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Stage Set for Humans to Finally Communicate with Animals, But It Comes with a Warning from Experts

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For many people, having a pet in their life is one of life’s more enjoyable pleasures.

There are many reasons why people may decide to get a pet, ranging from simply wanting companionship to service animals that somehow assist them.

There is scientific evidence that pets can have a positive impact on the mental health of their owners, helping them to feel less lonely, cope more effectively with depression and anxiety and reduce stress, to name a few benefits reported by the National Institutes of Health.

It’s estimated that 68 percent of households in the United States have a pet.

In fact, it’s pretty normal for pet owners to talk to their pets, according to PetMd.

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But what if a pet could actually talk to its owner?

Scientists have been studying the possibility of humans and animals being able to communicate with each other beyond just the basics for many years.

With all the advancements in technology in the 21st century, the idea of using artificial intelligence and developing a type of Google translator to help humans and animals to communicate is gaining some traction, according to Vox.

A research team in Germany has been exploring using AI to communicate with certain insects and also with animals.

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Karen Bakker from the University of British Columbia can see both the positive and the negative aspects of humans and animals being able to communicate with a mutually understood language.

“We can use artificial intelligence-enabled robots to speak animal languages and essentially breach the barrier of interspecies communication,” she told Vox.

“Researchers are doing this in a very rudimentary way with honeybees and dolphins and to some extent with elephants.”

Bakker also noted that as scientists gain increased knowledge about this, that it can raise moral and ethical questions.

“Now, this raises a very serious ethical question, because the ability to speak to other species sounds intriguing and fascinating, but it could be used either to create a deeper sense of kinship, or a sense of dominion and manipulative ability to domesticate wild species that we’ve never as humans been able to previously control,” she said.

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When asked what that could look like, Bakker gave an example of some research being done by a team in Germany involving honeybees.

Bakker said they created a robot that’s programmed with an ability to “use the honeybees’ waggle dance communication to tell the honeybees to stop moving, and it’s able to tell those honeybees where to fly to for a specific nectar source.”

If that aspect of their research proves successful, then she said the next level of research will be to see if it’s possible to “implant these robots into the honeybee hives” and get the bees to “accept the robot into their community from birth.”

“And then we would have an unprecedented degree of control over the hive; we’ll have essentially domesticated that hive in a way we’ve never done so before. This creates the possibility of exploitive use of animals. And there’s a long history of the military use of animals, so that’s one path that I think raises a lot of alarm bells,” Bakker said.

Bakker has written a book in which she details some of her own studies about animals and digital technology.

Her book is entitled, “The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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