Created By: zarpaulus on May 11, 2014 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on July 15, 2014
Troped

Technology Uplift

A high tech culture shares their technology with a less advanced one.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Many civilizations that have access to technology more advanced than modern day humanity in speculative fiction works have some sort of law against sharing tech with "lower" peoples. But then there are those who not only are willing to trade with the local primitives, they might even see it as their "duty" in some way.

If a work has both a civilization that uplifts and one that doesn't interfere they can be portrayed in one of two ways depending on the author's sympathies. The uplifters could be exploitative imperialists who use their "clients" for cheap labor, or those who refuse to share tech could be stuck-up elitists who treat less advanced societies like wildlife.

May result in Low Culture, High Tech if screwed up. Giving Radio to the Romans is when the uplifted and uplifting culture are temporally rather than spacially separated. ET Gave Us Wifi is kind of an unintentional example. Often involves Imported Alien Phlebotinum. See also Uplifted Animal, when the client race initially isn't even sapient and is modified by their patrons.


Examples

Comic Books

Literature
  • David Brin's Uplift series is the Trope Namer as with Uplifted Animal. There every sophont species in the known universe, with the possible exception of humanity, was both culturally and biologically uplifted by another species.
  • The Kzin of Larry Niven's Known Space universe were bootstrapped by another species to serve as mercenaries. Unfortunately, they then turned on and enslaved their patrons.
  • In Animorphs the Yeerks were given advanced technology by an Andalite named Seerow, whom the Andalites then named their Alien Non-Interference Clause after when the Yeerks used their new tech to conquer and enslave other species.
  • Deconstructed in the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe, where this practice is called Progressorism. The authors explore everything necessary to transform a pre-modern society into a futuristic one, and social uplift receives much more attention than giving fancy gadgets. The later novels explore the question whether this practice is ethical by introducing a mysterious precursor alien race which possibly practices covert Progressorism on humans.
  • Humans decide to do this for the pequeninos ("piggies") at the end of Speaker for the Dead, and the sequels deal in part with the consequences. It turns out to be an extremely tricky balancing act.

Live-Action TV
  • Probably the most famous example is the "To Serve Man" episode of The Twilight Zone, in which alien benefactors arrive on Earth and provide technology that ends war by nullifying all weaponry, cures to all known diseases, and other remarkable benefits of their advanced technology. In the now-stock twist, it turns out it's all a scheme to make human helpless and dependent so they can be bred as food stock.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Horns of Nimon" the Nimon claim they're going to provide advanced technology to the Skonnos, but in actuality the Nimon are going to denude the planet of everything.
  • In Babylon 5 the Centauri sell "Star Gate" (and later "Jump Drive") technology to humanity, allowing spaceships to engage in interstellar travel and commerce.
    • They also make a few attempts to justify their first conquest and enslavement of the Narns as bringing them to the stars.
    • The Earth Alliance's policy is to construct jump gates in new systems and charge any natives tolls to use them.
  • A frequent dilemma for the more advanced races in Stargate SG-1 is whether or not to do this. Most races are reluctant to provide Earth any advanced technology due to either bad prior experiences, such as the Tollan who in the past gave a lower-tech planet an unlimited energy source only for them to blow themselves up the day after, or believing Earth is not yet mature enough as a civilization. The main exceptions are the Asgard, who owe Earth, and the Tok'ra, with whom Earth was in an alliance.
    • A episode also features the Aschen, a race that appear to do this but are doing so for their own ends.

Tabletop Games
  • Traveller
    • The Vilani Empire did this with the civilizations of planets it added. This included molding the civilization to fit the Vilani culture.
    • Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. After the planet Vanejen was re-contacted by the Third Imperium, the Imperial Navy showed uncommon (for them) discretion by giving the planet more scientific knowledge and advanced technology in a gradual manner so it wouldn't cause culture shock.
    • The Hiver Federation is known for manipulating low-tech species to accelerate their development and form cultures friendly to them. Some suspect them of doing the same to humaniti, and in fact after the collapse of the Third Imperium they openly teach some of their tech to the Reformation Coalition.
  • In Mindjammer this is the Commonality's preferred method of assimilating lost colonies, usually starting by installing a local Mindscape node. Though some planets are deemed "unacceptable" and quarantined for some time. They also have a habit of letting Corporacies do most of the work.
  • Warhammer 40K: The Tau are willing to share their advanced plasma rifles with some of their auxiliaries, though of course they don't give them the tech to build them.
  • In Myriad Song the Syndics uplifted all of the Myriad races, but treated most of them as slaves. Still, many revere them as "the Patrons".

