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[[caption-width-right:250:[[TechnologyMarchesOn "Behold our superior technology: the mobile wireless telecommunicator!”]] ]]

->''"We own the patents on a few things we confiscated from out-of-state visitors: velcro, microwave ovens, liposuction."''
-->--'''K''', ''Film/MenInBlack''

Some science fiction works will have as part of their plot that a noticeable chunk of modern technology was descended from the use of alien science/knowledge in some way: perhaps it was the reverse engineering of ImportedAlienPhlebotinum, or possibly the discovery of some LostTechnology left behind by AncientAstronauts, or maybe we got it from a CapturedSuperEntity. At any rate, it's not really ours.

This is usually meant to explain how we've managed so much progress in the past century or so. It can also explain why alien tech is [[JustifiedTrope sometimes eerily similar to human tech]].

This trope is frequently used as the basis for a HistoricalInJoke, the cheapest of which being that the reverse engineering happened at {{Area 51}} and/or was a direct result of the supposed crash in {{Roswell|ThatEndsWell}}.

If this is used as a throwaway gag rather than for technology central to the plot, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velcro Velcro]] is a popular choice, perhaps because it was first popularized by its use in Apollo-era space suits.

Expect [[HandWave varied amounts]] of success should the writers [[{{Deconstruction}} address the many issues]] brought up by the characters [[PossessionImpliesMastery understanding even the underlying principles]] of whatever SufficientlyAdvancedAlien tech the source was. Same goes if they try to explain how it came to be that an alien toaster could pave the way for the World Wide Web.

Also, a healthy dose of [[RealityRetcon historical revisionism]] may be necessary to effectively use this trope considering modern technology ''can'' be traced back to human discovery pretty easily.

On second thought, screw it: maybe most advancements from the past few decades came from a [[{{Eureka}} town of geniuses]].

Works where there are InsufficientlyAdvancedAlien instead of humans can also fit this trope.



[[folder: Graphic Novels/Comics]]

* ''ComicBook/ScarletTraces'' posits that the tech left behind by the Martians in ''Literature/TheWarOfTheWorlds'' has been developed by humans with variable results.
* In ''ComicBook/SupermanUnchained'', large quantities of technology since 1938 comes from the use of the alien equation by [[GovernmentConspiracy the Machine]]. The culmination of this is [[AppliedPhlebotinum Earthstone]].


* A recent Alienware advert suggests that the company's range of high-power gaming [=PCs=] was created in this way.
** Which is unintentionally hilarious considering that anyone who knows ''anything'' about computers, or ''knows'' anyone who knows anything about computers, can make one just as powerful for ''maybe'' a third of the cost. Those aliens must really get around.
* Before cell phones became ubiquitous, [=PrimeCo=] ran a series of commercials featuring a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl1WikuS4dk little pink alien]] who lost his cell phone on Earth and tried to get it back because "Earth wasn't ready" for their technology.
* A tie-in ad campaign for ''Film/TransformersRevengeOfTheFallen'' has a Cybertronian [[Advertising/TheBurgerKing Burger King]] who gave the secret to delicious hamburgers to the founders of Burger King back in 1953 in exchange for a place to live. Its implied that he continues to work as their recipe man right up to the present day.
* Nvidia created a [[http://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2014/01/05/salinas-crop-circle-and-project-192/ crop circle]] in a California barley field as part of a viral marketing campaign for their Tegra K1 processor.


[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* About a month into the war with The Race in ''FanFic/WorldwarWarOfEquals'', the US and the European Union are very interested in the captured Hydrogen engines from Race vehicles. Europe reverse engineers the engines, and are expected to be mass produced by January.

* In the first live-action ''Film/{{Transformers}}'' movie, the technological advances of the 20th century were made by reverse engineering the captive, frozen Megatron after he was discovered in 1897.
* TheAsylum film ''Transmorphers'' has the human resistance's weaponry reverse-engineered from the alien robots'.
* We've evidently gotten quite a bit of knowledge out of that one crashed spaceship in ''Film/IndependenceDay''. An extended version of the film explicitly states that it was used to create Earth computers, which also {{handwave}}s the vulnerability of the mothership to a computer virus.
* The titular organization in ''Film/MenInBlack'' gets its funding from holding various patents based on alien technology. This includes velcro and a little disc thingy that's "gonna replace the compact disc."
* Pseudo-example in TheStinger of the second ''NightAtTheMuseum'' movie, where a cell phone left in a ''portrait-sized photograph'' prompted a guy from just after WWII to attempt to reverse engineer it. According to the photo, his name was Joey Motorola. Motorola, Inc. was founded in 1928 by Paul V. Galvin [[OlderThanTheyThink and was]] ''[[OlderThanTheyThink already]]'' [[OlderThanTheyThink making hand-held radios in 1940]].
* {{Paul}}, who is solely responsible for most of technological and pop culture advancement, including the idea for the movie ET.
* In ''Film/TheWorldsEnd'' Gary and his friends discover that [[spoiler:The Network have been influencing technological advances for decades to prepare us for life in a wider galactic community. Unfortunately some [[UnwillingRoboticisation sacrifices had to be made]] [[ForYourOwnGood For Our Own Good]]...]]


