We are not alone in the universe. And no, I’m not talking X-Files.
Mankind always had to share this Earth with countless species of animals. From cockroaches to dogs and giant squids, we had to learn how to get along with, and how to use them for our own needs. For many millennia, humans raised cattle, domesticated cats, and mounted horses with saddles. We were godlike, and they were our servants, expandable and brainless. Then, one day a man named Darwin got up and claimed that humans are but animals themselves!
By now, we all know that animals have intelligence; animals feel pain and joy; animals have social structures and personal identities; and animals even communicate with each other via complex linguistic methods. Animals such as ants communicate via their sense of smell, while squids change their skin color to communicate with their fellow molluscs. But the most fascinating research, in my opinion, is the one focusing on the auditory patterns of such species as whales and elephants.
Both marine mammals and elephants are highly social creatures. Elephants bury and mourn their dead, while dolphins procreate for the sake of pure enjoyment. Communication-wise, elephants can broadcast low-frequency vibrations to a great distance, while whales and dolphins use sonar waves to broadcast unique whistles beneath the water. For many years, science has been trying to decipher their languages.
However, we have been able to communicate directly with certain primates. Chimpanzees in captivity were taught the American Sign Language, and were even able to exchange this knowledge with their offsprings. These delicate and furry creatures proved themselves to be intelligent sentient beings.
As scientific research marches forward, and technological breakthroughs are a common sight, it wouldn’t be long before we could ask our dog “where it hurts”. In fact, many animal psychologists claim to do this sort of thing on a daily basis — Although I’m talking about something much more fundamental here. Imagine having a Canine Dictionary, or a miniature device that translates a cat’s meows into meaningful units of information.
These developments, yet to come, would raise serious ethical issues. Will we see the day when a dog is given legal representation, or circus gorillas form a labour union?