Marine and Coastal Ecosystems
Dolphin Chatroom Libraries
Create a low bandwidth distant communications channel for groups of dolphins with exchanged member, and crack dolphin language much faster!
People had been trying to crack dolphin language for quite a while now, without a major breakthrough. So, if we knew how they learn a foreign language from dolphins speaking their other foreign language, -- would that dataset elucidate it for us, how we could, too? The hypothesis that this idea relies on is the assumption that it would.
So, here's the rationale: non-technical people had been preoccupied with telephony and IRC chats in the early Internet, telling their minds and love stories over the low-bandwidth connection.
So, imagine a story:
Part 1 -- A crafted connection.
A couple of scientists studying dolphins in the wild, set up something akin to a floating "Dolphin Libraries" -- buoyant terminals with ultrasound telephony, routed via satellite Internet like the StarLink, that transmits produced ultrasound in real time from one end to another. They had set up the non-directional speakers so as to encourage more abstract communication rather than sound-pointing, so as to help them figure out how would dolphins use such channel to communicate their most abstract and information-packed thoughts.
Then, they used an airplane to relocate a one member (an adolescent fast-learner) dolphin from each of the groups to the other group (they had bioethical concerns, but -- with necessary preparations to make sure the trips are voluntary -- decided it was worth it), -- to have them just like exchange students, -- this was to guarantee, that they can have peers that can teach the concepts of another tribe by pointing to example objects associated with the utterances from their other language.
Under such circumstances, sparked by curiosity and the longing of their fellow dolphin that was transported to another geography, the dolphins began chatting with another pod during their free time from fishing. They quickly explained each other the concept of "human," and told the stories about the trip to their family members, who cared about their safety. Then, they started exploring the situation, by learning each other's language -- since having large vocabulary, they already had concepts for temperature, salinity, waves, and a plethora of names for species of fish and objects, the names of which the groups taught each other with the help of their transported ambassadors.
Eventually, they began exchanging about the living conditions in respective places (like students do), -- complaining what's good and bad in those places, and eventually strategizing how to communicate it to people, that they would like to get back to their respective families, or get together in one place. Scientists thought that some strategies may manifest by their separation from the new group, heading alone in a straight line for a longer period of time, but they did not anticipate of some very creative ways that the group came up with to communicate ideas visually. By that time, the scientists already had a huge dataset of communication logs, giving high hopes for figuring out how to ask them about it directly.
Part 2 -- Expanding vocabulary, and utility.
The scientists, continued building their vocabulary by introducing a variety of objects, and observing, what words do the dolphin groups use to describe and identify those objects, expanding the vocabulary. Since the words created by the dolphins themselves were in their most convenient pitches of modulations, scientists discovered, that the dolphins were actually able to amass much larger vocabulary than anticipated, on a par with humans. They had hypothesized that this may be because of the diversity of fish and objects in the seas.
Sparked with curiosity, the scientists are finally were at the edge of breakthrough of being able to converse with a dolphin like with a human, and express complex thoughts. So, the scientists, being interested in the seas, came up with something that they could do together: the first idea was finding locations of new species of sea creatures that are not yet discovered by humans. To do that, they developed the vocabulary of fish by examples of all kind of sea creatures known to both humans and dolphins, and eventually asking for finding new species that are not in our vocabulary yet. They decied to pay for this to dolphins in their favorite fish captured by fishermen, in exchange for the information, and trying to think what else would be interesting -- maybe shipwrecks, or something else entirely.
Part 3 -- Culture of stories.
Time passed, and as the experiment continued, dolphins were found to have no problem using the built-in rewind and replay commands on the terminals, to record their stories to these terminals. They asked humans to develop ways to make more complex manipulations, such as to enable marking up and reviewing segments of the conversations. The dolphins started writing stories into "virtual books," and a new culture was born. Generations of new dolphins had to come to the terminals to listen what their predecessors had spoken. They started those terminals to record incidents of luck and misfortune. Those terminals worked like living memory of new civilization, and elementary schools. The dolphins asked for more of these terminals.
The network, being a really inexpensive movable technology had expanded, and moved where dolphins had moved, which became driven by the research interests and fish. People had learned a great deal about the sea ecosystem from the stories of dolphins that had witnessed human caused disasters, as humans got the first person impressions and insights about the other intelligent cetaceans like orcas, that dolphins spoke of from their experiences.
Part 4 -- Computing and driving.
What came next was unthinkable. Due to elaborate voice capabilities, the dolphins had learned enough of commands to operate Linux terminal. What dolphins lacked in their limbs, they had exceeded with their ability to modulate sound and its direction. In collaboration with humans, they had got robots designed, that could be controlled by the sound commands to manipulate the direction of the robot as if with a joystick that listens directionality of sound, and grab and manipulate objects with underwater submarine "drones". After introducing an underwater rover, they had actually asked if they could get a car made so that they could drive out of the water and drive over our terrain environment.
Part 5 -- Inseparable friend.
Fascinated by cities on the terrain, and ever-present internet connection, dolphins had become an inseparable companion of humanity, providing new perspective and sharing views. Ultimately, they were lifted up to visit space stations, and shared that with their expanding communities in the seas and above ground. What would have been millions of years of evolution, had happened in a glimpse of an eye -- with the help of humans, in relatively short span of time, giving them a glimpse of what it would be to develop a common language with extraterrestrials -- as they are: oceans are a kind of "extra-terra."
And, that all started with just a simple experiment of connection. While not all steps may actually happen as described in the story above, even the first ones would bring much value.
If that sounds like fun adventure, -- what about the ethics, and whom should we share this with to get something like this going?