Video Games
  • Mass Effect
    • The salarians gave the krogan interstellar tech so they could stop the rachni invasion. But after the rachni were wiped out the krogan started attacking other species.
    Mordin: Like giving nuclear weapons to cavemen.
    • In Mass Effect 3 Javik reveals that the Prothean Empire's modus operandi was to guide primitive races to the space age, then give them the choice between joining them or extinction. When the Reaper invasion began they were just starting on humans and asari, and abandoned those races so the Reapers would leave them alone.
    • Thousands of years before the current setting, the asari discovered the elcor homeworld and taught them to use mass effect technology, allowing them to join the galactic community.
    • One species, the drell, come from a planet where they peaked in fossil fuel consumption extremely early. As such, their population exploded while they polluted and strip-mined their own planet to the point that a major population crash was imminent. A race called the hanar brought a fleet of ships to the planet and saved the few hundred thousand drell that they could. Those drell were uplifted to the galactic community while the billions of others were left to their fate.
    • According to extra materials between games, a species called the raloi were discovered by the asari between the second and third game and brought to the galactic community. However, when the Reapers invaded the galaxy and conquered the worlds of any spacefaring species, the raloi retreated back to their homeworld and destroyed all advanced technology in the hopes that the Reapers would consider them a "pre-spaceflight" species.
    • A species called the yahg were discovered a few decades before the series began, and an emissary group was sent to make First Contact with them. The yahg, a super-intelligent and hyper-aggressive species, killed the emissaries and contact was immediately cut. However, we learn in DLC for the second game that one was brought off world and made an agent of the Shadow Broker. By the time we meet him, he's taken over his boss's old gig. In the third game, we learn that the salarian government considered that uplifting the yahg en-masse would make for good agents and shock troops.
  • In Spore the player can do this on planets they visit by planting a Monolith there. If there are already civilized beings, they'll soon achieve spacefaring status; if not, a random animal species will be quickly evolved to that level.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope
    • Edge gives some Green Rocks to 1950s alternate Earth so they can make an antimatter reactor. It ends up destroying the entire planet. This encourages Edge to sponsor the UP3 (Underdeveloped Planet Protection Pact) to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.
    • As Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a prequel, the other Star Ocean games mention the UP3 occasionally and have to work around its restrictions.
  • In Wildstar the Dominion uplifted the Draken and Chua so that they could serve the empire. In the Chua's case they took to advanced technology so well that after strip-mining their homeworld in less than a century they became the Dominon's top scientists and mechanics.
  • In Galactic Civilizations the Arceans gave humanity the blueprints to a Warp Gate, which suspiciously had no "off" switch, but instead humans combined it with their fusion technology (which the Arceans may have wanted to take by invading) to develop a ship-portable hyperdrive. They then gave hyperdrive and fusion to every sapient species they could contact, and then the game begins.

Web Comics
  • Schlock Mercenary: While hiding out on a primitive planet the company chaplain convinces Kevyn to build a robot to uplift the natives, unfortunately they throw it in a volcano.
  • In Terinu the Varn used this as their justification for conquering most of the sentient species in known space. When they tried this on humanity, who was already more advanced than most of the Varn's previous clients, we fought back and incited rebellions among the other races.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, it seems to be the Empire of the Seven Systems' preference with newly contacted species. And frequently worked into the frequent Author Tracts.
    • At the end of the arc parodying Star Trek Cmdr. Quinn tells a member of a species that the Federation left to the mercy of a Planet Eater because they were pre-spaceflight that the Empire will help them rebuild, and that their presence will no doubt screw up what was left but at least they'll treat them like people.
    • Another time, a member of a species the Empire had contacted fifty years earlier accused the Rangers of destroying his civilization by downloading blueprints for Matter Replicators into their network and causing an economic collapse. Quinn retorted that the real reason for the collapse was the native oligarchy's use of fiat currency to pillage the commoners, and that he had given them the technology they needed just to survive.

