->''"The Jatravartids are... unique in being the only race in history to have invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel."''
-->-- ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy''

HumansAreSpecial. Aliens are too, but it's more difficult to pass off an alien culture or that of an AlternateUniverse Earth as fundamentally different from humanity by introducing a unique set of TechnologyLevels and social traits than to just have them ''lack'' something humans have. Wouldn't it feel alien to be asked what a table does or what the strange noise patterns that emerge from your iPod are?

Some aliens' [[PlanetOfHats hat]] is not knowing what a hat is. Despite being RubberForeheadAliens, HumanAliens from a very [[AllPlanetsAreEarthLike Earth-like planet]] on the same [[TechnologyLevels Technology Level]] with abundant InexplicableCulturalTies, or even AlternateUniverse versions of actual humans, they are different from humans as we know them today in that they have failed to develop ''one'' very specific cultural practice.

This trope can be used to pull {{Aesop}}s in demonstrating how humanity wouldn't be human without love, music, sports etc. or, on the other hand, how humanity could do well without war, money, soap operas or what have you. In keeping with that, there are two ways of playing this trope: either the aliens are stumped by an Earth invention or the humans are surprised to find out that the the aliens don't have it. Sometimes the author might just be complaining about [[AuthorTract stuff he doesn't like or finds frivolous]] by showing HumansThroughAlienEyes. Other times, it's just a throw-away gag. And finally, just to be clear, this trope ''doesn't'' automatically make the aliens [[InsufficientlyAdvancedAlien weak]].

The lack of human emotions, specially [[WhatIsThisThingYouCallLove this thing called love]], may be used to define the alien race as well. If the aliens devote their culture to knowledge, they will be a race of [[StrawVulcan Straw Vulcans]]. If they choose warfare instead, they will be a [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Proud Warrior Race]] or even AlwaysChaoticEvil; and likely the villains.

You can get the same vibe from this trope as from InSpiteOfANail, but it deals with [[InexplicableCulturalTies parallel planets]] rather than [[AlternateUniverse parallel universes]]. Contrast SchizoTech and InsufficientlyAdvancedAlien.

Some members of the audience find it breaks their WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief, while others feel that discovering a fundamental if specific difference in an otherwise less than exotic alien culture makes it more believable.

Might be the reason some AliensStealCable and AlienArtsAreAppreciated. May also be the reason that there is NoSuchThingAsAlienPopCulture.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* The humans in the ''Anime/CodeGeass'' universe, despite their immense technical accomplishments, do not have nukes of any kind. [[spoiler: Or at least, not until a character whose surname was Einstein made one with AppliedPhlebotinum.]] Much like the TechTree example above, this example is due to the fact that Sakuradite-assisted electrical propulsion systems were much more efficient than internal combustion engines. Thus, the effectiveness of electric-based systems extends to chemically propelled firearms as well; being replaced instead with MagneticWeapons.
* The Golden Tribe of ''Anime/HeroicAge'' was apparently so enlightened, they did not need to come up with the concept of numbers, or at least that's the theory Mobeedo comes up with.

[[folder:Audio Plays]]
* One BigFinishDoctorWho audio play puts Tegan in the awkward position of having to explain what toothpaste is. To a [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien Time Lord]].

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/BuckGodotZapGunForHire'' establishes that every single technology, artform, odd tradition, bizarre hangup, etc. of humanity was already known to the galactic community by at least one other species having invented it. Except... Popsicles. Nobody else had ever thought of freezing liquid on a stick and eating it that way. Our parties immediately became immensely popular.
* In one ComicBook/DisneyDucksComicUniverse story, some aliens appear who never invented money. This leads to hilarious problems when they commit GrandTheftMe on Donald and "he" meets Scrooge.
