Technology Uplift

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

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     Comic Books  
  • A Deconstruction is offered in Miracleman, where the public emergence of the alien Warpsmiths, along with the distinctly posthuman Miracleman leads to a strange new posthuman society dominated by transformed humans.
  • This is also done to a lesser extent in Watchmen. Ozymandias is a genius and Doc Manhatten can create and manipulate matter, allowing them to bring about electric cars and hover crafts, which the hero Nite Owl flies. It should be noted that Alan Moore wrote both this example and the example above.

    Fan Works 

     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.
  • Older Than Television: In Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets", 1897) by Kurd Laßwitz, Friedrich Ell briefly mentions that his father All, stranded on Earth after his spaceship crash-landed in Antarctica, eventually reached Australia, where he became wealthy as an "inventor" by recreating bits of Martian technology. Later of course the contact with the Martians results in a general technology uplift for Earth.
  • 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.
    • This practice is deconstructed in Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys duology, where a Human Alien race nicknamed the Geometers engage in a more nefarious version. Their ultimate goal is Friendship with all known races. The achieve it with a two-stage process. First, they send in operatives known as Regressors, whose purpose is to do the opposite of this trope and force the native culture to a more primitive state (frequently through war), thus allowing their race to appear from the sky and graciously uplift them, also imposing their cultural views. The protagonist, a human who infiltrates the Geometer society as a Manchurian Agent in order to see if they would make good allies to humans is repulsed by this practice and resolves himself to avoid this fate for Earth (especially since Earth is already more primitive than they are). It's stated that they have already successfully integrated two alien races, native to their star system, into their culture, which also served to perfect their methods.
  • 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.
  • Discussed in Wolfling by Gordon R. Dickson, where mankind meets an interstellar empire of Human Aliens. Every High-Born (a member of the ruling race) receives enough education to uplift a stone-age planet to the imperial level.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Trevelyan's Mission series:
    • This is the goal of the Foundation for the Development of Alien Cultures. They initially focus on primitive Human Alien cultures, but later technological developments allow them to move on to Insectoid Aliens and others. The plot of the first novel involves the titular character being sent into the planet Osier to find out why the local humanoids have been stuck in Medieval Stasis for over a millennium with every attempt by the FDAC to subtly introduce new ideas and inventions failing miserably. It turns out that the planet is under the watch of another advanced race, who subscribe to the Alien Non-Interference Clause viewpoint. They are the ones who have been subverting human attempts at instigating progress, viewing stability as more important. It's also stated that centuries of studies and attempts have resulted in a fine-tuned system for how this trope is supposed to be done to avoid catastrophic consequences (which have happened in FDAC history, resulting in the destruction of several native cultures). One of the biggest rules is to never interfere in a post-Medieval culture.
    • Human themselves are indirectly the recipients of this trope starting with the second novel of the main Arrivals from the Dark series, of which Trevelyan's Mission is a spin-off, taking place centuries later. There, a shapeshifting alien infiltrator helps a human defeat a powerful Alien Invasion force in such a way as to leave their technology largely intact, allowing humans to study and implement technology that, eventually, turns humanity in a galactic superpower.
  • Safehold:
    • This is the primary goal of Merlin Athrawes. The planet Safehold was intended to be a colony where humanity could hide from the xenocidal Gbaba temporarily. To avoid detection, they deliberately abstained from high technology and the original goal was to have their descendants begin reclaiming it in a few centuries. The operation's leaders, however, were megalomaniacs who thought humanity's hubris brought its near-destruction on itself. As a result, they set up a civilization whose Church has enforced a Medieval Stasis for nearly a thousand years and made themselves out to be its Archangels and those who opposed them as demons and devils. Enter Merlin, who allies himself with Charis, a country that's quite innovative despite all of the above and helps push them even further. He has to take things relatively slow to avoid upsetting the local sensibilities regarding advancing technology and getting them all declared demonic, he's still able to get Charis' technological level from man-rowed galleys to ironclad battleships within a decade.
    • As the series progresses, a balancing act is formed as Merlin is able to bring more local Safeholdians into the knowledge he possesses. The Empire of Charis wages its open war with the technology and innovations Merlin's introduced, but the "Inner Circle" is given access to far higher technology such as near-omnipresent spying capabilities and long-distance communication among each other to better plan and strategize. This frequently imposes limits such as not being able to react to events they've seen happen until official word reaches them, or Merlin having to fake travel time when he could (and has) simply used his recon skimmer to get where he needs in hours. Also, despite his loyalty to Charis, his duty to his ultimate mission requires him to make sure the Church gets the chance to make those same innovations and level the playing field since that breaks the Medieval Stasis mindset the Church enforces.
  • Minor example in The Iron Teeth: Blacknail spends some time commanding a goblin tribe while recovering from a fight with their former leader, and passes the time by teaching them skills like cooking, snare-setting and sling use. Very definitely just so they can make him more comfortable, of course.
  • In Star Carrier, several alien races are stated to have been given space travel technology by some hyper-advanced race long ago. While the humans initially assume that those aliens are the Sh'daar, many start doubting this, especially since the goal of the Sh'daar is limiting technology along certain paths. Those alien races are stated as being incapable of reaching space on their own due to their physiology or the conditions of their homeworld. For example, the H'rulka are huge colony organisms from a gas giant, who were unable to make technological progress on their planet due to inability of obtaining heavy elements in a gaseous environment. Generally, unless someone else gives them a push, these races end up stuck at a certain level of development and never leave their planets. After making into space, however, they're generally pretty good at continuing on their own thanks to obtaining resources on asteroids. The Slan are a race, whose primary sense is echolocation, and their rudimentary light-sensing organ is unable to detect the faint light of stars. This means it took them far longer than most to develop astronomy, only after building their equivalent of a telescope, which, in their case, is a device that converts visual images into understandable sounds. Even then, the concept of space is foreign to them. They treat it as an enormous airless cavern that can only be crossed with the use of spaceships.