Web Original
  • In Orion's Arm many Terragen polities have done as such to both Xenosophont clades and lost Terragen colonies. The To'ul'h for instance have largely integrated into Terragen society. And there are also colonies that forsook technology under the protection of a greater polity such as the Metasoft Version Tree's Baseline Preserves or many of the domains of the Caretaker Gods, though there is one story where a Caretaker manipulates eir charges into acquiring an Encyclopedia Everythingia from a visiting anthropologist.

Western Animation
  • The first appearance of Kang and Kodos on The Simpsons was a segment in the inaugural "Treehouse of Horror" episode offering a Parody of the aforementioned Twilight Zone episode. Int his one, the twist is that the aliens really are beneficent; it's Lisa's skepticism that robs mankind of their promised aid.
  • In Galaxy Rangers two aliens (the Kiwi Zoso and the Andorian Waldo) from pacifist races trade hyperdrive technology for humanity's assistance in resisting The Crown Empire.
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • May 11, 2014
    DAN004
  • May 11, 2014
    Generality
    ^ I'd say that's a subtrope. This isn't necessarily about uplifting a primitive (from our point of view) race.

    I recommend as a title Technological Uplift rather than Cultural Uplift to prevent confusion.

    • In Spore the player can do this on planets they visit by planting a Monolith there. If there are already civilized beings, they'll soon achieve spacefaring status; if not, a random animal species will be quickly evolved to that level.
  • May 11, 2014
    DRCEQ
    "Going back in time and giving modern technology to ancient people."

    They're similar, but not the same. That one involves time travel. This one just involves two societies where one is giving more advanced technology to another.
  • May 11, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ Well, I thought that Technological Uplift might be confused with Uplifted Animal since that also involves technology.
  • May 11, 2014
    randomsurfer
    This is the backstory to the Watchers in Marvel Comics. They were the first sentient species in the universe, developed space travel, and went to other planets where they shared their technology with the more primitive locals, but the locals were't ready for such advanced equipment. When they came back the locals had destroyed themselves, or had horrible wars, etc. using the provided tech. So the Watchers took an oath never to interfere with other races again.
  • May 12, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting.
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Blue Linked media section titles(s).
    • Corrected improper Example Indentation in the Mass Effect example.
  • May 12, 2014
    Arivne
    Since this involves technological/scientific uplift rather than cultural, it should probably be titled Technology Uplift or something similar.

    Tabletop Games
    • Traveller
      • The Vilani Empire did this with the civilizations of planets it added. This included molding the civilization to fit the Vilani culture.
      • Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. After the planet Vanejen was re-contacted by the Third Imperium, the Imperial Navy showed uncommon (for them) discretion by giving the planet more scientific knowledge and advanced technology in a gradual manner so it wouldn't cause culture shock.
  • May 12, 2014
    bitemytail

    Side note: Now that I look at Giving Radio To The Romans, The Star Ocean The Last Hope example fits better there (uses time travel). The UP 3 stuff is defying Technology Uplift (IE, it's illegal to do it). Rewrote my entry...
  • May 13, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    The World Is Not Ready may or may not be invoked.
  • May 13, 2014
    bitemytail
  • May 13, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Already noted. "Many civilizations that have access to technology more advanced than modern day humanity in speculative fiction works have some sort of law against sharing tech with "lower" peoples."
  • May 13, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Ah. I looked for the trope name itself. Thank ye Sir
  • May 13, 2014
    OmarKarindu
    Comic Books

    Live Action TV
    • Probably the most famous example is the "To Serve Man" episode of The Twilight Zone, in which alien benefactors arrive on Earth and provide technology that ends war by nullifying all weaponry, cures to all known diseases, and other remarkable benefits of their advanced technology. In the now-stock twist, it turns out it's all a scheme to make human helpless and dependent so they can be bred as food stock.

    Western Animation
    • The first appearance of Kang and Kodos on The Simpsons was a segment in the inaugural "Treehouse Of Horror" episode offering a Parody of the aforementioned Twilight Zone episode. Int his one, the twist is that the aliens really are beneficent; it's Lisa's skepticism that robs mankind of their promised aid.

