Basically, this is when Humanity is the advanced "alien" compared to both the other aliens in the setting, and us at the time the work was released.
If the aliens are simply wielding clubs and the humans are hurling swords, that's Insufficiently Advanced Alien
Often in this setting, humanity is the one with the interstellar empire, and the aliens are the ones who are planetbound.
In this setting, it is also the Humans who initiate First Contacts or bring superior technology and ideals.
Subtrope of Humans Are Special
Compare Humanity Is Superior
or Insufficiently Advanced Alien
for versions of this trope where Humans Are Bastards
. Compare Advanced Ancient Humans
and Humans Advance Swiftly
for other versions of this trope. Contrast Sufficiently Advanced Alien
and Humans Need Aliens
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Anime and Manga
- Avatar: Not only are humans the most advanced known species, they're also the Scary Dogmatic Aliens invading this time.
- Alien: Humanity is the most advanced in this universe. They are simply fighting an evolved monster onboard one of humanity's freighter spaceships.
- In the expanded universe of Aliens, the Yaut'Ja (the technologically capable alien race from Predator) are encountered occasionally. Even then, when our (future) technology is compared with theirs, it is equal or better in almost every way.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: The ability to make super-soldiers who can curbstomp Klingons and out-logic Vulcans is three hundred year old tech! Somewhat subverted, as this ability was deliberately Lost Technology, outlawed after it was used to create a race of Super Soldiers who ended up going full Nietzsche Wannabe on baseline humans.
- The Ender series features both technologically advanced and primitive races of aliens. In Speaker for the Dead, humans take to space, and some of them make a colony on a planet inhabited by small paleolithic pig-like aliens they call pequeninos. The human scientists must tread carefully to communicate with them and learn about their strange culture, without interfering by "corrupting" the pequeninos with human ideas.
- RetConned in the audioplay, where Artificial Gravity is revealed to be a wholly human invention, the Formics having to do without. That, of course, brings into question how their ships manage to maneuver so well without squishing the bugs.
- The Mote in God's Eye has the moties planet bound and the humans with the interstellar empire. Later on we see that the moties are technically at the same technology level
- The Foundation Series: Though Aliens are not present in the books, Humanity has an enormous interstellar empire. The Aliens were wiped out by robots the humans made.
- In the Horus Heresy series, the pre-heresy Imperium is often this, building a massive interstellar empire in only two centuries, often by wiping out less advanced alien cultures, or more primitive human offshoots that had been cut off for millennia.
- The Honor Harrington series shows humanity as the single spacefaring race in the 'verse. The only two alien races we've seen firsthand are the Medusans (roughly bronze age) and treecats (tribal forest dwellers).
- In many of Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stories.
- In H. Beam Piper's TerroHuman Future History, humans have a series of interstellar civilizations (the Federation, and later a succession of Empires) and along the way find about a dozen other sapient races. These range from the legendarily stupid Khoogras from the planet Yggdrasil; to the cute, cuddly, quite bright, but Stone-Age-tech Fuzzies; to the four-armed vaguely reptilian Ullerans, who were maybe Iron Age to Medieval before humans showed up. A number of other species are described or mentioned in passing; none has space travel or other high tech.
- In Robert Silverberg's Invaders from Earth, humans have discovered an amiable, intelligent native species on Ganymede who are still in their "low-tech, abundant-natural-resources foraging people" cultural stage (abundant to those with Bizarre Alien Biology anyway). The protagonist works at an advertising agency and is hired to come up with a campaign to sell the people of Earth on xenocide, all to get at Ganymede's resources.
- Alan Dean Foster's short story With Friends Like These.... Humanity is so advanced when they agree to help they bring Earth with them.
Live Action TV
- In Red Dwarf humanity were the Precursors to all life in the known universe. Though in Lister and Rimmer's time they didn't even have FTL, just stasis fields capable of stopping localized time. Artifacts from later include FTL drives, time machines, terraforming equipment capable of making a dead planet lush in just a couple years (and small enough to fit in an Escape Pod).
- Zig-Zagged in Star Trek, which features aliens from all over the technological spectrum, with humanity somewhere in the middle between Insufficiently Advanced Aliens and Sufficiently Advanced Nigh Omnipotent Energy Beings. Among interstellar empires of roughly equivalent technological levels, the Federation's hat is producing engineers capable of "turning rocks into replicators", but then the Federation has many member races, not just humans. Specific episode examples:
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- The original pilot episode "The Cage" and "The Menagerie". In the Back Story Captain Christopher Pike and the Enterprise crew fight primitive humanoids on Rigel 7. The Talosians later create a mental illusion of Pike's battle with one of them.
- In "The Galileo 7" the crew of the eponymous shuttlecraft had to deal with the large and aggressive primitive humanoids of a planet after they crash landed there.
- "The Omega Glory". On the planet Omega Four, both the Yangs and the Kohms are considerably more primitive than 20th century Earth.
