How AI could transform our relationship with the natural world

By Mary Halton

A photo of Professor Karen Bakker on the TED stage with an orca on the LCD screen behind her.
Late UBC Geography professor Karen Bakker gave a TED Talk in Vancouver in April 2023.

Technology could help us decode non-human communication and the sounds of nature. Did you know that there are everyday animal conversations happening all around us, but outside the human hearing range?

This was the subject of UBC Geography professor Karen Bakker’s TED talk in April 2023, delivered at the TED conference in downtown Vancouver.

Dr. Bakker explored the many vibrant sounds of nature—from elephant celebrations to orca conversations—that are now being translated for us thanks to advances in artificial intelligence. This technology may even be utilized in conservation efforts, such as one pilot project which aims to reduce boat collisions with endangered right whales off the east coast of North America.

This newfound ability as a species raises deep questions about the future of our relationship with the nonhuman world, including how the technology may be (mis)used in the future, and whether we will ever be able to talk back.

Dr. Bakker passed away on August 14, 2023. Watch Dr. Bakker’s TED talk, below.

Mary Halton is a writer, formerly with the UBC Department of Geography. This article was republished on July 31, 2023, from the Department of Geography, and updated on September 15, 2023. Read the original article. To republish this article, please refer to the original article and contact the Department of Geography.

More stories

  • Is it safe to exercise in extreme heat and smoky skies?
  • How to choose the right sunscreen this summer
  • Keep outdoor play spaces cool: the best trees, shrubs and plants for shade