Chatting with whales

(This article from Hakai Magazine was re-published in a number of online publications, among them The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine and IFL Science.)

An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them.

“I don’t know much about whales. I have never seen a whale in my life,” says Michael Bronstein. The Israeli computer scientist, teaching at Imperial College London, England, might not seem the ideal candidate for a project involving the communication of sperm whales. But his skills as an expert in machine learning could be key to an ambitious endeavor that officially started in March 2020: an interdisciplinary group of scientists wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) to decode the language of these marine mammals. If Project CETI (for Cetacean Translation Initiative) succeeds, it would be the first time that we actually understand what animals are chatting about—and maybe we could even have a conversation with them