In June, CETI hosted the second annual Decoding Communication in Nonhuman Species II conference at the University of California, Berkeley (US Berkeley) and is pleased to announce that the third annual conference will be held in June 2024 in Boston!
This year, ten presenters from institutions including Northwestern, Hunter College, and UC Berkeley, came together to discuss the themes of evolving AI technologies, nonhuman communication, and nonhuman social networks. Through these conversations, presenters identified significant challenges and opportunities in understanding our nonhuman counterparts and promoting scientific knowledge and advocacy.
Over a two day period, speakers presented fascinating research projects incorporating elements from various disciplines including machine learning, data science, linguistics, and acoustics. For example, Diana Reiss’ (Hunter College) project, “Decoding Dolphin Communication”, utilized acoustics, linguistics, and data science to understand dolphin “speech”, vocal learning, and interspecies relationships. “Decoding Dolphin Communication”, alongside the other projects presented, highlight a necessity for interdisciplinary approaches to create a more holistic view and fully realize the potential to understand nonhuman communication.
The conference presentations also underscored important considerations as scientists and researchers continue to work on decoding non human communication. Particularly, concerns about remaining non-invasive when observing animals for research (a core value of CETI’s research with sperm whales) and the potential for human bias in animal observation and machine learning and programming. As outlined in Micheal Pardo’s (Colorado State) project, “Do Elephants Have Names? Vocal Labeling of Individual Conspecifics in African Elephants'' and CETI’s linguistics lead Gašper Beguš’ (Syracuse University) project, “Generative AI and What Is Meaningful Sperm Whale Communication”, becoming too invasive or not checking personal biases removes the nonhuman beings from the center of the conversation and disrupts the narrative they are trying to convey.
These projects highlight nonhuman species’ intelligence and capacity to learn and adapt in relation to their environment. Both of these realizations can aid human beings in not only understanding the world around us better, but also create more sustainable and inclusive measures to preserve the world.