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Enforced Technology Levels

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Certain objects are not allowed inside the Bureau. Recent incidents have necessitated an issued reminder on prohibited materials.
- Unauthorized Weapons
- Pagers
- Laptops
- "Smart" Watches
- "Smart" Phones
- "Smart" Gaming Devices
- Anything "smart"
Control, "Correspondence: Prohibited Items Reminder"

This is a Speculative Fiction trope where, for whatever reason, there are certain rules about what kinds of technology can exist in a world. These rules may be enforced by some kind of overseer that will destroy or confiscate items it disapproves of, magic, or even the laws of nature themselves (e.g. what if gunpowder just didn't explode?). The rules effectively (or explicitly) lock a society into a certain technological level.

If there are "Tech Police", they might be Evil Luddites, good ones, or maybe a Higher-Tech Species who justify their actions with You Are Not Ready (or simply want to stifle any potential rivals). When magic is involved, this could lead to The Magic Versus Technology War (since magic and technology might not allow each other to exist in close proximity).

Medieval Stasis is a well-known example where technology is (usually inexplicably) locked at some "Medieval" level. Fantasy Gun Control, Space Travel Veto and No Transhumanism Allowed are related tropes that deal with (again sometimes-unexplained) bans on specific areas of technology.

Compare with Schizo Tech, where differing levels of technology are all mashed up together, and Decade Dissonance, when this sort of things arises naturally, not due to any enforcement. No Tech but High Tech is a related trope; the idea that only inventions from recent centuries (Industrial Revolution and beyond) count as "technology". A group that voluntarily places such restrictions on itself may be Space Amish (or just real Amish.)


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The world of Attack on Titan seems to take place in a medieval world despite the Three-Dimensional Maneuver Gear being far more advanced beyond that time period. It's eventually revealed that this is because the Military Police secretly captures or kills any who attempt to develop technology that could threaten the king or his "peace". Hange's response is the following:
    "Thank you. You've protected this world from the development of technology. Really, thank you."
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the world is a barren wasteland (though one filled with mechas). Humanity has been forced underground by the Spiral King Lordgenome, because humanity's potential would otherwise cause them to grow at an exponential rate and threaten the return of the Anti-Spirals. This is proven by the Time Skip, in which the world has become futuristic in a matter of seven years.
  • In The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye, the titular Third restrict what technology humans are allowed to have in the post-apocalyptic desert following the Great War. Any human who tries developing beyond what they are allowed is killed by the Third's robots.
  • Implied in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, where the gods of the world make sure no major kingdom industrializes, even getting to the point of deliberate causing an apocalypse to prevent a powerful kingdom to industrialize.

    Films — Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip featured a dystopian future where Mandark rules, and keeps people in line by preventing them from using any form of science (even going so far as prohibiting the practice of using friction to start a fire).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Men in Black features elements of this, as some of the alien cultures humanity has contact with are much more advanced than humans. The MIB organization prohibits certain advanced technologies on Earth, reasoning that humanity shouldn't be allowed to discover them until we're ready. They slowly release some of the alien technology using shell companies and finance their operations using the patents. A lot of it is confiscated tech, although some of it is given by friendly aliens.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Scotty mentions that Starfleet confiscated his transwarp beaming equation.

  • Arrivals from the Dark: This is initially assumed to be the case in Envoy from the Heavens on the planet Osier by Ivar Trevelyan, as the planet has been truck in Medieval Stasis for nearly a millennium. He eventually discovers that there are many naturally-explainable factors that contribute to this state of affairs, which also explain why certain inventions have never become popular or were outright banned. For example, early steam engines tend to explode, resulting in them being banned and abandoned. The Osierans believe that their world is flat and surrounded by a ring of their chief god. Attempting to reach the ring would result in the gods becoming angry, which is why no one sails far from the shore, unaware of a pristine continent on the other side of the planet. The only inhabited continent is largely ruled by an extremely stable empire, and that stability further discourages innovation. When Ivar suggests making a saddle for the local equivalent of a draft animal (which are only used to pull chariots), the locals are horrified at burdening such majestic creatures with the weight of a person, precluding them being used as mounts. There is an advanced alien race watching over the planet and countering human efforts to introduce progress, but they don't do any more than stop humans, believing in their own version of the Alien Non-Interference Clause (i.e. never interfere except to save a species).
