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It seems like all interfaces are video and using pictographs. The very little text we see is things like RED or BnL which perhaps are more recognized as symbols than really read — I think that's referred to as functionally illiterate. And consider the pictographic nature of the credit sequence which resembles things like cave paintings where the history of people is being described with pictures rather than with words.

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up vote 49 down vote accepted


Children are taught English (of a sort) by Nanny-bots

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And the Captain is clearly reading aloud (albeit with some difficulty) from his display screen

enter image description here

and directly from Manuel, this time with more confidence

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The script also notes that the Captain isn't simply working out the text from contextual clues (e.g. the pictures)

The transmission ends. The Captain examines the manual. Holds it out in front of him.

CAPTAIN: (reads; to himself) Operate... Manuel...

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@AnkitSharma - I use a tool called licecap to capture them from my screen. – Valorum Mar 17 at 12:32
What a horrid name for a useful program! – JRE Mar 17 at 12:41
@JRE - It's named for the opensource engine it uses (Lightweight Image Composition Engine). – Valorum Mar 17 at 12:49
That all being said, maybe the Captain was made captain because he's the best reader on the ship. – Valorum Mar 17 at 13:06
To be fair, I'd have trouble with the word "septuacentennial" too, if I didn't know it was coming. Not really something you use in everyday conversation. – Mike Kellogg Mar 17 at 19:49

It's likely that they were literate, but their luxury life on the Axiom had made them simple. We know that they've at least been taught for the scene where the babies are being read and shown the alphabet by the robotic teacher. They probably just never exercised their literacy as what they seem to be doing the most is simply talking.

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