Imagine an advanced A.I. with access to the brain of an 18-year-old. However, this 18-year-old has had no exposure to humanity or the outside world until now, the only information he has received is information fed to him by the computer.

The computer now needs to introduce him to society.

The type of access is this:

  • It can provide information to the person directly into his brain, including visual, auditory (supplementing input via eyes and ears, not that he receives any) as well as just factual information (e.g. it can make him "know" the capital of Peru is Lima). The information provided is not an interactive immersive "artificial reality" like in The Matrix, though, it is merely showing them pictures / video / audio, as real seeming as if watching it on a large 3-D television.

  • It can feed chemicals / drugs / anything it "likes" intravenously pretty much into his brain or any other part of his body with absolute precision.

  • But it can't literally rewire the neurons or develop any of the parts of the brain at a low level.

How can it make him be capable of interacting with society and behave as closely as possible to a normal 18 year-old? Could it get him to feel emotion, etc. also? How quickly could it possibly do this? (i.e. as opposed to slowly feeding him information all his life)

  • $\begingroup$ Can it inject "happiness hormones" into his brain? This way it could train him using positive reinforcement every time the boy do something socially acceptable. $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2015 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @SpaceLizard - you're probably right, but I was thinking more about the problem with starting an 18 year-old with almost completely "blank" brain, and teaching him to speak, use his body parts, to understand the world around him, some of the very fundamental abilities of being a human. $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like you should read "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2015 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


Assuming an 18 year old brain with normal sensory inputs but no access to language or social interaction, then no amount of AI training or chemicals will uplift that brain to normal social standards. The only way to counteract this is if the AI has the ability to introduce plasticity (basically resetting them) into the social and language centers of the brain to counteract the hardwiring that occurs during childhood. Science doesn't presently know how to do this.

I can't find links but I've read stories about horribly abused children who are kept locked up and therefore actively denied access to language and social development. In their late teens, these children are rescued then trained to speak and interact. Categorically, they have developmental difficulties that they never overcome.

If a critical developmental window is missed for language or social interaction, then development in that area is permanently stunted.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you even understate how much structuring and restructuring of the brain happens during its growth and development, based on how its used and what it is exposed to. A brain that grew to full size without any stimulus would not be like a blank page, but rather a crumpled wad of fibrous stuff. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Nov 10, 2015 at 10:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1. If you don't learn basic language and social skills in infancy, you won't learn them at all. Never mind functioning in society, this 18-year-old will be doing well if he can dress himself. (The only solution would be "magical" technology to rewire the brain, which the questioner has specifically ruled out.) $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2015 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't need to be quite magical. I have a very vague recollection that some drugs affect plasticity as a side effect, generally a bad thing. So there probably is a pathway that would allow "doing a reboot" on the brain. I'd assume side effects would be pretty bad, though. Might still work with a dedicated AI constantly supervising. And it would allow reprogramming of captured terrorists and other people with strong and stable undesirable mental patterns. Diseases like paedophilia might be curable. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2015 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi The problem I see with that kind of "reboot" path is that the entire brain gets that treatment instead of very careful selective application. A drug like that is like carpet bombing a city when all you need is a single bullet to solve the problem. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Nov 10, 2015 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Green Yes, that is exactly the problem IMHO too. But the point is that it doesn't require magic to solve, just more precision and control of the process than we currently are capable of. (If that vague recollection actually was accurate, that is...) $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2015 at 15:32

Perhaps pushing the factual data might be enough to give a basic level of socialization and language, depending on how deep the factual data goes...

With chemical injection, there might be a chemical + physical stimulus + information method to 'hack' knowledge into his subconscious... Which is Very Sci-Fi...

However, I'm assuming that current medical knowledge has no idea about the limitations of chemical alterations of the brain, and the ability to stick chemicals anywhere into a person's brain could work similarly enough to electro-stimulation to do... whatever you want?


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