Ruh Roh – We may be out of a job soon

 Con Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus at Northern Arizona University, who works on decoding animal language – in particular the language of prairie dogs – is thinking that people may have decoders for their pets within 5 years.  

A computer science colleague of mine and I are using artificial intelligence techniques to keep a computer record of the call that the prairie dogs were making, analyze it with these AI techniques, and then spit back the answer to us, which potentially could be in English. So the prairie dogs could say something like “thin brown coyote approaching quickly.” And then we could tell the computer something that we wanted to convey to the prairie dogs. And the computer could then synthesize the sounds and play it back to the prairie dogs. So I think we have the technology now to be able to develop the devices that are, say, the size of a cellphone, that would allow us to talk to our dogs and cats. So the dog says “bark!” and the device analyzes it and says, “I want to eat chicken tonight.” Or the cat can say “meow,” and it can say, “You haven’t cleaned my litterbox recently.”

Granted, these communications are pretty simple for the novice, but the concept for many will be a huge breakthrough for animal regard.  In the pet world alone most problems are behavioral.  In other words, communication.  In other words: 

The human can’t get across to the animal what the human expects, and the animal can’t get across to the human what it’s experiencing. And if we had a chance to talk back and forth, the dog could say, “You’re scaring me.” And you could say, “Well, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I was scaring you. I’ll give you more space.”

Transfer this communication amongst all people to livestock or wild animals and we have a whole new world.  

The interview with Mr. Slobodchikoff is out of the magazine The Atlantic.  Please click through as there are a few videos to view too.

Exciting times!  But be ready with your plan B occupation!!

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One Response to Ruh Roh – We may be out of a job soon
  1. Joyce Leake
    June 11, 2013 | 9:04 am

    As my friend and mentor, Ron Surface would say, “how interesting!”. And, indeed it is! Simplifies the simplest of things, doesn’t it? Communication. Oh, how we take it for granted.