Listening and Talking to Dolphins
January 24, 2014 2:31 AM   Subscribe

For anybody who is not happy with the outcome of the Taiji Dolphin drive hunt, the current and only solution seems to be political activism. One simply wonders if communicating with dolphins might eventually be a way to make some of these hunts a thing of the past. A recent workshop on Analyzing Animal Vocal Sequences provided some illuminating views of what we know and what we don't know about animal communication. In particular one notes the increased use of Machine Learning techniques that are currently used to make sense of human interactions on the web. As it turns out, there was a talk about Unraveling dolphin communication complexity. Other talks of the workshop included also: Singing isn't just for the birds, Automated identification of bird individuals using machine learning, A receiver's perspective on analyzing animal vocal sequences, Animal communication sequence analysis using information theory, Machine learning for the classification of animal vocalizations, Information theoretic principles of human language and animal behavior.
posted by IgorCarron (7 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Hey, good video links on the communication work, but the editorial-voice beginning is a problem (is this supposed to be about the Taiji Dolphin drive hunt? If so it needs less OP commentary and more links on that). If the video links are the main point of the post, go ahead and repost those tomorrow without the misdirection in the beginning. -- taz

My understanding is that this is something the fishermen at Taiji have been doing for a long time, and that they both couldn't be disrupted by or need any help with. To get dolphins into the bay where they are slaughtered, fishermen find pods and herd them to shore by lowering steel rods into the sea and smacking them with mallets, the noise of which causes the dolphins to flee. They then wait overnight for the dolphins to calm down before capturing them one by one.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:00 AM on January 24, 2014

A live dolphin nets a fisherman in Taiji a bunch of cash. Taiji is remote with little economic development beyond fishing and tourism.

Seems to me it would be better to go after the aquariums that purchase the dolphins. The dolphins have to come from somewhere after all.

This is an interesting post, by the way. Too bad it starts with a somewhat related reference to Taiji.

Of course, animal communication is itself a controversial topic all on its own.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:07 AM on January 24, 2014


I am sorry if you feel the post started the wrong way. Hunting is part of how we feed ourselves so I am not making a judgement there. What seems important to me is that as soon as we could be having "real" conversations with animals, however mundane, our entire species' behavior might change as a result. At the very least this is thought provoking.

As regards to the current subset of people who are professionally "communicating with animals" for profit, I am not making a judgement on those except that they are, at a minimum, gatekeepers ... if not worse. Indeed, the engineering developments aimed at understanding and eventually communicating with animals are to make sure that that knowledge is quantified and, most importantly, eventually shared among everyone.
posted by IgorCarron at 4:52 AM on January 24, 2014

IgorCarron: "What seems important to me is that as soon as we could be having "real" conversations with animals, however mundane, our entire species' behavior might change as a result."
Many people communicate with their cats and dogs. Many people still eat cats and dogs.
posted by brokkr at 5:23 AM on January 24, 2014

It's ironic, by the way, that the thing most likely to stop drive hunting for whales in Japan and the Faroes (video 1, video 2) is anthropogenic heavy metal pollution.
posted by brokkr at 5:28 AM on January 24, 2014


Out of 7 billion people, I am sure we can agree that a large segment of the population does not eat cats and dogs. Irrespective, even though many people communicate with their cats and dogs, the basis of that knowledge is highly anecdotal. If that knowledge were to become less anecdotal, we might even see less of the world population interested in cat and dog meat.
posted by IgorCarron at 5:30 AM on January 24, 2014

There's an even smaller segment of people that eat dolphins.
posted by brokkr at 5:40 AM on January 24, 2014

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