A short SF story with an anthropologic angle. A team of anthropologists devised an experiment placing, as I recall it, 100 babies on an island (tended initially by machines).

The island was wired with cameras and microphones to observe kids as they grew up (ala Truman Show). The kids developed a language, ability to care/tend for themselves. A storm ripped out cameras and microphones in one small section of island. The kids somehow became aware they were being observed and used that unmonitored area for reasons I cannot recall - meetings, planning.

I can’t quite remember the ending, but seems aliens showed up and took the kids away. I would like to reread the story. I believe I read it in an anthology in early 70s or late 60s.


"Commencement Night" was written by Richard Ashby and originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1953. It was anthologized a few times, including in Giants Unleashed, edited by Groff Conklin (1965). The story is as you described; the aim is to discover how human beings act in the natural state. The island is officially named Arcadia as the result of a contest, but no one uses that name. The world is charmed to find that the children are quite decent to one another and develop their own complex language, in which a great deal of information is conveyed by even a short sentence. A man sent to troubleshoot the blind spot on the island is shocked to discover that an alien has been teaching them his language, which is intended to allow exact communication and therefore, if I remember right, perfect understanding among people.

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    If you think this is the correct answer, please click on the checkmark to the left. – Invisible Trihedron Apr 15 at 3:27
  • Thank you, I'll go dig out that Astounding Science Fiction issue (available on Archive.org). Sounds like you hit it out of the park! – Qosmonaut Apr 15 at 3:28
  • It was one of the first science fiction stories I ever read. If you find it online, please post the link. I can't quite recall the ending either! – Invisible Trihedron Apr 15 at 3:33
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    Here is a link to the magazine on Archive.org archive.org/details/Astounding_v51n06_1953-08_dtsg0318 – Qosmonaut Apr 15 at 4:01
  • Good to re-read the story, just as good this go-round as it was when I first read it decades ago. Thanks for helping me find it – Qosmonaut Apr 15 at 4:52

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