  • In Jerry Pournelle's early CoDominium stories, the Bureau of Technology puts all scientific and technological advancement under tight controls to prevent the creation of any devices that would threaten the stability of society.
  • In the future Earth of the Council Wars series, the omnipresent AI taking care of the planet, Mother, strictly controls how much energetic reactions can be used, with an upper limit that can't normally be breached, for public safety. When everything goes to hell, this means that firearms and explosives are impossible, and even most engines beyond very low-pressure steam ones. On the other hand, they've got several millennia of genetically-engineered crops and animals, previously-built supermaterials, and the odd item provided by the people who still have access to the Clarke-level tech.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune, artificial intelligence is banned by religious taboo ("Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of man's mind," according to the Orange Catholic Bible) dating back to the Butlerian Jihad. This is interpreted to mean pretty much all forms of electronic computing are proscribed; mentats are trained to process information at speeds and volumes far greater than normal humans and Spacing Guild Navigators look into the future to safely plot interstellar travel routes.
  • On Gor the Priest-Kings will smite anyone they catch experimenting with "forbidden technology" such as firearms. However, they do allow experimentation in some areas, such as medicine, which has advanced to the point that the Goreans are basically indestructible to disease and age.
  • In the Genre Throwback Space Opera novel Grand Central Arena, certain technologies just don't work in the Arena, including AI, nuclear reactors, and nanotech beyond certain limits.
  • In Sean McMullen's Greatwinter Trilogy, satellites called sentinels use EMPs to destroy any electric devices.
  • In Harry Potter, magical spells can prevent certain technologies from functioning. On Hogwarts school grounds, things such as guns, automobiles, or anything electronic simply won't work. Also, it's against the rules to enchant high-tech items. There are also completely inexplicable technologies that don't even have moving parts; things such as "paper notebooks" and "pencils".
  • The entire plot of Daniel Suarez's Influx: The "Bureau of Technology Control", formed shortly after World War II, has suppressed all the "disruptive" technologies developed during the latter half of the 20th century, and makes full use of everything they've seized to maintain that advantage. Five big things they've monopolized are cold fusion, Artificial Intelligence, Nanomachines, the Cure for Cancer, and immortality.
    • One darkly funny thing is that fusion was developed in 1985, and the Director of the BTC immediately imprisoned the designer and stole credit for it, even thought it would only be known inside the Bureau. What makes it funny is that over the course of the next 28 years, he's had to do it a hundred and twelve more times.
  • Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson is set in a 22nd-century America where the oil ran out with a resulting crash in world population. Society is kept at a more sustainable 19th-century level of technology and the theocracy preaches against the Years of Vice and Profligacy. Of course this also helps sustain their power, as a more advanced level of technology would require a more literate population; currently most of the workforce are kept in Indentured Servitude that's slavery in all but name.
  • Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder is set on a space station with varying technological levels enforced by ubiquitious nanotech. Different groups of people, united by common philosophies/religions, have chosen the level of tech they're comfortable with. For example, a society that values communing with nature and living in harmony might purposefully limit themselves to only Stone Age tech. If someone from a more advanced area goes into a "primitive" area, they will find that none of their high-tech gadgets work. The main conflict in the novel is due to a single group trying to enforce their high-tech Hive Mind on everyone.
    • Another example from Schroeder is in his novel Ventus. The eponymous planet was terraformed by powerful AIs called "Winds" in order to be a paradise for their human masters. However, something went wrong, and the AIs no longer recognize humans. As soon as the colonists arrived their ships were shot down because the Winds see their technology as a threat to the fragile ecosystem of the planet. The survivors are forced to eke out a primitive existence on the planet, since anything more advanced than a plow is immediately destroyed by the Winds.
