With the help of Burgess Meredith, funds were procured to acquire a pair of two-year-old dolphins from off the gulf coast. the dolphins were named Joe and Rosie. The pair were transported to Marine World/Africa located on the shores of San Francisco Bay at Redwood City. The Human/Dolphin Foundation moved the Dodge van containing its portable laboratory to this zoolike environment on the bayside mud flats and set up Project JANUS, whose insignia was an image of the two-faced Roman god of portals and beginnings.
JANUS (Joint Analog Numerical Understanding System) attempted to match the channels of communication of each species; the human face of JANUS was a computer screen and keyboard, while its dolphin face was composed of underwater loudspeakers and microphones. Since dolphins' brains are oriented more toward the auditory than the visual, the system allowed dolphins to communicate by sound; since human brains are more visual than auditory, the system allowed humans to communicate through the manipulation of visual symbols on the computer screen, translated into high-pitched digital signals within the dolphins' hearing range. Such a system was far less complex and less expensive than one that would have attempted to translate directly between the speech and hearing range of humans and the hearing and vocalization range of dolphins.
By the late 1970s, computers had become available that were fast enough at least to begin to perform the work required, yet small, portable, and inexpensive enough for Project JANUS. During the time of the first dolphin project in the Islands, an equivalent system would have cost several million dollars; now it cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to take the first steps toward interspecies communication.
With the help of Mike and Patti Demetrios, the operators of Marine World/Africa USA, the new dolphin lab came together. In the back lot, past the elephant house and the giraffe barn, two large, circular pools had been set up for marine mammals. A channel was built connecting these pools into one huge aquarium. Once they were filled with 200,000 gallons of saltwater, Joe and Rosie were installed in their new home.
The JANUS truck was parked beside the channel, the hydrophones lowered into the water, and work began on the second epoch of human-dolphin communication.
The project combined unprecedented computer translation techniques with the intensive personal interaction that John had earlier found to enhance communication and learning between the two species. As the new facilities offered only deep, relatively cool water, a sturdy breed of human participants was called for. The foundation recruited an avid crew of college-aged men and women who were adept swimmers; John called them his dolphin boys and dolphin girls.
Over the next several years, Toni often joined the dolphins in the water, floating in her wet suit in an innertube. A string of hundreds of invited guests had the opportunity to experience intensive interaction with dolphins. Tots from the Esalen Institute nursery school trooped in with their teacher, Janet Lederman, to splash with their new "dolphriends." (For these little ones, the effective depth of the water was decreased by stretching a net about two feet below the surface.) And a number of celebrities visited, including singer/songwriter John Denver, Werner Erhard, Timothy and Barbara Leary, actress Barbara Carrerra, and many others. Each had their own version of the dolphin encounter, usually ranging from exhilarating to ecstatic, and most of them went on to publicly praise the dolphins and John's work with them. In the case of the Learys, the dolphin experience helped to advance the formation of a friendly relationship with John, who had earlier rejected Timothy.
And the dolphins, Joe and Rosie, contributed to these interactions as only they could. They did everything in their power to educate humans in unexpected ways, including teaching the humans games they had invented using the large stock of oversized floating toys. Among these games was "dolphin frisbee." When the dolphins played it with one another, Joe would hook the rim of the frisbee over his chin, twirl it around, and toss it. Rosie would leap to the appropriate position, catch it on her chin, and toss it back. When humans on land beside the pool became involved, the dolphins began generating variations in the rules. They turned it into fetch, with humans assuming the part customarily reserved for dogs. The dolphins were often inventive in this way, using such interaction to "shape" the human's behavior. The dolphins clearly proved that humans were not the only ones who could be trainers....
There were, however, problems with JANUS from the start. The project was starved for funding; grant proposals to the National Science Foundation, made from 1978 through 1980, were favorably received by the peer review committee, but drew no funds due to funding shortages and other, higher priorities at NSF. With the exception of a grant from the Erickson Educational Foundation, which paid a part-time salary for physicist John Kert, lack of money necessitated staffing by volunteers, mostly enthusiastic youngsters selected because of the ease with which they shared the dolphins' aquatic environment. These sassy and athletic kids were bursting with energy and pride, but lacked real understanding of the requirements of documented scientific research; mature, expert scientific and technical personnel were notably scarce. The full array of talent necessary to systematically develop the computer software and advance the research agenda never arrived.
Additionally, the physical environment in which dolphins and humans could interact at Project JANUS fell short of the ideal. These facilities, thrown together with charity, luck, and "cosmic coincidence control," fell below the minimum standards for human-dolphin interaction labs that John had drawn up in the 1960s and only partially achieved in his first dolphin lab in the Virgin Islands. The climate and the water at Redwood City were too cold for humans and dolphins to comfortably hang out together. There was no access to the ocean for the benent of the dolphins. The pool was deep, failing to provide a shallow-water interaction zone where humans could stand their ground. Thus there was not enough of a shared environment for interspecies cooperation.
Moreover, the computers the foundation had acquired in 1978 began to appear rather outdated after a few years. The PDP-11 computers at the heart of JANUS were designed in the early 1970s. Much more powerful computers were now available at the same price, but even if they could be used, the art of software design was still too primitive to do justice to the JANUS concept. John would eventually realize that his facilities and software were inadequate to demonstrate the spectrum of dolphins' communication abilities. By this time as well, the concrete results had been disappointing. John concluded that to succeed in producing the stunning interspecies breakthrough he sought, it would require a fresh start with expert personnel, ideal facilities, and the next generation of computers and software.
Although JANUS data has never been sufficiently analyzed to be eligible for publication in a scientific journal, the project did not terminate without some positive results. By the time it was wrapped up, Joe and Rosie, approaching sexual maturity, knew high-pitched, computerized versions of fifty human words and, more significantly, the syntax to go with them. The dolphins successfully picked up the beeps and squeaks of the JANUS computers, which, while within their normal hearing-speaking range, were unrelated to the dolphins' normal sounds. Yet they reproduced these sounds to express the same conventional meanings as those humans assigned to them. They caught on to the idea that the precise sequence of words conveys additional meaning in the humans' world, and they used the sounds and sequences deftly to respond to humans and control events in their environment.
Another positive result of Project JANUS was that the idea of using computers as intermediaries between humans and dolphins caught on elsewhere. It was emulated at other laboratories, including the University of Hawaii, where a form of this work continues, and at the new Marineland in Vallejo, California. At the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, software expert Karl Langton and his colleagues are currently developing artificial intelligence (AI) software to sort out the torrent of sonic interaction among dolphins and human researchers. The several researchers who have tested dolphins' ability to learn languages have generally produced results that confirm John Lilly's observation that dolphins are highly language-capable.
The prolonged contact with Joe and Rosie during Project JANUS reinforced John's view that dolphins are not animals to be experimented upon, but rather genuine alien intelligences with which humans can interact in strange and marvelous ways, given the right conditions. John dreamed of human-dolphin interaction centers, where his long-term ambition of learning from and with dolphins and letting the dolphins learn human ways as well, could be pursued. His research center at Dolphin Point in the Virgin Islands had been only a first and, in many ways, an inadequate attempt. The facilities at Marine World had been even less adequate, despite the excellent intentions and better computers.
In the 1980s, many people demonstrated their interest in interactions with dolphins and a few centers for such activity came into existence, such as Dolphins Plus in Florida. John and Toni explored many avenues to establish an ideal center in a warm-water location. While others became involved in these discussions, the necessary combination of dedication and material support did not appear.
--from "John Lilly, So Far"