How to Speak Whale

Tom Mustill

250 pages proposal in English Science

In 2015 wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill was whale watching when a humpback breached onto his kayak and nearly killed him…

A video clip of the event went viral, and Tom found himself inundated with theories about what happened and other bizarre whale stories. He became obsessed with trying to find out what the whale had been thinking. He wished he could just ask it.  In the process of making a film about his experience, he discovered that might not be such a crazy idea.

Developments in natural science and AI mean that we are closer than ever to genuinely talking to animals. Scientists and start-ups across Silicon Valley and beyond are working to turn the fantasy of Dr Doolittle into a reality, using powerful new technologies to try to decode the languages of animals. And whales, with their giant mammalian brains and sophisticated languages, offer the most realistic opportunity to do so. But what would the consequences of such human-animal interaction be? We’d open a Pandora’s Box that could never be closed.

How to Speak Whale is a lively, wide-ranging and personal investigative journey that will take in cutting edge animal science, AI, ethics, moral philosophy, law, neuroscience, ecology and more. Using the whale landing on him and the film he made about it as a starting point, Tom will explore how close we really are to communicating with another species, and, if we were to make meaningful contact, what the consequences of such an altered coexistence might be.