  • In The Lost Regiment, the various human nations on the planet Valennia have been stuck at the same technological level they arrived with, meaning Roum and Cartha are stuck at the same level they were in during the First Punic War back on Earth, while the Rus are stuck in the state of the Medieval Russians. Since the masters of Valennia are the 9-foot-tall Human Aliens that constantly travel in Hordes and expect tribute from their "cattle" (their word for humans) subjects in the form of grain and human meat, they make sure that the cattle never get too advanced to threaten the Hordes. Even the Rouman army is a far cry from the famed Marian legions in the heyday of the Roman Empire but mostly consists of untrained rabble with a single poorly-equipped legion at the center. The Hordes themselves descend from a powerful starfaring civilization that has built a vast Portal Network, of which Earth is a part. The Tunnels activate at random times, scooping up people and bringing them to Valennia. After their civilization has bombed itself back to the Stone Age, the Hordes have chosen to maintain their primitive nomadic way of life, eschewing advanced technology and burying any ancient relics they find. At one point, the even got their hands on some Frickin' Laser Beams from a race of Starfish Aliens (a typical example of Rock Beats Laser) that have also ended up on Valennia, but threw the weapons into the sea. Everything gets turned on its head when the 35th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the 44th New York Light Artillery Brigade (along with a steamer) get scooped up by a Tunnel in the midst of the American Civil War and brought to Valennia. Suddenly, the Medieval Stasis is broken by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who have the know-how to turn a bunch of Medieval Russians into an industrial power in a matter of years and form a "modern" (by Civil War standards) army out of illiterate peasants.
  • In the Old Kingdom series, most technology rapidly degrades into ruin in the Old Kingdom: the rule seems to be 'anything not made by hand'. There was one guy whose outsider pen pal always uses machine-made paper, turning every letter he sends into an annoying exercise in forensic science. This is because most technology fails in the presence of magic (this also means that the Perimeter Guards are armed with both guns and swords, because any magical creature that gets close enough will make their guns fail).
  • In The Peace War, the Peace Authority prevents anyone save themselves from using nuclear power, and puts a similar amount of effort into policing biotech. Supposedly this to prevent nuclear and biological warfare, but it also creates a Terminally Dependent Society that relies on the Peace for electricity and medicine — and it's all but stated that the Peace actually started World War III specifically to destroy their competition.
  • In The Pillars of Reality, the Guild of Mechanics has a lot of relatively advanced technology, including rifles, radios, trains, and rudimentary computers. However, it is quite insistent that nobody else can have this stuff, which naturally generates a lot of resentment among people who have to live with medieval-ish technology. Part of the plot of the first book deals with a city which tries to defy its enforced technology level.
    • The technology is also literally an enforced level, as the ultimate source of mechanics guild tech was broken into levels which the founders of the guild chose which to stay at.
  • This is being done by the Gnomes of A Practical Guide to Evil, who have such an enormous technological advantage over the other races that any society that begins to research any "forbidden technology" are given three warnings before being competely wiped out.
  • The Rapture of the Nerds is set in the aftermath of The Singularity: a countless number of humans have left Earth by uploading their minds to a network of Nanomachines, which have proceeded to consume every stray molecule of matter in the solar system not in contact with the homeworld. The remaining un-"raptured" population who have chosen not to join the network enforce a ban on similar technologies through a "technology court". Citizens are randomly signed up to serve on this court (as per the book's origin as the short stories "Jury Duty" and "Appeals Court" would imply), and their job is to evaluate the random bits of super advanced flotsam-and-jetsom that occasionally fall to Earth as "gifts" from the nanomachine network. The technology court is tasked with determining what new technology's effect on society at large will be, and anything too dangerous or too advanced (that might cause another singularity in the remaining population) is destroyed.
    • Notably, in practice this technology ban results in bizarre communities based on special interests rather than draconian police states - anyone, at any time, can upload themselves to the network simply by speaking of their desire to do so, as the entire planet is kept under constant surveillance for that purpose alone.
  • Safehold: The Church of God Awaiting enforces Medieval Stasis through the Inquisition and the Proscriptions of Jwo-Jeng, which suggest torture and immolation as the best way to curb scientific advancement. Those rules are, however, bent and broken more than a few times — gunpowder was introduced because a noble wanting to use it for mining bribed the Inquisition, and in the present day, the Empire of Charis pays little more than lip service to the Proscriptions. They do try to stop progress from going too far, however, as another enforcement mechanism is a set of orbital platforms that, if they detect strong enough power sources, will unleash a kinetic bombardment capable of devastating a small continent — though most Safehold citizens aren't aware of that.
