In the future, humans decide to conduct a long term experiment in which they make robots that move and think exactly like humans. They also need to eat, drink and breathe the same as humans. These robots are put on a planet that represents earth when all the land was one supercontinent. The reason they are robots not humans or genetically modified creatures is to avoid evolution. The flora is all the same to the flora today. However the only animals are cows (for food) and bees (for their need in flora).

My question is how do these robots advance in technology if they start with nothing. Does their technology end up the same as ours? How long will it take to get to 2015 technology?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm going to be a pest and ask for definitions for stupidly short words. "Do they veer away from how humans developed technology" What meaning of "how" are you looking for? It sounds a bit pedantic, perhaps, but consider that the development of technology is full of serendipitous developments, and the timings on those can yield a lot of unexpected divergent behavior. I'm sure they'd develop technology in the general hazy direction we went, but would they develop the cotton gin in 1973? Probably not. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 29, 2015 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry if I was a little vague, I will make an edit $\endgroup$
    – Lkj
    Oct 29, 2015 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ See Cylon for more information. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2015 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ What's their pre-programmed directive? exploration or mass production? animatronics? $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Oct 29, 2015 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ How do they reproduce? Also if you say they behave and think exactly like humans, they will develop technology exactly like humans would, by definition. $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Oct 29, 2015 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


We don't know

It's entirely possible that our pattern of advancements would be typical. It's also entirely possible that it's not. We have no basis for comparison. We're the only species that we know.

It is worth noting that comparing isolated societies to the more interconnected societies, the more interconnected societies are much more advanced. Part of the reason for this seems to be competitive. Two (or more) countries at war tend to push for advances to defeat each other. Part seems to be cooperative. An advance in one country spreads to another, giving that country to make dependent advances.

It's even possible that your society won't advance at all. Perhaps evolution/genetic drift are part of what drives advancement. Or there may simply not be enough pressure to advance. Without predators perhaps the society would be stable. Look at the Native Americans of the plains for an example. They settled into a stable society for millennia. It wasn't disrupted until outside pressures forced it to be.

Maybe advancement would be faster. Instead of wasting time on fighting off predators and developing agricultural flora, that's already done.

Maybe advancement would be slower. Without the pressure of fighting off predators and developing agricultural flora, they wouldn't need to advance. Society could be stable at a relatively low level of technology.

Note that on Earth, we spent tens of thousands of years developing written language. The earliest known written works are less than five thousand years old. Subsequent advances seem to have been faster but occur in fits and starts.

European technology declined after the fall of the Roman empire. It didn't really get back to where it had been until the Renaissance. Then Newton and Leibniz invented calculus simultaneously -- more than a thousand years after Archimedes' method of exhaustion. The simultaneity of Newton and Leibniz's work suggests that development might have been the same. The gap between Archimedes and Newton/Leibniz suggests that it could be very different.

We simply don't know. Anything that we say is going to be entirely speculative, as we have no real basis for comparison. Presumably that's the reason for this experiment. To find out who's right.


Does their technology end up the same as ours?

There are several cultures that were all but obliterated or just didn't have their thoughts carried over into mainstream science. Humanity also discovered some crucial things multiple times (Newton was not the first to discover gravity, for example).

It's interesting because as far as I'm aware of the three largest factors in different forms of thinking are:

  • biology (nature)
  • environment (nurture)
  • culture (nurture)

Your culture is related to your history and geography among other things, but, as can be seen by different cultures making the same discoveries, there isn't a prerequisite culture so that's almost irrelevant. Environment would be the same at some point almost certainly, so that's also almost irrelevant. And you hand-waved the biologics in hopes of making that irrelevant also... that may actually hurt your chances.

How much of early invention had to do with our previous locomotion, etc? Note that when I say irrelevant I mean your odds are probably pretty decent (you already hit the hard ones: Goldilocks zone, chance humanoid shape, wood present, etc.), you would probably be where you needed to be anyways starting at Pangaea and all.

When I say irrelevant I also mean you can't calculate it very accurately with so many unknowns in current knowledge (How many of our current theories about the past are absolute truth?). So irrelevant in the sense that where it is relevant there's nothing you can calculate reliably on anyways and also that there most likely isn't a significant factor we're missing (as far as I know anyway. Science says nature and nurture makes intelligence and I can't think of any major parameters we're missing. See: Feral Child).

So since our parameters are roughly the same then: Yes.

How long will it take to get to 2015 technology?

Not a clue. But let's shoot some numbers. We could have had fission bombs by the time rumors of Atlantis floated up if we didn't keep shooting ourselves in the foot scientifically.

If you think of our scientific speed as linear until recently then it's better to realize that it could have followed the same exponential curve of learning that it has lately. If we think of it as mostly linear until the 16th century on this timeline. Then you have 12+ centuries of discoveries that were mostly linear.

The numbers are from the following: One could argue that the 17th Century had more advancement than all previous history. And that with Physics reportedly moving in 20 year increments after a new theory is posited, we have Quantum in the 19th and probably had more advancement in it and the 20th than all of human history before that (including the 17th Century). And we have certainly had more advancement in the current century than all of human history before it.

So if we accomplished 50,000 years worth of advancement in a few spare years and you carry the numbers back you get:

$X^1 + X^.5 + X^.25$.

Setting the $X = 40,000$ gives us our target of advancement for this century of $15$ years. It also gives us an excess of $~10,000$ years compared to the history of man. This corresponds rather nicely to that spot that looks rather linear between the 4th and 16th Centuries. So in going off that, you could accomplish what we did in about ten-thousand less years than we took without needing inordinate amounts of luck or deus ex machina.

So 7,985 B.C?

  • $\begingroup$ I should probably qualify my first Yes: we had some splits like AC vs DC, and Reciprocating vs Rotary Engines, that honestly could have gone either way since it was determined by market. We eventually explored both routes but the ones we see are the ones that won out. So their tech could look very different, but we would have the same tech trees floating around in our patent offices and military bunkers. (Brown's invention in the 60's took forever to become the Dyson bladeless fan of today for example. Imagine growing up with a loop of metal for a fan!) $\endgroup$
    – Black
    Oct 30, 2015 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ On the second answer: we could also take infinite time from shooting ourselves in the foot over and over again ;) $\endgroup$
    – Black
    Oct 30, 2015 at 18:13

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