  • May 24, 2014
    school_bully
    No-one's mentioned The Prime Directive, and the various conflicts that have arisen across all the Star Trek series. The one that comes immediately to mind is VOY:False Prophets, where Janeway is unable to prevent the stranded Ferengi using their technology to subdue a native civilisation, as she is bound by the 1D, but the Ferengi are not.
  • May 24, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Partially because I addressed the trope formerly known as Prime Directive, and the conflicts that arise between cultures that follow that and those that believe in uplift, in the description.
  • May 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Added Webcomics.
  • May 30, 2014
    lakingsif
    ET Gave Us Wifi, Imported Alien Phlebotinum or something along that vine?
  • May 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Adding to the description
  • June 5, 2014
    Chabal2
    The entire plot of Animorphs depends on another instance: The dying Andalite prince Elfangor giving five humans the technological ability to morph into animals.
  • June 6, 2014
    Arivne
  • June 18, 2014
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: The Tau are willing to share their advanced plasma rifles with some of their auxiliaries, though of course they don't give them the tech to build them.
  • June 19, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the Doctor Who serial "The Horns of Nimon" the Nimon claim they're going to provide advanced technology to the Skonnos, but in actuality the Nimon are going to denude the planet of everything.
  • June 19, 2014
    KingZeal
    There are a few more examples of uplifting in the Mass Effect verse than what's listed:

    • Thousands of years before the current setting, the asari discovered the elcor homeworld and taught them to use mass effect technology, allowing them to join the galactic community.
    • According to extra materials between games, a species called the raloi were discovered by the asari between the second and third game and brought to the galactic community. However, when the Reapers invaded the galaxy and conquered the worlds of any spacefaring species, the raloi retreated back to their homeworld and destroyed all advanced technology in the hopes that the Reapers would consider them a "pre-spaceflight" species.
    • A species called the yahg were discovered a few decades before the series began, and an emissary group was sent to make First Contact with them. The yahg, a super-intelligent and hyper-aggressive species, killed the emissaries and contact was immediately cut. However, we learn in DLC for the second game that one was uplifted and made an agent of the Shadow Broker. By the time we meet him, he's taken over his boss's old gig. In the third game, we learn that the salarian government considered that uplifting the yahg en-masse would make for good agents and shock troops.
  • June 19, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Word tense, cultural/technological "uplift" is done to entire civilizations, the yahg Shadow Broker was just "brought off world". Biological uplift can be done to individuals but the yahg are smart enough on their own.
  • June 20, 2014
    KingZeal
    ^ Point noted. I was moreso providing context for why uplifting that species would be considered a big deal in-universe.

    Also, one example I forgot:

    • One species, the drell, come from a planet where they peaked in fossil fuel consumption extremely early. As such, their population exploded while they polluted and strip-mined their own planet to the point that a major population crash was imminent. A race called the hanar brought a fleet of ships to the planet and saved the few hundred thousand drell that they could. Those drell were uplifted to the galactic community while the billions of others were left to their fate.
  • June 23, 2014
    aurora369
    Deconstructed in the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe, where this practice is called Progressorism. The authors explore everything necessary to transform a pre-modern society into a futuristic one, and social uplift receives much more attention than giving fancy gadgets. The later novels explore the question whether this practice is ethical by introducing a mysterious precursor alien race which possibly practices covert Progressorism on humans.
  • June 28, 2014
    txtracer
    Live-action TV:
    • In Babylon Five the Centauri sell "Star Gate" (and later "Jump Drive") technology to humanity, allowing spaceships to engage in interstellar travel and commerce.

    Western Animation:
    • In Galaxy Rangers two aliens (the Kiwi Zoso and the Andorian Waldo) from pacifist races trade hyperdrive technology for humanity's assistance in resisting The Crown Empire.
  • July 13, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Any other examples, hats?
  • July 14, 2014
    bitemytail
    It's got 5 hats. Just Launch It Already
  • July 14, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ I count four
  • July 14, 2014
    sgamer82
    • A frequent dilemma for the more advanced races in Stargate SG 1 is whether or not to do this. Most races are reluctant to provide Earth any advanced technology due to either bad prior experiences, such as the Tollan, or believing Earth is not yet mature enough as a civilization. The main exceptions are the Asgard, who owe Earth, and the Tok'ra, with whom Earth was in an alliance.
      • A episode also features the Aschen, a race that appear to do this but are doing so for their own ends.
  • July 15, 2014
    hbi2k
    Literature
    • Humans decide to do this for the pequeninos ("piggies") at the end of Speaker For The Dead, and the sequels deal in part with the consequences. It turns out to be an extremely tricky balancing act.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=50eb0in77xuuhoti3cq0belz&trope=TechnologyUplift