* One arc in Astonishing ''ComicBook/XMen'' covers a mysterious alien warrior trying to prevent an anonymous mutant from fulfilling a prophecy to destroy his wartorn home planet. War and destruction is so central to his home culture that they don't have a word for hospital, and the concept of a place of healing is so against their culture that the one medieval level hospital on the planet is shrouded in secrecy lest the planet's elders murder its patients.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* The Thermians from ''Film/GalaxyQuest'' don't know the concept of fiction, period. As a result, they mistake TV series like ''[[ShowWithinAShow Galaxy Quest]]'' and ''Series/GilligansIsland'' as historical documents of real events. This is related to the fact that they also didn't know what lying or deception were, until they met the BigBad Sarris who was more than happy to give a demonstration. Sarris ends up watching the "historical documents" to see what his new opponents are all about, but he recognizes it as a TV show instantly, and finds it hilarious that the Thermians recruited a bunch of washed-up actors believing they were real heroes.
* ''Film/PrinceOfSpace'' features aliens invading ''because'' of this trope. The invaders from Krankor have superior spacefaring technology, but their ''fuel'' technology is inferior to Earth's; they need the new formula for rocket fuel to start a true invasion of the stars (they have only one working ship, as opposed to the fleet they could fuel with the new formula).
* The aliens in ''Film/IndependenceDay'' have superior technology in many respects, but their actual computer technology lacks any sort of safety protocols to prevent intrusion. A lone man with a laptop is able to hack into the network of the mothership, and by proxy, the entire fleet, shutting down their shields. It's often theorized that the aliens are some sort of a HiveMind who've never encountered any other species with computers, and thus were unfamiliar with the idea of malware. That theory ends up being proven false by the [[Film/IndependenceDayResurgence sequel]], where humans encounter an alien AI (meaning the [[PlanetLooters Harvesters]] ''did'' encounter pretty advanced computers).
* A literal version of this trope is Spielberg's remake of ''War of the Worlds'', where the aliens are shown in the basement of a house, quizzically playing with the wheel of a bike, in an homage to the original novel (see the Literature section below). They're also touching and even ''licking'' everything. It would appear they also have no concept of germs which ends up being their downfall.
* The Transylvanians from ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow'' have mastered intergalactic travel but not colour television. More egregious in the [[Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShowLetsDoTheTimeWarpAgain remake]] where the screen picture is otherwise perfect despite being in black and white.
* A version with humans in ''Film/IronSky''. The Moon Nazis have ArtificialGravity, controlled nuclear fusion, and the ability to build gigantic battleships with weapons powerful enough to obliterate a chunk of the Moon with a single shot. But their computer technology is still stuck in the 1940's, and their most powerful room-sized machine can't run all the systems on the above-mentioned battleship. Then an American model/astronaut shows up with a smartphone.

* OlderThanRadio: In ''Literature/GulliversTravels'', the Lilliputians inspect Gulliver's belongings, and don't recognize most of them, including his jackknife, watch, and snuff-box; they quickly become afraid of his pistols, especially when asked for a demonstration. They know what his comb and handkerchief are, however.
** The Brobdingnagians similarly have no idea what gunpowder is.
* In ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'':
** Arthur Dent can never seem to find a cup of tea. At one point, a food synthesizer's computer is so stumped by the concept of tea that it effectively shuts down (although it eventually synthesizes some of the best tea Arthur had ever tasted [[spoiler: with the help of Zaphod's ancestor's ghost]]).
** And then there's the alien race mentioned which invented the deodorant spray before the wheel, so at least for some time, they'd fit this trope. In their case, it's [[RuleOfFunny amusingly]] justified, since they're a species with ''fifty freaking arms.''
** Ford Prefect came from a planet that [[DoesNotUnderstandSarcasm never came up with sarcasm.]]
** The tea example could be TruthInTelevision based on the fact that places British people who went abroad [[TheSeventies at the time]] - continental Western Europe and North America, mostly, traditionally favor coffee and don't have anything like [[SpotOfTea Britain's tea culture]].
* Has an interesting twist in ''Literature/TheConquerorsTrilogy'' by Creator/TimothyZahn. The aliens have [[spoiler:nearly]] indestructible ceramic hulls and instant FTL communication. The humans have radio communications and can track FTL ships. So, it's more like "each race has unique strengths and weaknesses."
