TechConversing with a whale: SETI Institute's revolutionary strides in interspecies communication

Conversing with a whale: SETI Institute's revolutionary strides in interspecies communication

They want to communicate with aliens. They started with whales.
They want to communicate with aliens. They started with whales.
Images source: © NOAA, SETI | Jodi Frediani

9:37 AM EST, December 16, 2023

This unique interaction took place at sea and demanded an underwater speaker. With this device, the scientists managed to attract the attention of a humpback whale named Twain. He responded to their introductory signal and continued the exchange for a certain period.

Engaging in "conversation" with a whale

Researchers view this as a clear indication of comprehension. Twain answered each playback of the call for around 20 minutes. His actions were not whimsical or arbitrary.

Each sent signal caused Twain to spiral around the crew's boat. Changes in the timing of the messages reaffirmed its significance to him. Twain skillfully adjusted his behavior according to the new transmission rhythm.

A whale's role as an "alien" substitute

The scientists undertake the examination of humpback whales' communication systems intentionally. The aim is to develop techniques to interpret extraterrestrial signals and seek signs of intelligent life among them. As the existence of such life is uncertain, researching a substitute object becomes necessary.

This led to the idea of reaching out to a humpback whale. Despite not closely resembling humans, these creatures do possess traits that are identified as signs of intelligence.

The researchers also acknowledge the considerable constraints of their tests. For instance, it's uncertain whether the whale's behavior was merely an expression of curiosity about his environment. His reaction does not imply definite communication.

Similar limitations may apply to extraterrestrial intelligence. Communicating with such beings is plausible only if they show interest in establishing contact, and view humans as potential conversation partners.

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