WELCOME TO DOLCOTEC!
Dolphin Communication Techniques, or Dolcotec for short, is a non-profit organization founded in The Netherlands in 2007 – the year that was declared Year of the Dolphin by the United Nations.
OUR VISION: COMMUNICATING WITH DOLPHINS
Dolcotec’s main mission is to some day make 2-way communication between humans and dolphins a reality (see also our Mission statement). We realize this may sound as a far-out proposition to some, but we believe this should be possible in principle, given the large body of scientific research findings on dolphin intelligence and communication pointing in that direction, as well as earlier dolphin language work done from the sixties through nineties (see Background). Also, the exponential growth in available computing power and speed that the world has seen in recent years makes a project of this order more likely to succeed in this day and age.
From our perspective, what is needed is a scientific effort similar in courage, imagination, and vision as the Apollo project in the 1960s. Why this analogy? Before the space age, the idea of ever jumping around on the Moon was considered as an impossible dream to achieve. Likewise, when it comes to intelligent communication with another species, the prevailing paradigm, at least until recently, has been that this is simply impossible. So to paraphrase John F. Kennedy’s famous words in his 1961 speech, “to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon” – let’s commit ourselves to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of communicating with dolphins!
Dolcotec wants to serve as a hub to attract ideas, funding, equipment, dolphin facilities, but especially people and researchers from all over the world who share our open-minded vision. For we believe a project as ambitious as this one only has a chance of succeeding through international collaboration and cross-fertilization among a variety of disciplines – such as marine biology, speech technology, cognitive science, linguistics, behavioral science, psychology, and bioacoustics, to name just a few.
THROUGH SCIENCE... AND ART
Dolcotec has the philosophy that utilizing the scientific method as well as the latest available technology will play an essential role in achieving success, but will not be sufficient in and of itself. In our view, this left-brain, analytical and objective approach needs to be complemented and counter-balanced by a more right-brain, holistic and subjective approach. After all, young children do not learn language by us using the scientific method to teach it to them, but simply by using language around them and engaging them all of the time.
The same goes for establishing 2-way communication with dolphins. And so playful behavior and having fun will be a crucial ingredient in this mix. To that end, we will need art as much as we need good science, for example by coming up with interesting and engaging games which will be exciting to the dolphins, and which will give them a level of power and control over their environment. That, after all, is the real incentive to learn how to communicate.
Our logo, as well as our name “Dolphin Communication Techniques” reflect this philosophy and approach. The word “Technique” originates from the ancient Greek word “τέχνη” (techne), which means as much as art or craftsmanship. It’s a practical skill used to accomplish a certain goal or objective. We chose the word techniques rather than technologies, because creating specific technologies is not a goal in itself, but rather a helpful means to the end of communicating with dolphins. Also, the word technology implies a rather analytical, cold, and distanced approach, while technique implies complete engagement using both one’s head and heart, which we believe will both be key to success. Our Dolcotec team consists of scientists, naturalists, and film-makers (see Who we are), thus representing a good mix of analytical and creative capacities.
TWO PROJECTS: ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE & NATURAL COMMUNICATION
A similar complementary approach can be recognized in the two research pillars (see Projects) that Dolcotec is built on:
- On the one hand, our long-term goal to establish an artificial language with domesticated dolphins through intermediary computer software (see GAPR);
- And on the other hand, to study the natural communication used by dolphins in the wild (see 4-channel UDDAS).
We believe these two projects will complement and benefit from each other, as gaining insights and good high-frequency recordings from dolphin communication in the wild will help in setting up a better artifical language, and vice versa: finding out what works and doesn’t work in an artifical language will give us better clues as to how to decipher wild dolphin vocalizations.
All these future findings will of course be documented, just as our work leading up to these projects already has been (see Publications). Ultimately, however, we hope that these projects – if successful – will lead to better public awareness of dolphins as intelligent creatures around the world, thus contributing to improved protection from the immense threats that dolphins and whales are currently facing from human impact on their marine environment.
So besides scientific research, Dolcotec is also fully committed to public outreach, in order to raise awareness of dolphins, dolphin intelligence and our seas and oceans. This can be done through lectures, both to the general public and at schools. Please contact us if you have any requests in that regard, or for any other questions that you might have. We are of course also very appreciative of any donations that you might be willing to make, and which are completely tax-deductible: Dolcotec has been granted the official charity status (“Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling”, or ANBI) in The Netherlands.