A few centuries from now, earth is doomed. To survive, humanity decides to send spaceships to the closest earth like planets. The trip will last centuries and is the last hope for humanity so multiple spaceships are sent to different planets and different approaches are used.

All spaceships are heavily automated, an AI and army of robots takes care of everything. 3d printers and super efficient solar panels take care of all energy needs/manufacturing.

Everything is well planned : Once the spaceship lands on a colony, the AI , robot army and 3d printers will carefully build a sustainable settlement. There is enough organic material / recycling capacity in the ship to last for centuries after the landing on the new planet , food/water won t be a problem until the new colony becomes self sustainable. There are 3 types of spaceships:

  1. Type1 spaceships have a carefully selected crew that will stay active during the long trip. The trip will span multiple generations.

  2. Type2 spaceships carry the crew in a deep sleep (stasis) and the crew should be awoken when destination is reached.

  3. Type3 spaceships carry frozen gametes that will be fertilized upon arrival. Artificial wombs will bring these embryos to life. Nurse robots will feed and take care of the infants until they become kids. Teacher robot will educate/guide them through the rest of their life.

Unfortunately all spaceships of type1 and 2 never reach their destination due to multiple reasons. It turns out that type3 ships were the most robust and only one type 3 spaceship managed to reach its destination. The landing site is carefully selected and is a region with reasonable climate and next to a water source. There is no other sentient life on the planet but plenty of vegetal and animal life to sustain a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Unfortunately the spaceship is quite damaged after the very long trip. Most of the robots stopped working, because of that most of the greenhouses/food/water reserves are almost completely gone, instead of centuries of supplies, they only have a decade worth of supplies left.

Some of the nurse robots that should feed the infants still work but because the AI and more advanced teaching robots are damaged, there will be no one to educate the little babies, teach them how to speak and guide them. What do you think will happen to these babies? Will they survive? How will they grow up? Will they go back to stone age? Will they figure out how to hunt/gather food in the new planet? Will they eventually figure out how to repair the space ship? Will they have enough genetic diversity to survive in the long run?

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    $\begingroup$ They won't go "back" to the stone age. If they survive and thrive they may after a few hundreds of thousands of years progress to the stone age. If they reinvent language. If they rediscover fire. If the planet has suitable rocks. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ A couple of ten year old kids won't survive for long. They can't resonably hunt anything and they wouldn't know how to do this anyway, as nobody ever showed them how to hunt. To help you with the genetic diversity we would need to know how many kids you have on that planet. But the kids being kids they won't be able to reproduce, as they will all be dead the moment the machines stop working. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ IMO each of the questions in the last paragraph would be reasonably scoped. All of them together makes this question too broad. See for example Would humans be able to derive nutrition from foodstuffs found on alien planets? and What is the minimum human population necessary for a sustainable colony? and almost certainly a handful of other questions already asked and thoroughly answered. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ those are single children, I'm in the Pacific we have legends of small groups surviving including bands of kids who survived massacres. These are not feral kids, they have had nurturing and support of a sort for ten years, they have their peers as well. It won't be easy, but no need for them all to die. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi, I love to read up on that! Do you have a link? These kids at least have culture and language with some other skills they may have picked up from their surroundings. It will be interesting to see what is needed for these kids to survive. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 9:27

4 Answers 4


The first problem would be communication, if the nurse AI can actually talk to them and answer questions, this problems solves itself. Reading then is the second hurdle, so is knowing where they are.

They would observe the Nurse bot using tools and adapt to it, so they wont start as caveman.

Weather would be a Problem too, think of a 10 year old boy exploring the woods and getting lost in a storm.

Birthing the next generation would be a problem too, then feeding the babies too. the first babies will die because no one knows how to handle them.

Then sickness and infections will take their toll, a simple scratch could led to death.

But we could not guess how they would evolve as we never have observed anything like this. But overall it would be very different than our evolution, because there is an complete different starting point.

But to me the mission itself makes no sense.

Why do you think it is necessary to split Nurse/Teaching Bots? They don't need very different tools to operate, it would totally make sense to combine them. Even if only 1 Bot remains you have education and health service. And most education in the early years comes from the nursing bot anyways.

The same with the separation of the ships. It makes much more sense to have humans in stasis in the baby ship. Type 1 and 2 could sustain itself even whit no tech after landing, type 3 not. Mayor Planning errors.

The ships have to be designed in a way that if out of 100 ships only one lands, it has to sustain itself 100%.

This is a mission where it has to be ENSURED that it will work. Even if 95% of all things fail there has still to be an option to ensure success.