  • In the Star Carrier series, the Sh'daar Masters limit any development in four specific areas of technology for all their subjects but have no problem with the rest. This is the main reason for their conflict with the humans who refuse to abide by the ban. These so-called GRIN technologies (Genetics, Robotics, Information technology, and Nanotechnology) are believed to be the key to achieving The Singularity, which is what the Sh'daar fear.
  • In the Weis/Hickman Starshield books, the laws of physics aren't constant, but regional. Here, Newtonian/Einsteinian physics apply, over here it's demons and magic, over there it's sorcery.
  • Both Earth and Shadowmoon in Starsnatcher stagnate in their technological development. On Earth, it's just government incompetence. Shadowmoon, however, has concrete laws to keep its tech level low. Due to their belief that A.I. Is a Crapshoot, all AGI is denied Internet access or access to tools, restricting them to mere consultants and preventing The Singularity from ever happening. That, along with the general decadence of Shadowmoon's populace, causes their technology level to reach a plateau. The trope is deconstructed, as it puts them at a disadvantage against aliens like the Primogenitors who have no such restriction on their tech. On a setting-wide scale, technological stagnation is enforced by the Great Filter. Any civilization that becomes too advanced will be wiped out by Götterdämmerung or another creation by the local Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds features a giant megastructure known as "Spearpoint", a spiraling tower that is the last city on Earth. Within it, various technological levels are enforced by reality itself; the laws of nature seem to change between the levels. The higher up the tower, the more advanced technology becoming possible the higher up one goes. One of the lower levels is called "Steamtown", a higher up level is called the "Neon Heights", and even further up is "Circuit City". It's implied that people from the top of the tower, the "Celestial Zone", cannot even go to the lower levels, due to the advanced nanotech in their cells that starts to break down as soon as they go outside their zone. Most of the world outside of Spearpoint can only support basic machinery - Swarm relies on basic combustion and steam engines for its movement. In the Bane, the laws of physics break down enough that anything entering it ceases to function, including living beings; the ground of the Bane is a lifeless desert.
  • A Russian duology by Aleksandr Mazin (Time for Change and The Morning of Judgment Day) feature a world in the near future where nature itself seems to have rebelled against advanced technology. After a series of seemingly random catastrophes, which were correlated with research into certain areas of science which some may find questionable, a global ban was placed on specific fields of science and an international agency was set up to keep tabs and stop any illegal research. At the end of the second novel, China outright ignores the ban and launches a manned mission to Mars (spaceflight is one of the banned areas). However, just as the ship is about to reach Mars, all Chinese-speaking people in the world who are watching the transmission are rendered mute. The protagonist's father points out parallels between this and the Tower of Babel (i.e. humans attempting to reach the Heavens) and postulates that, perhaps, humanity is meant to stay on Earth.
  • In L. Sprague de Camp's Viagens Interplanetarias stories, the planet Krishna has a generally Medieval level of technology, and human visitors have to have psychological blocks implanted in their minds to prevent them from releasing any technology. It's not so much to protect the locals as to protect other planets from the Krishnans, who have all the unpleasant habits of feudal societies — vicious misogyny, chattel slavery, killing people for insulting them — stuff that would be catastrophic if practiced with spacefaring technology. Several of the stories center on innovative ways to get around this restriction, as they make it clear that they'd trade a lot of gold for weapons to kill their enemies. A particularly clever one is a parrot trained to dictate technical manuals when the Trigger Phrase is spoken.
  • The Well World novels (two series, by Jack Chalker) take place on an artificial planet divided into hexagonal territories. The creators of the Well World set up each hexagon to be home to a different prototype intelligent species, prior to transferring these new races to various uninhabited planets. Thus, each hexagon re-creates the environment to which the new-made species is intended to be moved, once it's been tested. As some of their intended destinations were lacking in metals or other materials needed for technological advancement, the hexagons where those planet's future inhabitants were tested had to be designed to prevent technology from working there: if the trial groups couldn't survive by low-tech methods, then they would need more tinkering before they could be shipped out to their new worlds.
