotic and synergistic with humans for millennia. Like dogs, they seem to be a natural friend to Man. Unlike dogs, dolphins are much, much smarter.
Potential leap ahead for inter-species communication
Working out of her Jupiter, Florida base, Herzing has spent much of her life with dolphins. A member of the Wild Dolphin Project for 25 years, she’s studied their habits and habitats longer than most other researchers. She knows dolphin’s individual characters and personalities—traits she says that are much like humans.
If her newest project, a giant leap ahead for inter-species socialization—it might lead to thre creation of the world’s first inter-species dictionary and even pave the way for learning about each other’s cultures and world views.
And that would be fascinating for both species as Man is land-based while dolphins spend their lives in the sea.
Communications system is critical
Dr. Stan Kuczaj, director of the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi told the New York Times, “The key is going to be coming up with a system in which the dolphins want to communicate. If they don’t care, it won’t work.”
Back in the 1980s Kuczaj embarked on his own quest to establish meaningful communication with dolphins but the project failed because the technology was too crude.
Herzing is pinning her hopes on a revolutionary artificial intelligence technology being developed by scientists at Georgia Tech. The AI software is being created specifically to communicate with dolphins and single out their individual conversations.
But don’t we communicate already with other animals like dogs, apes and parrots?
“It depends on what you mean by communicate,” Dr. Kuczaj told the NY Times. “I can communicate with my dog, too. But do I have conversations with my dog? Well, if I do they’re very one-sided.”
As written elsewhere on Helium, New Scientist reported the Herzing’s project—the Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT)—centers around a revolutionary prototype communications device designed to create a common language that both dolphins and humans can employ as a linguistic interface.
“They [humans] create a system and expect the dolphins to learn it, and they do, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans, she explained.” CHAT is designed to bridge that gap.
While other dolphin researchers have expressed some doubts about the project, Herzig believes there’s a chance it can work. She agrees that “We don’t even know if dolphins have words,” but argues, “We could use their signals, if we knew them. We just don’t.”