That being said, one source of education is simply not enough, it need to be redundant. Getting them to be able to speak and read is the most important thing. After that the education Bot is not that important, there could be learning videos, textbooks, programs and stuff like that, helping them to teach themselves.


They have their first ten years sorted in terms of surviving. Kids are smart, observant and tough but it's going to be very difficult because they haven't been taught anything and can't communicate through language as we know it.

They will evolve their own form of communication and body language is partially instinctive. But they need to cooperate to procreate (probably take care of itself when the time comes) and feed themselves.

I would think the first generation would live around the ship and if they survive over time they will evolve a language. Childbirth, medical problems of any sort, lack of easy resources to get are all going to be killers for some of them. I doubt they would be hunter gatherers in the first generation. Gatherers and scavengers perhaps. They need to work out too many things to progress to hunting or even cooking. Things we take for granted like clothing, tool use etc, will all need to be worked out from scratch.

The biggest advantage they have is their brain power and fine grasping hands. These are not clumsy prehumans with small brains, they're modern homo sapiens sapiens with the best brains we know about and hands capable of fine gripping and manipulation. If any survive to adulthood and beyond child rearing they will be experts at surviving in their environment and will communicate skills which their children will build on pretty quickly. So the first generation is critical. They should learn a lot through observation, things like watching what animals eat, where they go for water, what is dangerous, what is benign etc,. you'll lose a few kids along the way.

After that it will get better for each generation but I doubt technology would improve much beyond the first few simple tools for millenia. Language will take a while to become a flexible tool, but it will develop, it's inherent within us. We have the ability to articulate sounds and break the sounds into words and we will eventually do so probably clumsily at first but full fledged before too long. Imitating the sounds around us is enough for a start. Many nouns in many languages are just mimicking a natural sound.

Stone age technology is not going to happen straight away even if the right sorts of stone are available. But many so called stone age societies rarely used stone at all. Sharp edges can be made by splitting bamboo, large shells can be used as adzes, gourds as cups etc,. You can find all sorts of useful objects without having to bang stones together.

Given a large number of children and a good genetic mix to start with and a benign environment I think they have a reasonable chance of surviving and carrying on the species.

Living in the first World you get a lot of knowledge from what you are taught, tv, sanitised streets etc,. In the third World kids learn a heck of a lot more just by being kids in a wilder environment, exploring and watching instead of playing video games. You shouldn't underestimate them.


On the plus side, they will scrap the spaceship for all kind of useful tools (knives, axes, bowls, rope, cloth...). Even if there aren't such, it's easier to make a good knife from a piece of metal than from a rock or a stick.

On the other side, though, most of what we are capable of it's through coordination, and without an efficient language, that's going to be extremely difficult. A language will evolve, surely, but the first generation of children are going to limit themselves to things that can be done by one individual alone, since collaborative working it's going to be highly difficult.

One big problem is, even if we handwave the part about different local biochemistry making everything poisonous to humans, not everything is going to be edible and the only way they can know is by trial and error, or quickly going in contact with an animal whose diet is safe for humans (which, again, they don't have any means to know in advance) and eat whatever it is seen eating. And don't put any dangerous predators in your planet, or they are going to extinct pretty soon. Specially keep away the most dangerous ones: patogens. In a world without doctors nor medicines every minor injure is going to kill them.


It's common on earth for human babies to be raised or adopted by wolves, dogs or monkeys. I can leave you to look up the references. I don't know how animals on your planet would react.

Humans raised without a language, or even deliberately denied access to a language, such as deaf children in schools where sign language is forbidden, usually spontaneously develop a language for communication. For example, Nicaraguan Sign Language.

I don't know of any spontaneous development of tool use, but since it is fairly common even among animals, (Chimpanzees, Rooks, etc.) it is not too far-fetched to imagine that humans might spontaneously develop tools. It's worth considering that tools such as the bow-and-arrow are fairly late inventions, and were not universal even in the 18th century. (Australian aborigines for example never used them.)

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    $\begingroup$ It's not common, not one story of "Child raised by wolves" (or monkeys or any other animal) has turned out - on closer examination - to be true. There are cases of older kids going feral and running with dog packs and troupes of monkeys, but never of a "child raised by insert-animal-of-choice" $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ If you are going to claim that something non-obvious is common, don't leave it to readers to find references to support your claim. If you can't be bothered to look up references yourself when making a claim, why should you bother everyone else with looking up those references? As they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Animals don't spontaneously develop tools, they observe, copy, and learn from their parents and others. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 18:33

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