* ''Hard Landing'' by Algis Budrys, in which a bunch of crash landed alien Joes have to get by on Earth, and one of them decides to sell alien tech to the US.
* Reversed in ''Literature/ADeepnessInTheSky'' by Creator/VernorVinge: space faring humans guide the development of the alien Spiders through their equivalent of the ColdWar in order to achieve a suitable technological base for the repair of their fleet.
* In the ''MyTeacherIsAnAlien'' series by Creator/BruceCoville, an alien helps humanity develop television in hopes that it will slow humanity's development. He later regrets the interference.
* Inverted and played straight in ''GoMutants'', where the human invention of nuclear weapons brings our planet to the attention of alien races [[spoiler:leading one of them to invent the [[strike:internet]] PLEX for us.]]
* In ''TheManWhoFellToEarth'' (both book and film), alien protagonist Thomas Jerome Newton starts an Earthly corporate empire via his people's inventions (electronics, film stock, etc., all far ahead of human technology) with the intent of raising the capital he needs to fulfill his mission.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'', ''The Andalite Chronicles'', Elfangor says he talked to a guy named Bill who worked at a computer company...obviously intended to be Bill Gates. He also mentions a guy named Steve, which could indicate one of Apple's Steves.
** In "The Warning", Visser Three's brother took a obscure human computer tech and turned him into the billionaire owner of Web Access America, the books' version of America OnLine.
** Also played with in #45 ''The Revelation'', when it's revealed that the Yeerks helped humans discover Zero-space. Lampshaded by Ax in the same book.
* The Creator/StrugatskyBrothers' ''Literature/RoadsidePicnic'' transfers this trope into the future: In a setting TwentyMinutesInTheFuture, humanity makes progress by studying and finding uses for alien artefacts dropped on Earth by an unknown extraterrestrial civilization.
* In ''Literature/TheHelmsmanSaga'', it is stated a few civilizations were given the push toward interstellar travel by the Empire's {{Escape pod}}s. [[spoiler: In book 8, the heroes land on Earth in the 60-s. After being rescued, they leave the pod for us to study.]]
* In OrsonScottCard's ''EndersGame'' and ''Ender's Shadow'', certain technologies like gravity manipulation and [[spoiler: Faster-than-Light communication]] come from reverse engineered alien technology.
** And then changed in the ''Earth Afire'' prequel where humanity already has gravity lensing technology ''before'' the Formics even get to Earth, courtesy of [[MegaCorp Juke Ltd]].
** Technically the communication isn't reverse engineered, because the Buggers didn't use technology to do it in the first place. It was rather that they were living proof that it was possible, which inspired humans to figure out how to replicate it using our own technology.
* In Creator/HarryTurtledove's ''{{Worldwar}}'' series, after a partly-successful AlienInvasion during WorldWarII that leaves most of the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics under the control of [[TheReptilians the Race]], the surviving human nations start reverse-engineering their technology. By TheSixties, human technology has reached 21st century levels, and in less than a hundred years they've surpassed the Race (who are very conservative about applying new technologies that could disrupt the social order) and are building FasterThanLight starships.
* In the ''Literature/MythAdventures'' series, it's visitors from other ''dimensions'' that are alleged to pose as "great inventors" so they can sell new technology to the yokels in less-advanced worlds.
* In the Creator/IsaacAsimov short story ''Does a Bee Care?'' an immortal alien stranded on Earth guides human technological development through most of history until it has reached the point where he can stow away aboard an early unmanned satellite and thus make his way home. He's no more concerned about where Mankind goes after he leaves than a bee cares about the flower it has just pollinated.
* The Hayford Peirce short story ''High Yield Bondage'' features an alien ship crashing on Earth in 1972 and starting businesses to both advance technology and build capital, which it can use to purchase parts to repair their starship.
* In ''[[GarrettPI Angry Lead Skies]]'', two of the "[[UnusualEuphemism silver elves]]" [[TouchedByVorlons enhance Kip Prose's brain]] so he'll invent better and better technology, hoping that he'll eventually create the industrial base for them to repair their ship. [[spoiler: They're taken home by some of the other Visitors, but Kip retains his inventiveness and uses it to introduce stuff like tricycles, pencils, and folding umbrellas to [=TunFaire=] in later books.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In a variation, the powers-that-be on ''Series/StargateSG1'' were initially disappointed that not enough exploitable alien tech was coming back with the teams. As time passes and they bring in more tech, it starts filtering down to the public. They even fielded a (barely functional) energy weapon.
