Want to create artificially intelligent machines? Want to find aliens? You might want to try talking to nature first.
Philosophers, animal behaviorists, and scientists have worked for decades to get animals to speak “human.” Researchers have even cohabited with primates and dolphins to see if they could somehow connect. Some suggested that by bringing animals into the human community we could actually keep from killing ourselves with increasingly risky technologies.
Disappointingly, we’ve never quite reached that Dr. Doolittle ideal of sitting down and chatting with any member of the animal kingdom. There are huge gaps between animals and human beings that prevent a satisfying level of comprehension.
But these efforts can teach us a lot about how to develop machines that can communicate with us, and how we might understand extra-terrestrials (if and when that ever happens).
Matthew Battles of the Berkman Center’s MetaLAB has been looking at the cultural dimensions of science in the 20th century. He spoke with us this week about how science helps us understand animals, technology, and our place in the universe.