* In ''Literature/TheWarOfTheWorlds'' it is hinted that the tripod-using Aliens skipped the invention of the wheel; none were found in captured machines and most had ludicrously complicated lever systems where a few gears would have done the job just as well. There's an odd variation on the trope regarding disease - it's described that their own hygienic procedures were so successful that they've effectively forgotten what pathogens ''are'', so have no defence against them.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** The books invert this with a few throwaway mentions of slood - something which is supposedly easier to discover than fire, and only slightly more difficult to discover than water.[[note]]unfortunately, it's not available in all universes.[[/note]]
** The precursor civilization who used golems for literally everything only ever used wheels as children's toys. They never even invented basic '''walls''', because who needs walls when you have an invincible army of golems?
** One of the early books had a {{Mayincatec}} civilization who had chariots, but the "wheels" were human porters: while they knew how to carve stone disks, they'd only tried to make them roll by ''laying them flat on the ground and pushing''. A well-meaning explorer tried to correct their mistake and ended up as a sacrificial prisoner.
** The fifty-one members of the isolated marsh tribe that Fasta Benj belongs to, from ''Discworld/SmallGods'', had never encountered fire or metal before his tiny fishing boat got swept along with the Djelibeybi invasion fleet. Presumably it was a ''very'' soggy marsh.
** Magic is so ubiquitous on the Discworld in general that electricity is still no more than a curious phenomenon. The wizards still manage to accidentally invent a magical computer (Hex) and telecommunications are handled by an elaborate version of semaphore.
* ''Literature/TheTripods'':
** [[DiscussedTrope Discussed]] in the prequel novel ''When the Tripods Came''. The Tripods are capable of interplanetary travel but still use plain old white light to scan areas rather than infrared or radar. One character points out that technological progression is not the same between cultures and points to the Mayans, who had an advanced road system but no wheels.
** Also, in the third book of [[Literature/TheTripods the main series]] it is revealed that the aliens never developed balloons, airplanes, or any other variant of flying machine, jumping directly from the Tripods to space travel. Speculated in-book to be the result of a combination of their world's extremely strong gravity and a sort of cultural blind spot.
* Creator/CliffordDSimak's story "The Big Front Yard" has aliens who never invented paint.
* In the ''Literature/EternalChampion'' story by Creator/MichaelMoorcock, where the human's technology level is roughly Middle Ages, the elf-like non-human Eldren have invented many 20th Century modern weapons of destruction, including futuristic ray guns but have never succeeded in making a flying machine. Erekose (who, in another life, has much experience with modern technology) is surprised at this gap in their knowledge.
* A literal example occurs in Creator/PoulAnderson's story "The Three-Cornered Wheel", where an alien civilization lacks wheels because their religion considers the circle too sacred to put to vulgar mundane use.
* The backstory to Creator/HarryTurtledove's short story "Herbig-Haro", later expanded on in the prequel "The Road Not Taken". Antigravity and FTL travel turn out to be so ridiculously easy to discover that it can be done by civilisations "who can barely smelt metal" (one race is mentioned to have bronze starships because they couldn't smelt iron), but the science involved is so different that it doesn't work with any other form of science or technology, and throws off the development of UsefulNotes/TheScientificMethod. Also, once you have antigravity and FTL, it could be said that you don't ''need'' many other forms of science or tech, so they are never developed. You end up with civilizations that essentially stall at whatever technology level they were at when antigravity is discovered. Humans find out about this when they are invaded by aliens, the current dominant local interstellar power, who march out of their anti-gravity propelled starships and attempt to conquer the planet with ''muskets'' and linear battle tactics. Given that they attempt to invade early 21st century Earth, it's a short invasion, and humans promptly spread out to the stars with their superior technology.
* The wizards from ''Literature/HarryPotter'', despite having at least one train and at least one bus, do not use electricity or anything else discovered/invented in the last couple centuries or so, even when it would be much easier than what they do (ball-point pen, anyone?). This is HandWaved by magic interfering with technology/electronics, but there are so many mechanically simple inventions that they could be using... and if an auto can be magicked enough that the electric starter isn't an issue, then clearly it's not much of an impediment.
** The other reason for this is keeping up the {{Masquerade}}. Wizards can't risk enchanting items that could be mistaken for {{Muggle}} goods, or else Muggles will pick them up and possibly hurt themselves, or expose the magical world.
