What would happen if humans grew up without a context.

Hello everyone, it's been a while. I've been busy doing lots of things, including writing. I am writing a science fiction story now that will include humans grown and raised by robots, more or less. 

The humans in question would have little or nothing to do with any of our societies, and would not even have any of the non-human elements we carry with us like gut bacteria, dust mites, or any other organic matter not created by machines. This would make them more purely human than we are, and I'll have fun playing with that concept. 

However, I am twisting my head around a bit regarding the ideologies that my new humans would espouse, as well as race issues, and some other issues.

So, please tell me what you think would happen if around 120 humans were brought up together all at once from zygotes. If they were all the same race, what would happen as they became adults? If they were many races, what would happen? Would they try to worship something, or would the robots give them enough information to answer questions that might avoid the easy answer of a deity? What if there were more females than males, or vice versa? What if I staged them to be born at different times?

As the most rational people I am exposed to, I value your input. I am trying to write this with a minimum of flights of fancy. 


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I'm playing with that, too. I could have them speak in the programming language of the machines. Language implies context, and these humans are potentially millions of years removed from us. So if they are taught in English, I would expect them to question "why do we speak this way?" at some point.

On this note: humans will actually develop their own language very quickly in the absence of a usable language. I saw a documentary about a group of deaf children in Africa, brought together to learn sign language from the poorest places imaginable, and they managed to develop their own sign language before the teachers could teach the existing one.

I would imagine humans without issues like deafness would go through a similar process involving an expressive spoken language.

This is true...but usually the deaf children already have a language to use as a scaffolding. When pidgins and creoles form, the children already have the cognative structures formed in their brain which are necessary to (re)construct a new language. At the very least when deaf children form a sign language, at least a few of them know in some way their parent language (the others have still communicated in some form with their family).

It would take at the very least one generation before a language formed...perhaps two if not three. It would depend I suppose on how mentally retarded the first generation was...which would depend on how much the robots educated them.

It would be extremely difficult for a machine to teach language to a human child. Children learn language by closely watching the movements of lips and tongue to make certain sounds, and they mimic the movements and sounds. They also associate those mouth movements and sounds with objects and situations. The children would need models to efficiently teach them a desired language. Maybe they could learn a simple vocabulary over time by repeatedly hearing a word and seeing an associated picture, but how to teach more complex and nuanced and situation-specific concepts? Left on their own I guess they would come up with a rudimentary language of grunts and gestures.

I don't think that people blind from birth have such problems with language, do they? In any case, I think your point is still relevant in the sense of how important emotional interaction is as a basis for human communication of both emotion and cognition. In fact crying and laughing are extremely important means of communication before complex language develops, and remain throughout life.

Imagine having to program those natural human behaviors into a machine. And a sense of humor, which varies even depending on culture and emotional context. I imagine Pee Wee Herman videos could come in handy here? And no, I didn't mean that as a double-entendre. Damn, what is our context?!

I think that visually impaired children learn the mouth movements best by touch, along with hearing the sounds. That would make a 3D human model even more important. Sighted kids could probably learn much from watching a computer generated image of a human face and mouth forming words and sounds.

True. We can simulate some context. And touch is another major sense enhancement to reality.

You guys...

Lots of philosophical questions being raised here about simulated (faked) emotions versus real ones. One day those kids are going to realize that they learned love and other human emotions from a machine that really can't FEEL any of those feelings. I wonder what sort of sense of abandonment they'll feel when they realize they were sent off as basically orphans with no real parents. They'll have to learn about parents as part of the role they're expected to play.

There's a good theme for you Melvinotis!

A machine with a sense of humor. I wonder if there'll ever be a robot comedian that can actually make wry observations about people and make truly hilarious original jokes.

A machine with a sense of humor.

I've seen them in movies and TV! Well, scripted by real adults.

So I can see a wide range of contexts that could be presented to kids just with video of Earth shows alone, including language development. How about multiple spaceships, each with their own unique libraries? I can't yet imagine what maturing without daily face-to-face interaction with one's culture could be like. Too many possibilities, for better and for worse.

Would they be shown images of REAL parents. You know, the kind who actually HAVE feelings and aren't just providing a simulation.

They may learn facial expressions that way, but in most everyday situations they won't have their hands on other people's faces, so they'll need to rely upon voice inflection and context to interpret what they hear.

Thank you all for helping me explore these subjects. I find that for me it exposes the question of 'What is it that makes us human?'.

A clean slate has not yet existed, so creating one, even in fiction, is a path that I hope makes for a worthy subject of debate.

In speculative fiction often assumptions are made about how different aliens communicate. It is something that is usually handled offstage. Douglas Adams babel fishes being one of the best forms of the opposite.


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