    • As the Well World's creators had the means to re-write the laws of physics as they saw fit, it was easy for them to invoke this trope on designated low-tech hexes, with tech-failure kicking in at whatever point seemed appropriate to the destination planet (Stone Age, Iron Age, Clockwork, etc).
      • Originally, there was no movement allowed between hexes, however after the Markovians left the barriers (mostly) went down, and a large part of the trade that developed between hexes involved moving the products of technology: a gun might not work in a low-tech hex, but a composite bow made from high-tech materials works just peachy, thank you.
      • The Well World inhabitants were also inspired in devising items that could function across different tech levels, creating a Schizo Tech situation where what looks like a sailing ship powers up the high-efficiency steam engine to run the propellers once it gets out of a non-tech hex to a low-tech one, and then switches the propellers from the steam-engine shaft to the electric motors powered by a compact nuclear reactor if it crosses into a high-tech hex.
  • In Worldwar technological development by the Race is tightly controlled to prevent it from disrupting their society (thus endangering the Emperors' rule). This harms them after they attempt to conquer Earth, as humans develop much quicker. Their scientists also work along the "approved" lines of research, firmly believing that anything that has been concluded before is an incontrovertible truth rather than a theory that can be proven wrong. This bites them in the ass in the final novel, where humans develop Faster-Than-Light Travel, while the Race is only beginning to realize that their long-held belief about it being impossible is wrong.
  • In Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought series, the physical laws of nature seem to vary depending on how far one is from the galactic core. Such that, the further you get away from the core, the more advanced technology is able to be. Earth is located in the "slow zone", where physics works as we currently understand it (i.e. faster-than-light travel is impossible, no such thing as anti-gravity, etc). Further out is called "The Beyond", where things like FTL travel and Artificial Intelligence become possible. Farthest is "The Transcend", a zone where magic and science lose any distinction and you have things like powerful AIs becoming akin to gods.
  • In Fine Structure, a large portion of the plot is driven by the observation that not only are fantastical supertechnologies being discovered on a regular basis, but that, mysteriously, each one can only be used once, after which point the laws of the universe are altered to render such technology impossible. Eventually it is revealed that this phenomenon is the work of an omnipotent being called the Imprisoning God, created by Mitchell Calrus to trap him and Oul within the universe by forbidding any technology that can be used to escape the universe. After the conclusion of the story, when Oul is destroyed, the Imprisoning God's purpose is fulfilled, and ceases to exist, making all previously-forbidden technology free to use again.
  • Crosstime Traffic: In Gunpowder Empire, set in a Roman Empire that never fell, Firearms Are Revolutionary, so the titular empires (Rome, Lithuania, and Persia, to name a few) suppress any attempts at advancing gun technology to maintain their monopoly (which also means they can defeat separatist movements, but not other empires).
  • John Scalzi's Old Man's War has the Colonial Defense Force doing this with Earth. While Earth occasionally gets a bit of new technology, all the good stuff stays with the CDF.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Reality TV shows often will ban certain items (such as cell phones or computers) during the course of the show. Ostensibly it'll be to encourage teamwork and communication, as well as to make sure the contestants aren't distracted by the outside world, but in reality it's most likely to increase the drama.
    • Survivor is a particularly extreme case, as the contestants are placed on a "deserted" island and must live without basic amenities.
    • There's also a whole subgenre of reality shows dedicated to historical re-enactments; shows like these would obviously prohibit contestants from using technology that wasn't available to the time they're re-enacting.

  • On The 100, the Mountain Men have prevented Grounders from using guns, and possibly other pieces of advanced technology, by slaughtering the village of any Grounder that picks one up. Even when they go to open war against the Mountain Men, the Grounders' phobia of guns is so entrenched that they still refuse to use them.
  • Blake's 7. Cloning is restricted to the pseudo-religious Clonemasters. The Federation knows You Cannot Kill An Idea, so this way they Black Box the technology, yet keep it available as a Godzilla Threshold if needed.
