A digital innovation researcher has warned artificial intelligence advances could lead to an “exploitive use of animals.”
Karen Bakker is a professor at the University of British Columbia and the author of “The Sounds of Life. How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants.”
A few years ago, scientists at the Free University of Berlin’s Dahlem Center for Machine Learning and Robotics (DCMLR) made headlines by creating a robot that mimics the waggle dance of honeybees which the social insects use to communicate.
Speaking to the news website Vox.com about the DCMLR project, Prof Bakker warned of the risks such progress could contain: “The next stage in this research is to implant these robots into honeybee hives so the hives accept these robots as members of their community from birth.
“And then we would have an unprecedented degree of control over the hive; we’ll have essentially domesticated that hive in a way we’ve never done so before.
“This creates the possibility of exploitive use of animals. And there’s a long history of the military use of animals, so that’s one path that I think raises a lot of alarm bells.”
The award-winning Canadian researcher told Vox.com that scientists were now starting to consider ethical issues.
She said: “But the hope is that with these ethics in place, in the future, we – you and I, ordinary people – will have a lot more ability to tune into the sounds of nature and to understand what we’re hearing.”
Prof Bakker emphasised such technology could “create a real sense of awe and wonder and also a feeling of profound kinship.”
She concluded: “That’s where I hoped we would take these technologies.”