Interspecies Internet Workshop

July 15, 2019
MIT E14-6

Vint Cerf, Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, and Neil Gershenfeld came together in an unusual collaboration around an Interspecies Internet, presented in this TED talk. This follow-up workshop will gather a community working in this and related fields to review progress since then, present relevant research, and plan future activities. It is co-hosted by MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, Google, and the Jeremy Coller Foundation. There is no charge to attend but registration will be limited; to apply contact with a brief summary of your interest and background.

The vision, based on promising trials and past experimental studies in interspecific communication is to explore whether it is possible to achieve new forms of interspecies communication using the Internet and other forms of interactivity. Strong examples of human/non-human interspecies communication have inspired us to wonder whether intercommunication among distinct, non-human species can be further explored and developed. Moreover, we also share an interest in understanding the nature of intraspecies communication - its cognitive nature, vocabulary and structure. It is possible that Internet can play a role in linking two (or more?) non-human species cohorts together. This could serve to enrich and extend their own social interactions to other conspecifics and in turn enrich our understanding of their own forms of communication. Success along any of these lines using the Internet as a medium for communication and sharing results globally holds the potential to stimulate increased awareness of the communicative and cognitive abilities of other species and positively impact species conservation, welfare, enrichment, sustainability, and understanding.

Bob Metcalfe famously observed that the value to its user, of a computer connected to the Internet, goes as the square of the total number, because that's how many can interact (although there's some empirical evidence that in practice it's closer to N log N). The core question we're asking is whether something similar holds for other cognitive species, both within and between species, when their interactions are mediated through technology and they are given choice and control of their communication. Among the many underlying questions this poses are the identification and role of symbols in communication, the utility of alternative interfaces, the evolution of language, adaptive translation, and observation of self-awareness.


8:00 Registration
9:00-9:30 Introduction
Jane Goodall
Jeremy Coller

9:30-11:00 Diana Reiss
Irene Pepperberg
Joseph Barber
Sue Savage Rumbaugh
Con Slobodchikoff
Francine Dolins
Knut Egil Bøe
11:00-11:30 Break
11:30-1:00 Peter Gabriel
Roger Payne
Patricia Gray
Aza Raskin
Britt Selvitelle
Penny Patterson
David Sulzer

1:00-2:00 Lunch
2:00-3:30 Vint Cerf
Jonathan Balcombe
Alison Cronin
Linwood Pendleton
Sarah Elizabeth-Byosiere
Itai Roffman
Paul Thibault

3:30-4:00 Break
4:00-5:30 Neil Gershenfeld
Marcelo Magnasco
Gabriel Miller
John Honchariw
Kate Darling
Philip Ball
Joi Ito

5:30-6:00 Lightning Talks


6:00 Reception