     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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Underworld" it is revealed that early in their history the Time Lords offered technology uplift to the planet Minyos, only for the Minyans to kick them out and then get into an internecine war with their new advanced weapons that devastated the planet. The Time Lords subsequently adopted an Alien Non-Interference Clause.
    • In "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.
    • As the series progresses, and Earth becomes a (if not the) major power in the galaxy, the protagonists face this dilemma themselves from time to time. They're usually willing to provide things like food, medicine, and knowledge, but not weapons technology.
  • As shown on Star Trek: Voyager, before adopting the Prime Directive, the United Earth Space Probe Agency sent out Friendship 1, a warp-capable probe that contained a great deal of cultural and technological information as a gesture of peace and friendship towards any other intelligent species. As shown in the episode "Friendship One", it was a good thing they sent only one. Centuries later, the probe reached a Delta Quadrant planet called Uxal, and its inhabitants eagerly upgraded their planetary power grid to make use of anti-matter (and also built anti-matter missiles). Since they didn't have any experience in working with it, an accident resulted in the entire power grid exploding and putting the planet into a long nuclear winter. Naturally, the remaining Uxali aren't big fans of humans, as they think that the probe was an intentional attempt to destroy a potential rival.

     Other Sites  
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-2525 ("Extraterrestrial Broadcaster"). SCP-2525-1 (formerly Junior Researcher L____) has said that the aliens that sent SCP-2525 (the rocket-like device) did so to provide plans for advanced technology to humanity, and that they had done so for other primitive races as well.

     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 40,000: 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.
    • The Imperium of Man forcibly does this to any lost human colonies they find, which have often reverted to medieval technology levels. Being wildly xenophobic, they of course do not uplift any non-humans.
      • Of course, the Imperium only provides enough tech to make a planet useful to their war effort. Most often lost colonies become Agri-Worlds or recruiting grounds for the Imperial Guard, in which case they rarely have more than animal power.
    • The Emperor himself previously did this when he first led the Great Crusade to reclaim all human worlds and form the Imperium, humanities original civilisation having collapsed due to warp storms cutting off most planets from interstellar travel (and, this being Warhammer, plenty of infighting, alien attacks, robot rebellions, and so on to help the collapse along). He tended to be a bit nicer about it when first approaching a planet, but ultimately wouldn't take no for an answer.
  • 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 krogan were a Proud Warrior Race which managed to destroy the bulk of their civilization in a nuclear war. In come the salarians, who gave the krogan interstellar drive tech and space age weapons, because they needed soldiers hardy enough to stop the rachni invasion. Unfortunately, this has Gone Horribly Right: the rachni were wiped out, but the krogan started a massive wave of expansion and became more of a menace to other species than rachni ever were, forcing the other sentient races of the galaxy to use a Depopulation Bomb and drive the krogan to near extinction once more.
      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.
  • In Stellaris it is possible to uplift pre-FTL species with "Enlightenment" missions and have them join your Empire as a protectorate. It's fairly expensive and can take a long time depending on the species' starting tech level, ranging from 40-500 months, and if your Empire's primary species is Xenophobic they won't like it.

     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  
  • Nat One Productions has the Denazra story-line, where the ruling interstellar body, The Coalition, give species access to high end technology in exchange for their full support and manpower in a way against the titular machines.
  • 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. In this one, the twist is that the aliens really are beneficent; it's Lisa's skepticism that robs mankind of their promised aid.
  • In Adventures of the 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.

     Real World  
  • Historically, this usually ends badly for the lower-tech civilization.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TechnologyUplift