* The Race from Creator/HarryTurtledove's ''Literature/{{Worldwar}}'' can fly between solar systems, possess nuclear weapons, and have incredibly powerful computers, yet they have no concept of chemical weaponry, or any sort of battle-field appropriate gas masks - their closest invention, filtration suits, are for cleaning up nuclear waste. This is partly because the Race haven't fought a real war in literally tens of thousands of years, but also because their extreme social conservatism creates effective technological stasis; any sort of major innovation is exhaustively studied to make sure it doesn't create social harm (ie upset the status quo), a process that takes so long that broadcast television apparently took ''sixty years'' to be legalised after it was invented. In addition, the concept of large waterborne vessels eludes them, as Home is a largely [[SingleBiomePlanet desert world]] with no large bodies of water, so they never had any need to develop ships.
* In ''Literature/{{Everworld}},'' it's noted that the Coo-Hatch have invented a kind of super-durable steel that can cut through just about anything, but have never discovered gunpowder. [[spoiler:Until the protagonists accidentally help them do that]]. It's also worth noting that David points out their grasp of something as comparably simple as knot-tying and the use of a pulley leaves much to be desired.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'':
** The alien character Ax is actually surprised that humans invented books before computers, as he considers the former to be the greater achievement.
** Ax is also amazed at the variety of human food, since Andalites (who lack a sense of taste) never saw the need for more than just a field of grass.
** The [[PuppeteerParasite Yeerks]] stole and modified {{Ray Gun}}s from more advanced species, and thus skipped over projectile weapons. When [[BigBad Visser Three]] scoffs at human guns, Visser One reminds him that a single bullet can still kill a [[BigDumbBody Hork-Bajir]] quite effectively.
* The Tran from Creator/AlanDeanFoster's [[Literature/HumanxCommonwealth Icerigger trilogy]] justifiably never invented the wheel, because they're natives of an ice-covered world where it's easier to move things on skate-blades and skis.
* In ''Literature/DragonsEgg'', the technological turning point in Cheela civilization was the invention of the sleigh, as opposed to the wheel. Justified in that the Cheela homeworld has such extreme gravity -- it's a freaking ''neutron star'' after all -- that no axle could be lifted off the ground and remain intact.
* In Creator/LarryNiven's ''Literature/{{Ringworld}}'' novels:
** Natives sometimes find it tricky to draw the line between intelligent and non-intelligent hominids, as different species' earliest technological advancements don't always correspond. For example, some aquatic species use flaked stone tools but have never discovered fire.
** The Pak, a hyperintelligent race noted for its ability to construct things like Ringworld, never invented perfume. This has ''catastrophic'' consequences for their species, as being able to apply the odor of one's offspring to non-relatives might have averted millions of years of genocidal warfare among bloodlines.
* In H. Beam Piper's ''Literature/LittleFuzzy'' series, the legal standard for establishing sentience is the ability to build a fire and to use language. Complications ensue when humans encounter the Fuzzies, who have fur, live in a temperate environment, and prefer their food raw (thus eliminating the need for fire). They also don't appear to speak [[spoiler: until it is discovered later that they do have a complex language, but their vocalizations are beyond the range of human hearing]]. However, the Fuzzies do have other signs of intelligent culture--toolmaking, ritual burial of the dead, hunting/gathering behavior--so much of the plot hinges upon whether the Federation's legal standard for sentience should include the Fuzzies.
* ''[[Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse Star Wars]]'' Literature/NewJediOrder inverts this, as everyone in the known galaxy has never seen a book before, but the Chiss use them. [[WordOfGod According to George Lucas]], the entire galaxy reached the electronic age so long ago that [=eReaders=] and datapads have been around for millenia, completely eliminating the need of paper (no paper was allowed to be visible on screen in the movies for any reason) for so long that the concept of the codex book was lost.
* Played for laughs in the ''Literature/ConfederationOfValor'' series. The H'san apparently think humans are cool because we're the only species in the galaxy to invent cheese.
* Wayne Barlow's ''{{Expedition}}'' and the subsequent TV adaptation ''AlienPlanet'' features a biological version. The planet Darwin IV is home to many weird and wonderful species of animal [[spoiler:and at least one race with human (albeit caveman) level intelligence]]. None of whom have ever evolved jawbones or ''eyes''. The two primary senses used by most vertebrates are usually [[BizarreAlienSenses sonar and infrared heat vision]]. It's speculated that the planet's atmosphere was extremely foggy at the time such sensory mechanisms arose, making visible light an inferior mode of detection.
