A20 Hidden20 World20of20 Sound20with20 Karen20 Bakker20 20 Many20 Minds20 Podcast20 20 Peacock
Sep 1, 2023

A Hidden World of Sound with Karen Bakker (podcast)

Learn how digital technology now enables us to hear non-human sounds, bringing us closer to the worlds of animals and plants.

By Templeton Staff

New technologies have revolutionized the way humans can connect with the world around us, allowing us to experience non-human conversations with astonishing clarity and detail. Dr. Karen Bakker shares how digital listening is bringing us closer to the worlds of animals and plants in this Many Minds podcast. She led the Smart Earth project, a collaborative research team of ecologists, environmentalists, digital technologists, and computer scientists that studies the impacts of digital technologies on environmental sustainability. Sadly, Bakker, a Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, recently passed away. Her colleagues at UBC posted a rememberance here

Many Minds podcast host, cognitive scientist, and writer Kensy Cooperrider introduces the episode:

“Consider the peacock. Its plumage is legendary — those shimmering, iridescent colors, and those eerie, enchanting eyespots. But what often goes less appreciated (at least by us humans) is that this chromatic extravaganza is also a sonic extravaganza. The peacock’s display operates in infrasound, an acoustic dimension that we simply can’t hear without assistance. Which raises a question: If we’re oblivious to the full vibrancy of the peacock’s display, what other sounds might we be missing out on?

My guest today is Dr. Karen Bakker, author of the book, The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants. In the book, Karen dives into rich realms of sound that, for one reason or another, humans have tended to ignore.

In this conversation, Karen and I discuss the twin fields of “bioacoustics” and “ecoacoustics.” We talk about “deep listening” and “digital listening”, “infrasound” and “ultrasound.” We discuss why sound is such a ubiquitous signaling medium across the tree of life. We consider the fact that scientific discoveries about sound have often been resisted. We touch on debates about whether animal communication systems constitute languages, and discuss new efforts to decode those systems using AI. We also talk about turtles, bats, plants, coral, bees, and — yes — peacocks.”

Play the episode with the above player.

Learn more about Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences priority.


Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences is a multiyear, global effort to understand a world alive with brilliance in many forms. Its mission is to promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in animal, human, and machine intelligences. We collaborate with leading experts and emerging scholars from around the globe, developing high-caliber projects that advance our comprehension of the constellation of intelligences.

Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI), made possible through a grant from TWCF to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Many Minds podcast is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from Assistant Producer Urte Laukaityte. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Artwork featured as the podcast badge is by Ben Oldroyd.