  • One episode of Farscape featured a planet where most advanced technology was rendered useless by a power-draining machine, set up to keep the colonists beholden to their original masters. Much awkwardness results when it turns out that Rygel is a descendant of said masters.
  • Firefly all but outright states that this is happening in the Rim and Border worlds, with the Alliance deliberately keeping the formerly independent worlds at a lower tech level than the Core worlds to keep them subjugated after the Unification War ended. At least one Border world baron has access to enough money and technology that he could easily build a modern city but keeps everyone at pre-1900's tech because he wants to be the one with the hovercar and handheld lasers while everyone else rides around on horses.
  • When the MythBusters work to replicate an urban legend or dubious story, they generally restrict themselves to the tools and techniques that the parties involved in the original events are reported to have used. In the interest of time and efficiency, they will bend their rule and use power tools for things like making a cannon out of a tree trunk.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Final Appeal", a time traveler was sentenced to death in the future for possession of her machine, because the US of that era banned all sophisticated technology. She appeals to the Supreme Court, which appears sympathetic. However, another time traveler then arrives with a bomb, demanding they enforce this idea due to fearing the problems advanced technology caused that led to the ban. The Clip Show used by both time travelers shows that, in either case, human civilization may be doomed. If humans retain the ban, then a deadly plague will wipe out the majority of humans. If the ban if lifted, then the plague will be cured, but human arrogance will result in a failed First Contact with another race, who will then proceed to rain death and destruction on Earth.
  • Revolution features a world where electricity is impossible. The resulting technological regression after the Blackout has forced humans to resort to steam and/or other purely mechanical technologies to accomplish things not easily substituted with human or animal labor.
  • In Sliders, "Gillian of the Spirits" has the team end up on a world where the atomic bombing of Japan during World War II has imbued a great fear of progress in people, resulting in the US banning technology over a certain level (40's or 50's). Arturo is nearly arrested for possessing a digital watch. Unfortunately, the timer isn't working right, and they have ended up in the one world where they still use vacuum tubes and haven't heard of integrated circuits. The Quinn of this world is dead, because the lack of meaningful medical advances has resulted in him dying from polio. His father possesses illegal tech. It turns out that the Bureau of Anti-Technology has been secretly stockpiling and studying all the advanced tech they have confiscated, expecting the ban to be overturned in the near future, which would allow the Bureau higher-ups to become instantly rich over all the patents they would file.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Federation is prohibited from developing its own cloaking devices due to a treaty they signed with the Romulans (which is like saying only one side can have submarines). The exact nature of the treaty and the situation behind its signing is never specified in canon sources, so it's unclear whether the Romulan Empire similarly agreed to restrict itself technologically, or if the Federation forswore cloaking technology in exchange for territorial concessions.note 
      • A whole TNG episode is devoted to trying to cover up one such attempt at developing it in violation of the treaty. This attempt had catastrophically failed because the rogue Starfleet officers tried to leapfrog the Romulans with a cloaking device that would render a ship both invisible and intangible...and then the device malfunctioned while the test ship was passing through an asteroid.
      • In DS9, the Romulans give the Federation a single cloaking to mount on a single ship (the USS Defiant) in order to jointly scout the Gamma Quadrant (on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole) and assess the threat of the Dominion, but impose strict limits on its use (it can only be used in the Gamma Quadrant for anti-Dominion operations, and every other Federation ship is still forbidden to have a cloaking device). Restrictions which the Federation proceeds to ignore every time they find a cloaked ship useful within the Alpha Quadrant. If the Romulans ever found out, they were willing to look the other way because the Defiant and its cloaking device were never used against them, only against forces that were at the time mutual enemies of the Federation and Romulans.note 
      • In the future seen in the Next Generation Episode "All Good Things..." shows that the Enterprise with a cloaking device, indicating that the treaty was either amended or abandoned by the Federation. Similarly, Discovery establishes that by the 32nd Century, Federation ships all have cloaking devices, even if they rarely use them. With the collapse of the Romulan Star Empire (and subsequent reunification with Vulcan) after the supernova of their sun, the Federation likely no longer felt obligated to honor the treaty.