** In an AlternateTimeline where the stargate was never discovered, technology is noticeably behind the main timeline standard.
** The low rate of transfer is mainly because the SGC has to balance [[TheMasquerade keeping itself secret]] (not to mention trying not to piss off their offworld allies) with getting a return on the government's investment, and generally leans towards the former. The aforementioned energy weapon is ''intentionally'' barely functional in order to simulate trial-and-error development; Carter and the other scientist are able to get it working pretty fast when their lives depend on it.
* ''Series/DoctorWho''
** The episode "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS1E6Dalek Dalek]]" features a tech mogul who steals alien tech. According to him, Broadband is from {{Roswell|ThatEndsWell}}.
*** Which is strange, considering he's not nearly old enough to be around in 1947. Could be justified by the tech from the crash lying around for decades before van Statten got his hands on it.
** A subversion in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS32E2DayOfTheMoon Day of the Moon]]", in which it is revealed [[spoiler: that many of humanity's technological advancements were ordered by a race of hypnotic, memory-wiping parasite alien things with the aim of getting to the moon, making it a case of humans giving E.T. wi-fi.]]
*** Technically they wanted [[spoiler: a space suit not moon travel, mankind just sorta took the ball and ran with it.]]
** This is the explicit purpose of the original Torchwood, as revealed in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS2E12ArmyOfGhosts Army of Ghosts]]:" to defend the British Empire against Aliens and taking their stuff to make them stronger. The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce/ Unified Intelligence Taskforce (U.N.I.T.) has a similar goal.
* The [[TimeTravel sphere]] on ''Series/SevenDays'' was based on [[RoswellThatEndsWell Roswell tech]]. Other more mundane technology was also said to have come from Roswell.
* Preventing the reverse of this--keeping Human/Federation tech out of the hands of alien civilizations whose society might be altered by it--is one of the original reasons for ''Franchise/StarTrek's'' [[{{Alien Non-Interference Clause}} Prime Directive]].
* The second-season ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'' episode "Carbon Creek" implies that Vulcans stranded on Earth during TheFifties sold Velcro to support a child's education.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager''. In "Future's End" the IT revolution happens because a timeship crash lands next to a 60's hippie who becomes an 80's yuppie ([[NoCelebritiesWereHarmed probably based on Steve Jobs]]) by reverse-engineering its technology. Since the Federation tend to put all of human knowledge into the computer of every single starship, Sterling was able to quickly learn what he needs to just by asking the right questions. His progress is stunted when he gets to (then) modern-day technology, however, claiming that he had reached the limit of what he could adapt from the timeship. Presumably, Sterling lacked the technical knowledge and resources to adapt much more complex technologies like transporters and replicators, even though he somehow managed to reproduce holodeck technology (a product of both) in his office (why he never sold ''that'' is a mystery). He was planning a trip to the future to get more technology, apparently too egotistical to realize all the logistical problems this would entail (putting aside that he would have blown up future!Earth doing it, it seemed not to occur to him that the future might not appreciate his theft of their technology).
* ''Series/DarkSkies'', and the conspiracy folklore it's based on, supposes that modern technology was invented by reverse-engineering material from the famous {{Roswell|ThatEndsWell}} incident.
* ''Series/TheEvent'': [[spoiler:Development of the atomic bomb was pushed ahead by several decades, thanks to the {{Human Alien|s}} Thomas' involvement in the project. The ultimate goal of the aliens, who are stranded on Earth, seems to be to advance humanity's technology so that they have the infrastructure to make it back home.]]
* ''Series/{{Sliders}}'' episode "The Return of Maggie Beckett" showcased a parallel world where TheGreys gave Earth new technologies and allowed for significant advances. Rembrandt says he always believed this was the case for his own world and cites several technologies, including Velcro. (Both this and the ''Enterprise'' episode listed above were written by the same guy: Chris Black.)
