This AI communicates with bees, and it worries scientists

Artificial Intelligences dedicated to understanding and learning the language of animals and insects are improving and could help overcome the barrier of communication between species. A feat that poses unavoidable and thorny ethical issues.

Vocabulary, syntax, art of conversation… Researchers have long been working on the richness and complexity of animal communication. All the speciesspecies go through it, be it pigs, crows, cats and dogsdogsmice and monkeys, and even bees.

The dances performed by these insectsinsects constitute a real language that allows them to coordinate in their tasks. This phenomenon has been studied since the 1940s and today, artificial intelligence makes it possible to go much further than the interpretation of this language.

Thus, from 2018, researchers from the Dahlem Center for Machine Learning and Robotics in Germany have designed the RoboBee, a micro-robot that can imitate the wriggling dance of bees. The robot is a simple piece of sponge with wings that moves on a rod among the other bees. It is an AI that is at work and it works, since some bees in the hive have “listened” to it. The bees followed the RoboBee’s instructions precisely. For this team, the next step is to domesticate an entire hive. For this, the researchers implant several robots in different hives to check if the colony accepts them as one of their own.

Handle wildlife

What’s interesting about AI is that it is able to analyze unique signals, related to behaviors and patterns, to create a language rather than trying to teach them ours. It is even mission impossible without its power. This is the reverse of the approach that was carried out with the primatesprimates, for the past 60 years. Language was then very human-centred. But being able to communicate with the language of bees and other animals is a goal that bothers and even worries researcher Karen Bakker of the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Interviewed by Vox, she explains that the risk is that these AIs are used by humans to exploit animals and insects rather than trying to really understand them. Crossing the barrier of communication between species with the help of algorithms has indeed something to create a deeper feeling of kinship. In other words, according to the scientist, anthropomorphism could lead humans to manipulate wild species to domesticate them in an unnatural way. She adds that this does not only concern bees, but all wild animals. Even the biggest of mammalsmammals are concerned, such as elephants or sperm whalessperm whales whose movementsmovementsbehaviors and sounds are collected and analyzed by the powerful AIs.

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