      • The game Star Trek Away Team features a modified Defiant-class ship whose holo-masking system tries to sidestep the letter of the treaty, if not the spirit. The USS Incursion can appear as any other ship, even sending out falsified transponder signals. Not true cloaking, but definitely useful for infiltration. The ship made a cameo in a Star Trek: Armada II mission. The Romulans later steal the technology and use it to attack the joint Federation-Klingon Unity station. After the Klingons grumble about not being told about the tech, the Federation bans it too.
      • The Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Serpents Among the Ruins reveals that the act of terrorism that preceded the Treaty of Algeron (the one banning cloaking tech for the Federation), known as the Tomed Incident, was orchestrated by Starfleet Intelligence and the captain of the USS Enterprise-B in order to make the Romulans look like violent and dishonorable extremists and get the Klingons on their side. They knew ahead of time that the Romulans would insist on the Federation banning all cloaking technology but didn't care. In reality, only six Romulans and no Federation citizens died during the incident (involving a Romulan starship performing a suicide run at an asteroid and disabling containment of its quantum singularity while at warp). The thousands reported killed were, in fact, already dead whose deaths have been quietly covered up.
    • Other big tech restrictions in the Federation include:
      • Human genetic engineering for augmentation purposes, because the Eugenics Wars were a very, very bad thing.
      • Time travel is highly discouraged. Just how readily available time travel tech is in the Federation, or in the Star Trek universe in general, seems to be a big case of Depending on the Writer (Kirk's crew simpy did a warp flight around a star in the Original Series and the fourth movie, but every time Picard or his contemporaries encounter a time warp, it's a huge big deal for them to figure out how to get home), but the Temporal Prime Directive is a law specifically stating that even if you get the chance to time travel, you're not supposed to do it.
      • Any kind of research into creating a stable "Omega particle." Omega particles are a virtually limitless source of energy properly synthesized, but detonate like a warp core if they destabilize and create a No Warping Zone over a area of several light-years as a side effect. The idea that Faster-Than-Light Travel could just end is so terrifying that the Federation will go to any lengths to prevent it, considering the destruction of Omega to be a law superseding every other.
    • The Vic Fontaine holoprogram in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an interesting variation. It was designed to be "period specific", so within the program nothing exists if it was created after or did not exist in the 1960s on Earth. In addition, when the "jack in the box" subroutine is activated they only way to solve the problem it presents (a mob takeover of Vic's) is using equipment, methods and techniques that existed in 1962.
    • One episode of DS9 had a formerly-advanced civilization who had been forced into Medieval Stasis by a deadly disease introduced to them centuries before as punishment for resisting the Dominion. The virus is designed to mutate and rapidly accelerate its growth in the presence of electromagnetic fields, meaning they can't use any form of advanced technology without killing themselves, a fact Bashir learns to his horror when he accidentally sends an entire roomful of patients into agonizing convulsions, and the local healer is called on to Mercy Kill them all.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons expanded second edition rules book "High Level Campaigns", it's mentioned that, when designing a plane of existence, it can be given a tech level. Technology above that level will not function, unless the tech level is at least five levels higher than the magic level.
    • Part of the backstory of Mystara is that there was once a powerful technological civilization called Blackmoor that destroyed itself in a fiery catastrophe (implied to be nuclear). The Immortals decreed that this never be allowed to happen again, but still wanted to preserve some fragment of that impressive lost culture, so it continues in one spot in the Hollow World. All the "technology" there is actually magic, kept running by the Immortals, and therefore impossible for the locals to reverse engineer and improve. The result is that this remnant of Blackmoor is only a sad shadow of its former self, where the culture is as stagnant as its gizmos are.
  • Gamescience's Superhero 2044. In the standard campaign setting, the World Council of Peace's Science Police is devoted to ensuring world peace. They control the creation of new inventions and confiscate any devices that could lead to another World War, including weapons of mass destruction.
