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No doubt as a practical matter this could to some extent be done just by large-scale recording of experiences of actual humans. But it seems not unlikely that to get a sufficiently accurate experience base, the system would itself have to interact with the world in very much the same way as an actual human—and so would have to have elements that emulate many elaborate details of human biological and other structure.

Once one has an explicit system that successfully emulates human thinking, however, one can imagine progressively removing some of this complexity, and seeing just which features of human thinking end up being preserved.

So what about human language, for example? Is this purely learned from the details of human experience? Or are there features of it that reflect more fundamental aspects of human thinking?

When one learns a language—at least as a young child—one implicitly tends to deduce simple grammatical rules that are in effect specific generalizations of examples one has encountered. And I suspect that in doing this the types of generalizations that one makes are essentially those that correspond to the types of similarities that one readily recognizes in retrieving data from memory.

Actual human languages normally have many exceptions to any simple grammatical rules. And it seems that with sufficient effort we can in fact learn languages with almost any structure. But the fact that most modern computer languages are specifically set up to follow simple grammatical rules seems to make their structures particularly easy for us to learn—perhaps because they fit in well with low-level processes of human thinking.

But to what extent is the notion of a language even ultimately necessary in a system that does human-like thinking? Certainly in actual humans, languages seem to be crucial for communication. But one might imagine that if the underlying details of different individuals from some class of systems were sufficiently identical then communication could instead be achieved just by directly transferring low-level patterns of activity. My guess, however, is that as soon as the experiences of different individuals become different, this will not

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]