Joint - Analog - Numerical - Understanding - System
In a 1979 Pasadena conference, John Lilly talked of equipping a GMC stepvan with computers, signal analysis equipment, and software to create a dolphin whistle language. The intermediary language that evolved was named after the god of portals,Janus; whose initials stood for Joint Analog Numerical Understanding System.
A team of us formed at Marine World Africa USA in Redwood City, around John Lilly and Project JANUS. We all worked as volunteers, because we loved being near the dolphins, Joe and Rosalie.
Joe and Rosie were two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins captured for this communication research. When the work was over, they were released off the southeast Atlantic.
What was learned from the Janus Project was that dolphins could demonstrate knowledge of a whistle language, and could associate whistle words with objects and actions. But, it was not interactive communication. Also, the choice of whistles for the language was not the best one. Most of the dolphin's natural communication occurs as high bandwidth clicks, which are higher in frequency than whistles. But whistles are easier to produce accurately (by humans), than clicks. Dolphins produce both clicks and whistles by shuttling air rapidlybackand forth through chambers near their blowhole.
Lilly would sometimes like to listen to the dolphins on the underwater speaker in the isolation tank on the Marine World back lot. He would put a microphone near his head and whistle and click back to the dolphins. Floating in the isolation tank gave insights to a floating intelligence, and led to fantastic swim sessions with Joe and Rosie.
More personally meaningful communication exchanges occurred in the swim interactions than the language sessions. John and Toni Lilly had droves of friends that came through Marine World to swim with the dolphins. People like Ram Dass, Patricia Sun, Joan Halifax, Olivia Newton John, and others swam with Joe and Rosie. Some were delighted by the experience, and some were scarred by it.
Working with dolphins awakened the fantasy of a human/dolphin community, a place on the edge of the ocean where dolphin and human families could grow up together. We saw that dolphins get along well with children when Janet Lederman, director of Esalen Institute, brought the Gazebo kids to swim with Joe and Rosie. The dolphins were careful with children, and with handicapped people. The children love being in the water with dolphins. The dream of living in an ocean community and continuing the interspecies communication work is still alive.
- courtesy Ed Ellsworth The Dolphin Network spring 1988