cover art for 13. The Sounds of Life: Bioacoustics, A.I. and Ethics – with Karen Bakker


13. The Sounds of Life: Bioacoustics, A.I. and Ethics – with Karen Bakker

Season 2, Ep. 13

The world around us is constantly vibrating with sounds we cannot hear. This magical soundscape evades our senses, tempts us by its elusive presence and beckons us to look deeper.

Our ability to listen in is rapidly evolving. Over the last decades, scientists have begun installing digital listening devices in nearly every ecosystem. This process of deciphering what nature is saying is called “bioacoustics” and “ecoacoustics”. Massive advances in both hardware and artificial intelligence are permitting us to go where no artificial ear has gone before.

Recent breakthroughs unveil that many more species are speaking in ways we didn’t know were possible, with far richer behaviors than were previously known.

Karen Bakker - Canadian scientist, author, Professor at UBC and Rhodes Scholar - tells us how bioacoustics is poised to alter humanity’s relationship with our planet by expanding our sense of sound. 

We can develop mobile protected areas for animal climate refugees. Simply by singing, a whale can turn aside a container ship. Acoustic enrichment can help corals regenerate.

Acknowledging these forms of communication requires us to confront our entrenched ideas of sentience and intelligence. This seeks to understand non-human communication on its own terms and brings up new ethical and moral dilemmas. Who grants us consent to listen in to the conversation of bats? And as we inhabit such different lifeworlds, might we have enough shared concepts that would enable any kind of translation? 

Episode Website Link

Photo: Karen’s Book

Music: Electric Ethnicity

Coral sounds Tim Lamont

Bat sound Tomáš Bartonička

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