In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
, it is stated that humans are actually the third most intelligent species in the world. The first are mice, who are actually testing us while we think we are testing them, and the second are dolphins. "On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reason." Aware of the impending destruction of the Earth in the novel, the dolphins leave the planet and try to relay a final message that ends up being "misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the Star Spangled Banner, but in fact the message was this: So long, and thanks for all the fish
The sea-dwelling mammals have long been of fascination to human beings for their often playful and curious nature, and their relative intelligence compared to most other creatures with whom we share the world. Of the sea creatures, they have proven to be among the most useful and easy to interact with for humans, in a way that horses and mules and dogs and cats are useful. There has been some excitement in the blogosphere lately due to this study
that plans to create the first two-way communication between dolphins and humans through the use of some sophisticated technology and long-studied habits of the creatures. Some of the excitement is a bit overdone, though, as one of the scientists involved pointed out.
This is not an advancement towards "conversation" with dolphins. One cannot have true conversation with one's dog, for example, but we can relate certain commands to a dog that it can learn to be familiar with (as an aside, I tend to sometimes think my dogs can understand me or at least get what I'm feeling, but I understand there's no reasonable basis for that, just a feeling or a hope, I suppose!). It will be similar to the dolphins; just as we have worked out way of communicating certain things with our dogs (and are sometimes able to get an idea of something the dog is trying to communicate too depending on its actions and mood), these scientists are expecting to do the same with the dolphins. Perhaps it will help us learn more about how these creatures act, but it likely isn't going to be bringing any sort of tremendous revelation or use to us outside of the realm of these studies. At the end of the day they are still irrational and guided by instinct, incapable of understanding concepts like justice, liberty, and morality. Good luck, though, to these researches in working to further understand the fun creatures and building some sort of communications with them!