Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blank mind

A thought experiment: What if you took an infant human and put them in a completely blank room? Say their basic needs are taken care of (perhaps while they sleep), and they have no human contact, no indication that there's any world outside this room.

Assume they have some sort of observable device with which to communicate, say a highly intuitive touchscreen drawing program.

Will they develop intelligence? Will they develop a counting system, or a way to communicate with themselves - a language, if you will?

If you have a group of them, will they begin to communicate? Can a group of humans, starting from nothing, pass down information?

It's an experiment that is too cruel to imagine, and would outlast the researcher who started it. But what about when human brains can be accurately modeled by computer? Sentencing a computer program to a blank room is no torture, and with a sufficiently fast computer the timescale can be greatly accelerated.

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