Two Israeli neurobiologists, Yossi Yovel and Oded Rechavi from Tel Aviv University, have penned an article exploring the potential for artificial intelligence to facilitate communication between humans and other animals. The article, published in the scientific journal Current Biology, also outlines the challenges associated with human-animal communication.
According to Independent Turkish’s coverage of the article, there are three significant obstacles to achieving communication with animals through artificial intelligence, necessitating the development of a revolutionary language model to overcome these hurdles.
Firstly, the language model must utilize the animal’s existing communication signals, meaning that the animal should not be required to learn new signals in order to respond to human commands.
For many years, scientists have understood the signals that animals use during courtship or when feeling threatened. However, for AI to effectively mediate communication between humans and other animals, it must be able to interpret these signals across a broader range of behavioral contexts – which is the second major challenge.
Lastly, the third challenge is that machines struggle to elicit measurable responses from animals, as if the machine were communicating as a fellow member of the species rather than a machine.
This third challenge was previously overcome with honeybees. A team of scientists developed miniature robots that mimicked bees performing a waggle dance to inform the colony of the location of food sources. The robots were successful in guiding the bees.
However, the dance only serves one specific context. Scientists have yet to create a machine capable of inquiring about a bee’s desires or feelings.
IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO COMMUNICATE?
According to two neurobiologists, even if the three main challenges are addressed, humans may never fully achieve the desired level of communication with animals.
For instance, a future algorithm may be able to tell humans that a house cat is trying to express sadness or affection. However, the means to ask the cat how it feels may never be discovered.
At this point, the neurobiologists refer to a statement by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.”
“We will never be able to ask a cat ‘how it’s feeling’, or explain that ‘ChatGPT’ already means ‘CatGPT’ in French, which is funny,” wrote Yovel and Rechavi.
This raises the question of whether communication with primates, who are considered cognitively closer to humans, is possible.
However, achieving this would require training AI models on massive amounts of primate behavior data. It’s known that chatbots like ChatGPT are trained on billions of pieces of written data available on the internet.
Yovel and Rechavi point out that such a vast amount of data on primate behavior simply doesn’t exist.