- "The Paradise Syndrome". The inhabitants of a planet are Native Americans (AKA American Indians) whose ancestors were transferred there hundreds of years earlier by a Benevolent Precursors alien race. The natives live in the fashion of their forefathers.
- Subverted in "Errand of Mercy". The inhabitants of the planet Organia appear to be primitive, but the reality is quite different: they're actually highly advanced Energy Beings.
- "The Apple". The humanoids of the planet Gamma Trianguli Six are kept in their backward situation by a computer/device that also controls the local weather.
- "Friday's Child". The people who live on Capella Four don't have advanced technology, but their kligat throwing weapon will kill you instantly.
- "A Private Little War". On the planet Neural the hill people and villagers are supposed to only have bows and arrows and not fight with each other. So how do the villagers have flintlocks?
- "Spock's Brain". The men of the planet Sigma Draconis Six are very primitive (at caveman levels). The women live underground in high tech luxury.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Star Trek: Voyager
- "False Profits". The Voyager crew tries to stop two Ferengi from exploiting the religious beliefs of a Bronze Age civilization.
- "Blink of an Eye". Stuck in the orbit of their planet, the Voyager crew has the opportunity to observe a civilization's development from Stone Age to Space Age. (On this planet, time flows at a much faster rate than in the rest of the universe.)
- The Voyager is consistently shown more advanced than most Delta Quadrant ships that are encountered. In particular, Kazon and Trabe ships are vastly outclassed (Justified: the Kazon stole all of their technology from the Trabe when they rose up and overthrew them, and are so ridiculously bad with new technolgies they once managed to kill the entire crew of one of their ships by trying to integrate a stolen replicator into it; the Trabe, on the other hand, simply lack the resources to improve their technology since the Kazon kicked them out from their homeworld, so we don't know if they could have been a match for the Voyager had they been able to do so).
- Star Trek: Enterprise
- "Civilization". The Enterprise visits the home world of the Akaali, who are still in the Medieval Age. It is revealed that the ENT-era Vulcans already have a regulation similar to the Prime Directive, Starfleet's famous non-interference clause regarding pre-warp civilizations.
- In an episode of The Twilight Zone we see a backwoods woman who is tormented throughout the show by tiny aliens who have landed on her farm. We discover at the end that the tiny aliens are actually Earthers; she's a giant who lives on another planet.
- Traveller: Played with. The Third Imperium is for the most part the most advanced of all and it is controlled by humans. However aliens, including aliens outside the Imperium are not necessarily primitive, and some are ahead of the Imperium in certain areas.
- Subverted with the Imperium of Man. Humanity is one of the more advanced races in the setting, barring the Necrons and Eldar, but they're technologically stagnant: yes, our stuff is advanced, but it's all maintained by the Adeptus Mechanicus, a strange and oppressive machine cult who act like technology is magical and look down at anyone who tries to improve or modify it. And by "look down on", I mean "view as an abomination and execute for heresy".
- The Tau are a special case. In the 35th millennium they were stone age hunter-gatherers and an Imperial Explorator discovered them. The Imperium planned to exterminate the primitive Tau and colonize their homeworld but the colonization fleet was destroyed by a warp storm. 6,000 years later the Imperium is little different but the Tau have an interstellar empire and many technologies that are more advanced than Imperial tech, though they don't have teleporters and their FTL method is orders of magnitude slower.
- In AT-43 the humans factions are U.N.A and the Red Blok, but they are not the original humans. The real humans are the highly advanced Therians(think human Necrons).
- Space 1889 played straight and averted: current human science and technology is more advanced than Martian or Venusian, but much less advanced than previous Martian technology
- Grey Goo plays a very rare example of this; Humanity has long since perfected advanced interstellar spaceflight, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. The only reason humans have not yet conquered the galaxy is because they find space to be rather boring and are preoccupied with engineering a flawless utopia here on Earth.
- In the X-Universe, humanity was the only race in the Milky Way to construct working jumpgates independent of the Ancients. They were also the only young race to (accidentally) create sapient AI, though that didn't turn out well. In the games proper, the Earth State (and their AGI Task Force in particular) build the most advanced ships, and safeguard their tech advantage with a huge spy network. AGI Task Force pilots will never abandon their ship to prevent the tech from falling in enemy hands.
- Subverted in Galactic Civilizations. Terrans become the only race to invent the fusion drive, which sets them up for this trope. They decided to share becoming diplomats instead.
- Upon defeating Belial in Devil Survivor, Belial points out that humans have greater potential to be the King of Bel than demons do.
- Aliens, Trolls & Dragons is built around this idea, with us having all sorts of advanced technology while aliens are stuck in a medieval setting.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series. In the episode "Bem" the aboriginal inhabitants of the planet Delta Theta Three are primitive lizard men who capture Kirk, Spock and the eponymous guest alien. The aborigines are actually under the protection of a powerful Energy Being.