** It's implied that the only reason the government made the contact with alien public was because a different President was office at the time, thanks to WorldWarTwo lasting longer.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Assassins Creed|I}}'', the [[TheKnightsTemplar Templars]] (and by extension, society) are implied to have gotten all of our advances from reverse-engineering alien artifacts (with a couple of failures, see Philadelphia Experiment (done by by US government, not Templars)). Later on in the series, [[spoiler:it turns out it's not aliens exactly, but rather the [[{{Precursors}} First Civilization]] of humans on this planet, who created ''homo sapiens'' to serve them but were overthrown and wiped out.]]
** In ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedRevelations'', it's confirmed that [[spoiler:Altaïr had learned the design for the first handgun -- and forearm-mounted at that! --]] from a vision given by one of these, which had been implied in ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedII''. Also, in a brief scene at the beginning of the "Battle of Forli" DLC for ''II'', a brief activation of the Apple shows images of designs that LeonardoDaVinci (who was watching the Apple) would later set to paper.
* In ''Franchise/MassEffect'', it is explained that the Human race's technology was jumped forward about 200 years after they found ancient Prothean ruins on Mars.
** The third game reveals that [[spoiler: an intact Prothean Beacon on Thessia had been secretly data-mined by the Asari government for millennia, hence the reason why their technology is some of the most advanced in the Galaxy.]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Similar to the 2007 film, ''TransformersAnimated'' has the robotic technology of the 22nd century all reverse-engineered from Megatron's dormant head.
* According to the ''WesternAnimation/MenInBlack'' animated series, most advanced human technology was granted by a benevolent advanced alien race. Computers, hard drives and the Clapper are cited as examples and their patent revenue is TheMenInBlack's primary source of financing.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* In a lovely FunnyAneurysmMoment (or HilariousInHindsight, your pick) moment, [[{{Series/TheXFiles}} Gillian]] [[AgentScully Anderson]] apparently believes this.
** A quick Google search confirms she isn't the only one. This little factoid made it hard to search off-TVTropes for more examples of this trope.
* An episode of The History Channel's ''UFO Hunters'' investigated real-life rumors that the SR-71 and B-2 Spirit bomber were a result of this.
* [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial TVTropes is not a case of this. Move along!]]
* Erich von Daniken is famous for claims that the first human civilizations were created by aliens, similar to the ''Film/{{Stargate}}'' film
** That's because ''Stargate'' was based in part on his books.
* There is a theory out there that says computers were reverse-engineered from an UFO, or something like that, under the rationale that no human could have ever conceived an universal machine that could simulate human thought. Don't expect IT professionals or anyone who knows the history of computing to take this one well.
** Hell, take anyone who says this and force feed them the life and accomplishments of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann John von Neumann.]] You might want to add a few servings of UsefulNotes/NikolaTesla as well (all of both at once would [[PsychicNosebleed melt their little bitty brains]]). HumansAreSpecial. "[[AncientAstronauts Aliens]]" just carve [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible Incomprehensible Landscapes]].
** [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace Ada Lovelace]] wrote the first computer program in 1843. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage Charles Babbage]] designed (but did not build) the first computer, called a Difference Engine, in the 1820s. There is an [[TheThrillingAdventuresOfLovelaceAndBabbage awesome webcomic about them]].
** Then again, the ancient Greeks had [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism a device like a computer]] a millennium before that. It was for calculating the positions of celestial bodies relative to Earth, something useful for both human travelers ''and'' AncientAstronauts looking for a way home.
** That "rationale" holds a very glaring logical fallacy: those aliens that allegedly gave us the secrets of the computer, at some time of their history they HAD to conceive an universal machine that could simulate their own thought, which according to the argument in question would be inconceivable. Unless you think the aliens are much more awesome than us humans simply because they are aliens, that is.
** Not to mention that humans wouldn't have to ''imagine'' the concept of a device for calculating, because each of us already have one inside our heads. If we've been building devices to perform tasks our muscles, organs, or senses can do since prehistory, why ''not'' build some to do things our brains can? "Device to more easily do a task that a human could" is a pretty good definition of a functional machine.
* Just to give the trope name some credibility, one of the first consumer wi-fi routers was the Apple [=AirPort=] Base Station. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE23wyAZ-LM It looks remarkably like a flying saucer.]]
* According to a quote in this article, [[http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/aussie-student-amelia-fraser-mckelvie/story-e6frfku0-1226064320755 cell phone technology was derived from black hole research]].
** TruthInTelevision. The basic technology behind [=WiFi=] and later, cellphones, was developed by [=CSIRO=] to assist in radio astronomy research on black holes. E.T. really did give us [=WiFi=]!