* In a display of SchizoTech typical of the setting, one ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' short story had a planet which, for local religious reasons, equated the wheel with the blasphemy of scientific progress, and used it solely for executing suspected witches and heretics. The world's main industry was raising grox[[note]]two-tonne (or larger) carnivorous dinosaur-type beasts, which, even when lobotomized to make them docile, have the unfortunate habit of absent-mindedly trampling and/or eating unwary herders. And there are always one or two per herd deliberately left unlobotomized[[/note]], which are impractical to drive any distance, so they were slaughtered in small towns, and the meat frozen and transported to the major cities by AntiGravity trucks.
* Creator/GregEgan's ''Literature/{{Orthogonal}}'' trilogy justifies this trope with electronics. The trilogy takes place in an alternate universe with its own set of physics. Because of the way physics work, basic electronics are not completely impossible to construct, but it is highly unlikely that the characters (or any members of their race) would ever discover the principles behind it without a lot of luck or help. Despite this, their other scientific accomplishments include traveling through time in a rocket-powered GenerationShip, fundamentally altering the mechanism behind their own BizarreAlienReproduction, and discovering a way to safely interact with {{Antimatter}}. [[spoiler: Between the second and third books, though, they do invent "photonics", which serves pretty much the same function as electronics, except that it works by using photons instead of electrons]].
* Creator/VernorVinge's ''Literature/TheWitling'' {{Justifie|d}}s this trope with numerous basic innovations, as having PsychicPowers meant such things never needed to be invented. Notably, very few buildings have ''doors'', because the Azhiri just teleport everywhere, including in and out of buildings. They also lack basic plumbing, and actually don't seem to have invented the wheel--because of their reliance on water for transport, they travel long distances using "road boats" via artificial transit lakes. No one seems to carry weapons, either--who needs them, when you can just scramble your enemies' brains at a distance?
* In Creator/DavidBrin's ''Literature/{{Uplift}}'' series most species were uplifted straight from the stone age to anti-gravity. So things like paper and less advanced forms of flight are largely unknown to them.
* ''Creator/PennAndTeller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends'' includes a short story about aliens who put HumanityOnTrial for being redundant; they are able to find nothing that is uniquely human and are preparing to exterminate us to free up our planet for colonization by a race with more biological and/or cultural distinctiveness. The protagonist saves humanity by showing the alien ambassador a simple magic trick involving "invisible thread," [[RefugeInAudacity an invention duplicated nowhere else in the universe]]. Whether the aliens are actually taken in or whether it is the use of sleight-of-hand to deceive for the purposes of entertainment that they consider unique enough to be worth preserving is left to the reader's imagination.
* In ''Literature/AlienInASmallTown,'' the Jan are a [[SiliconBasedLife silicon-based]] race from a planet with very little atmospheric oxygen. They're amazed at how early in our prehistory humans discovered fire.
* In ''Literature/WingsOfFire'', the [=NightWings=] are the most advanced dragon tribe, who know about genetics, germ theory, and desalinization, and can even create [[spoiler:armor capable of carrying lava]], but they've apparently never invented glass.
* In the world of Kelanna, the setting of ''Literature/TheReader2016'', written language was never invented. The idea of reading words is totally alien to all but a few people, and the only way history survives is through oral tradition.
