Peter Gabriel is taking a Sledgehammer to internet convention by launching a project to help humans chat to their fuzzy friends. The singer began the initiative in a bid to fulfill his lifelong dream to ‘talk to the animals’ in the manner of Dr Doolittle.
The idea came to him during a jam session with some bonobo monkeys. ‘What was amazing to me was that they seemed a lot more adept at getting a handle on our language than we were at getting a handle on theirs,’ he says. ‘I work with a lot of musicians from around the world. Often we don't have any common language at all. We sit behind our instruments and it's a way to connect.’
For those screaming ‘publicity stunt!’ at their screens, it appears that Gabriel is in fact on the level. He has teamed up with web pioneer Vint Cerf to create the hi-tech tool and has enlisted the help of Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist who studies intelligence in animals, and Neil Gershenfeld, the director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms.
But not all the whizz kids on board share Gabriel’s interspecies communication aim. Computer scientist Cerf hopes that the initiative will help us talk to the aliens, when they eventually arrive from outer space.
‘What is important about what these people are doing is they are beginning to learn how to communicate with species who are not us but share a sensory environment,’ he says. ‘These interactions with other animals will teach us, ultimately, how we might interact with an alien from another world.’
...MT has no words.
You can watch Peter Gabriel rocking out with the bonobos below.