My latest project is to develop two humans from single-cell organisms to valuable members of society. It’s been over 4 years since I started the project (each human commenced with a 9-month incubation period) and it has been extremely demanding on a daily basis. The minds of humans in their infancy are not fully formed and their bodies are not coordinated enough for autonomy. It takes several years before traditional spoken conversation is achieved, and many more before societal norms are internalized and applied skillfully.
As the lead on this project I have invested a massive amount of time (approx 28,000 hours so far) keeping my humans safe, responding to their needs, and assisting with their understanding of the world. My partner on the project has also devoted a similar amount of time.
Humans are an extremely complex subject. While the species has existed for thousands of years and each individual has been developed in a similar fashion, societal influences and advances in psychological understanding have evolved significantly. External factors, such as cultural/social norms and technological influences affect how a human develops. Additionally, the cognitive, physical, and emotional states of humans vary from one to another. The nuances between individuals require slightly different strategies to achieve positive outcomes.
While not reinventing the wheel with this project, I have spent many hours on research and trials. The unique makeup of a human is not immediately apparent upon her inception. Therefore, the primary approach is to form a hypothesis about how to best develop this particular human and then test it. This strategy works well for short periods of time, however–due to the rate of human development–the inputs change frequently. A human who is six months into her life may have completely different motivations and rationale for behavior as the same human who is twenty-eight months into her life. Further, even with the constant re-evaluation of hypotheses and shifting of strategies, a positive outcome is not guaranteed.
Overall, one of the greatest challenges I have faced is to separate myself from the project. My own personal life, my responsibilities, my relationships, and my goals for my own continued development are often pushed aside by the demands of my humans. Thankfully, as their survival becomes less dependent on my intervention I am able to focus some of my efforts outside the project.
The work is physically and mentally taxing–including sleep deprivation, carrying 20-40lbs+ around for several miles a day, providing transportation services while listening to gallingly pathetic noises… In essence, my sanity is tested on an hourly basis.
My work will undoubtedly continue for several more years as I usher these small children into the adult world. I suppose it would be possible to abandon the project early, but I would never entertain the thought. My goal is to help them develop into productive members of society, with the confidence to take on bold challenges, and the skills to succeed.
It is also imperative to note that the suffering endured to complete this project is balanced by many enjoyable moments. I am frequently amazed at the ability of my charges to exhibit humor, compassion, and love. While I initially expected to spend much of my time teaching the tiny humans, I have discovered that I am gaining wisdom just as frequently as a I am imparting it.