* In ''Series/TheHistoryOfTheGalaxy'' setting, the [[InsectoidAliens Insects]], the [[StarfishAliens Logrians]], the [[FishPeople Delphons]], and the [[HumanAliens Harammins]] are millions of years old and have built things like a DysonSphere, an advanced portable computer the size of a jewel that can store the entire consciousness of a living being, a gigantic super-powerful computer composed of billions of the previous-mentioned jewels, a way to make stars go nova, advanced genetic engineering, and the ability to send an entire star system into [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hypersphere]]. There are two major technological advantages that humanity (a relative newcomer to the galactic stage) has over them: [[FasterThanLightTravel the hyperdrive]] and cybernetics. The first is a little odd, since all those races knew about the existence of hypersphere, but were forced to build a PortalNetwork using stationary gates that first needed to be hauled at sublight to the destination. It took a single human scientist a few years to come up with the hypersphere theory and the drive after observing the phenomenon once. The latter is at least partly justified for the Insects, who possess a huge supply of mindless drones, so the idea to build mechanical devices never came to them. Their only AI is a bluky photonic computer that was created to run their Dyson Sphere. Meanwhile, humans can mass-produce AI modules in factories. The aliens also have nothing that even compares to humanity's MiniMecha, HumongousMecha, or MechaMooks. One novel has the protagonist find an abandoned human military base, whose machinery is being studied by the Insects in an effort to learn how to make their own, but they simply don't have the centuries of scientific and technological basis for all that equipment in order to do it quickly.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Franchise/StarTrek'':
** In one episode of ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'', the crew meets an alien race which is quite advanced, but was completely oblivious to the concept of ''music'' before hearing the Doctor sing. Even after they did become fond of it, they seem to enjoy the music primarily because of its mathematical rather than its artistic aspects.
** Data on ''Next Generation'' once mentioned a race that developed a written language before the use of speech or gestures.
*** As both speech and gestures have biological prerequisites, this could very well happen to a species that lacked both the fine motor control for gestures (or hands) and the peculiar throat anatomy for speech (not to mention the even finer motor control that speech requires, which needs tiny movements of the necessary body parts, completed in a fraction of a second).
* The NBC SitCom ''Series/ThirdRockFromTheSun'' pretty much ran on this concept. [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3WHR6pqPRo This]] is a particularly good example.
* PlayedForLaughs in ''Series/DoctorWho'', where the Doctor once pointed out the fact that humans are the only species in the universe that has invented edible ball bearings.
* Also in ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'', where Jack tries to cheer up Owen during a team camping trip.
-->'''Jack:''' No other species in the universe goes camping. Celebrate your uniqueness.
* In the pilot episode of his series, Series/{{Alf}} flushes the Tanner's toilet and exclaims "Interesting concept."
* ''Series/StargateSG1'': The Asgard, who are ridiculously far ahead of humans, have to enlist the Earthlings' help to fight the Replicators, against whom Asgard beam weaponry is useless, but [[KineticWeaponsAreJustBetter guns work wonders]]. Thor mentions that the thought of using chemical propellants to fire a slug of blunt lead simply never occurred to them. Presumably, they hadn't used propellant weapons in several million years and didn't think of using them. There's also the fact that all Asgard are clones whose consciousnesses have been around for thousands of years. This tends to lead to some rigidness in views, although they're still damn good scientists.
* ''Series/BabylonFive'':
** Somewhat amusingly inverted. According to G'kar, it is one of the great mysteries of the universe that every known race has created a foodstuff identical to Swedish meatballs ("Breen" in the Narn tongue).
** Also played strangely with the Centauri: they never came up with many technologies... So they bought, copied, and/or stole them from other races, often improving them as soon as they could combine them with what they already had or discovered a way. Among these technologies we have the [[PortalNetwork jumpgate]] (copied by the Garmak when these were [[CurbStompBattle taught a painful lesson in not pissing off the Minbari]] and the Centauri waltzed in and conquered the survivors), ArtificialGravity (reverse-engineered from Orieni wrecks), and the titular station's magnetic monorails (they never came up with the idea, and quickly developed the technology in an improved version upon seeing it).
* The native dimension of Lorne from ''Series/{{Angel}}'' never invented music, and he's the only native who ever learned to sing. They ''do'' have dance, which looks rather dumb with no audible accompaniment.
* ''Series/{{Supergirl|2015}}'': In this show's universe, neither the Kryptonians nor any of their trading partners apparently ever invented popcorn or an equivalent, so Kara was terrified of the popcorn maker when she first came to Earth.
* In ''Series/{{Farscape}}'', Crichton misses various things from Earth which he is unable to acquire in space such as chocolate, milk and jeans. Also, you have to go to Earth if you want to get your favourite DRD some [=WD40=].

* The inhabitants of the Matoran Universe in ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'' react with bafflement when they discover a parchment left behind by their {{Precursors}} and wheels affixed to the feet of the ancient warrior Umbra. Despite knowing what wheels are and several creatures [[BizarreAlienLocomotion having caterpillar tracks for legs]], their ground vehicles all had insect legs, and only one vehicle (the [[CoolBike Destral Cycle]]) was ever shown to canonically use wheels for their intended purpose.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}}'':
** Some games allow players to progress up the tech tree while skipping at least one basic tech. It can be rather [[SteamPunk enjoyable]] to achieve flight without understanding electricity, even if the units look no different...
** Done literally in the sci-fi scenario of ''Civilization II: The Test of Time''. One of the earliest alien technologies is "circular supports", reading the flavour text reveals that they copied this technology off the humans, who call them "weelz". The text goes on to express bafflement that they invented interstellar travel before coming up with this idea.
* The humans of the ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' series didn't invent the transistor until the 2060s, just ten years before the War, so their advanced technology looks like it came out of a 1950's computer lab, despite having robots (regular and giant), nuclear-powered cars, energy weapons, and AI.
* ''VideoGame/GalacticCivilizations'':
** The Drengin don't have such a thing as fiction - rather, they can sense pain and other negative emotions, which give them pleasure. Ergo, their only form of entertainment is causing pain/fear/etc. in others. Or so they claim: Drengin that defect to or are conquered by more moral societies seem to get along just fine, so this may be propaganda used by the Drengin's government as a weak excuse for their cruelty.
** On a more literal note, this is why the Terrans pioneered Hyper Drive, which allows fast interstellar travel without the massive limitations imposed by the stargates used by other races. Unfortunately, humans in this 'verse didn't develop common sense. The first thing they do after inventing the hyperdrive is [[TooDumbToLive give it to all aliens]]. The reason humans are able to build the hyperdrive is because they are the only ones to discover controlled nuclear fusion. All the other races were stuck at fission (i.e. what we have now), which didn't provide enough power to miniaturize the gates. In fact, none of the aliens invented the gates. They all copied the technology from the {{Precursors}}.
* In ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'', the [[ScaryDogmaticAliens Covenant]] have a long-standing religious ban against creating sapient [=AIs=], meaning that when they go up against humanity's own [=AIs=], the only [=AIs=] they have that can even put up a fight are those stolen from humans, as Cortana discovered when she cannibalized one.
* The people of [[JungleJapes Boggob]] from ''VideoGame/{{Meteos}}'' are in their stone age during [[ApocalypseHow the Meteos attacks]], but after surviving the onslaught, they built a space ship out of the resulting ore just like every other playable alien race in the game.
* In ''Videogame/EndlessLegend'', the Vaulters, a faction of humanity on [[LostColony Auriga]] that remembers its origins in space, develops manned space travel before [[FantasyGunControl they develop firearms]]; they make do with {{Automatic Crossbow}}s, salvaged PoweredArmor and HumongousMecha.
* Several nonhuman races in ''VideoGame/RuneScape'' do not use individual names, or do so only for the benefit of the humans and human-equivalent races they interact with. However, the Goebies simply hadn't ''thought'' of using names for individuals (they do have names for places and [[NatureSpirit spirits]]) before humans introduced the concept to them, so they use names [[AerithAndBob borrowed from the humans they meet]].
* It's hard to know just how much the Elvhenan of ''Franchise/DragonAge'' invented, as their civilization was destroyed and most of their technology adopted by their conquerers. But a questline late in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' highlights the fact that the elves built grand cities in every distant corner of the globe, but ''no roads;'' instead, they had a network of magical doors to take them go everywhere they wanted to go.
* The monsters of ''VideoGame/{{Evolve}}'', despite matching or outstripping humans in intelligence, never invented ''anything''. While this may seem like a weakness, this is because their sheer physical power, arsenal of deadly abilities, low-level biological forcefield, and natural FTL capabilities made any technological innovation pointless. This point is backed up by how they picked a fight with humans, despite the massive technological gap, and still haven't needed anything to make up for the disadvantage. In fact, they're actually ''winning''.
* ''VideoGame/EmpireEarth'': Scientific and cultural advances affect only the type of unit they're attached to: Building upgrades increase the building's range, HP or resource gathering rates, while units types are upgraded individually when a new epoch is researched. It's entirely possible (if stupid) to explore the stars with a culture that has yet to discover a standard-issue handgun more powerful than an arquebus, aircraft that don't use propellers, or ''sandals'', and the ability to manufacture entirely automated battle robots despite never looking into this "scientific method" business. Averted in scenarios that don't start at the very first epoch, which start with all previous upgrades automatically researched.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'': The tech level of Remnant is extremely impressive in most respects, with holograms, massive flying airships, combat androids, etc. However, the setting has a ''complete lack'' of space technology. The reason being that Dust, which the setting uses for virtually all its power needs, ceases working once you get above the atmosphere for reasons unknown, and given that Dust is extremely efficient and cheap, they've never looked toward developing any other type of fuel. This also means that Remnant's global communications network is less advanced than the Internet in real life, since, without any orbiting satellites, it's dependent on four giant towers and lots of relay stations: if even one of the central towers fails for whatever reason, the entire network is taken offline.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', the troll species has a bit of this.
** While the troll species does have recreational drug use, it has apparently never occurred to them to try [[TheSmokingSection lighting their drugs on fire and inhaling them]]. When Cronus is questioned about his cigarette (which he got simply to add to his GreaserDelinquent motif), he states that he would never actually ignite it, and simply sees it as a waste of a good cigarette.
** Trolls, due to being bisexual by nature, don't have words for single-gender sexuality. It's thought of more as a fetish than an actual biological preference. Further, since their reproductive process doesn't result in families and involves an insectoid queen, Karkat has a difficult time understanding the concept of why "incest" would be a bad thing.
** Averting it is PlayedForLaughs at a few points, such as when Terezi tries describing cotton candy as an exotic alien delicacy only for Dave to quip "We have cotton candy, dumbass."

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Apparently, WebVideo/TheMercuryMen have sophisticated technology; they can transport between worlds and manipulate gravity. But going from planet to planet via chemical-propelled rockets is something new and threatening to them.
* Nonhuman species in ''Literature/TheJenkinsverse'' never invented the gun: black powder weaponry is too heavy and recoils too hard for aliens to use effectively: They were never able to develop a version that could fire accurately which wouldn't also harm the weapon's operator. For this reason, only humans have invented ballistic weaponry, firearms and effective defences against firearms.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': A ''WesternAnimation/TreehouseOfHorror'' episode has Kang and Kodos coming to Earth to share their alien technology, which includes the most advanced video game they'd ever created: Pong.
* On ''WesternAnimation/TheSuperHeroSquadShow,'' Skrulls never figured out how to make string cheese.
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'': Interactions with Peridot imply that wheels were never invented on Homeworld or became so obsolete as to be forgotten.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* UsefulNotes/PreColumbianCivilizations only used wheels for children's toys. This makes more sense when you realize that at the time, the Americas didn't have any domesticated animals suitable for pulling wheeled carts. The only beast of burden native to the Americas is the llama of the Andes Mountains. The Inca Empire used llamas, but as pack animals (which carry goods on their backs) as opposed to draft animals (which pull goods in carts). Llamas can scale stairs and steep slopes well enough on their own, and wheels would just slow them down in such an environment.
** Likewise, only the South Americans developed advanced metallurgy; the various Central American civilizations did not have bronze-working and used metal only for decoration. Even in South America, the use of bronze tools was only just becoming common when the Europeans arrived.
** Only the Central American civilizations developed writing, starting with the Toltecs and continuing on with the Maya and Aztecs and other successor civilizations. The Inca did develop a system for keeping numeric records in the form of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quipu knotted strings]], while others used [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wampum colored beads]] as a mnemonic device, but most never had a written language until well after European colonization.
* Much of sub-Saharan Africa also lacked wheels and writing used to record historical events prior to European colonization.
* The hunter-gatherers of Australia were still using very simple technology and had only very limited agriculture when the Europeans discovered the continent.
* A minor example is the medieval Japanese army never really using shields. They did use pavise-like shields for sieges, but they were considered to be "portable cover" rather than shields. In the Yamato period[[note]]c.250-710 AD[[/note]], however, the Japanese DID use shields, as this was before samurai existed as such and thus the Japanese generally took more after their mainland Chinese neighbors in general manner of military equipment (which is also why [[EveryJapaneseSwordIsAKatana not every Japanese sword is a katana]]).