  • BattleTech's ComStar, after its transformation into a Church Militant dedicated to hoarding technology, actively sabotaged science facilities and assassinated scientists working for the crippled Successor States that were trying to rediscover Lost Technology after suffering from a hundred years of total war. Their assassination efforts stagnated almost all technological research for almost a hundred years. When the Grey Death Legion uncovered the Helm Memory Core and began to duplicate it, Comstar's grasp began to collapse, which culminated a schism after the Clan Invasion, with Comstar (under new leadership) becoming secular and pro-technology, while the Word of Blake separatists used terror tactics to continue the old Comstar's mission.
  • In Mutant Chronicles, the dark legion causes electronics to go haywire, thus most technology has been stumped to diesel punk, till the mega corps can find a way to make their tech to work without the dark legion crippling it.
  • Orbis Aerden: Reign Of The Accursed: Despite being in the equivalent of the 19th century, steam power is unknown on Aerden, and guns are rare and expensive. This is because the Godspawn have worked to limit technological advancement, making it easier to keep their existence hidden from humanity.
  • A Pyramid magazine "Campaign in a Box" for GURPS had various space travellers from different cultures taken to a planet called Yrth-2, on which various zones supressed or improved different technology (in one zone there was a field that prevents nanomachines from communicating, in another there's something that jams rayguns and so on). Basically an attempt to provide several flavours of sf on one world, in the same way as the varying Mana levels of Banestorm's Yrth does for fantasy.
  • In TORG, other realities, called "cosms", have invaded Earth. Each cosm has different metaphysical laws, represented by various axioms — social, magic, tech, etc. Naturally, the lower the tech axiom, the worse technology works. In high-tech cosms like the Cyberpapacy or Pan-Pacifica, you can get up to all kinds of advanced sci-fi antics, but in the low-tech Living Land, your fancy power armor is about as useful as tinfoil.

    Video Games 
  • Only restricted to a single location in Control, but all the technologies within the Oldest House are at most from the 1980's, since anything newer than that does not work within (if smartphones get past the lobby, they explode). Mostly because it's an Eldritch Location. Darling theorizes that it's because newer objects haven't had the time to properly enter humanity's subconscious, as objects being integrated into humanity's subconscious (like how a Mauser is a symbol for "bad guy gun") is what gives them links to the Astral Plane, which the Oldest House is linked to.
  • This trope is why the church of Yevon rules the world in Final Fantasy X. According to their teachings, men became too lazy and proud as technological progress evolved, culminating in the appearance of Sin, who destroyed almost all of the world and technology. Nowadays, the church strictly controls the diffusion of "machina" to prevent Sin for destroying it utterly and labels as heretics anybody who uses or pleads in the favor of technology. It's all a lie.
  • The Reapers of Mass Effect use a subtle version. They leave enough traces of technology from previous races to guide the next generation down a specific technology tree, one that the Reapers can predict and easily counter.
    • A more explicit version is the interspecies government's ban on developing artificial intelligence due to fears of a rebellion. They also ban creating new sapient species, and humanity has gone further by banning any genetic modification that adds new abilities to the human body. "Treatments to improve strength, reflexes, mental ability, or appearance are permitted; adding a tail or the ability to digest cellulose is not."
  • In Stellaris, Fallen Empires with the "Keepers of Knowledge" ethos will declare war on younger empires that attempt to research certain technologies, particularly Jump Drive, though given researching that has a chance of releasing the Unbidden it may be justified.
  • In the backstory to the original Homeworld, a cruel spacefaring Empire was defeated in battle, and its people were dropped on a desert planet and allowed to live on the condition they never again use hyperdrive technology. This didn't work out well for anybody, as several thousand years later the Empire's descendants had forgotten about the treaty, were almost wiped out for breaking it, and then crippled the original victors in revenge. This is expanded upon in the sequels and the prequel, where a religious faction on Kharak also opposes any attempt at developing space technology or studying wrecks of spaceships and even attacks the civilized kiithid, who attempt to mount an expedition to the strange object in the deep desert. The reason they are attempting to do that is because Kharak is becoming less habitable year after year, necessitating progress.
  • The Elder Scrolls In-Universe Books: The 3-volume story of Feyfolken is used to explain why this is the case for enchanting tools. Apparently, if the tools are too easy to use, anyone can craft items with powerful enchantments without being aware of the potential ramifications. The story tells of a quill pen enchanted with such tools, which drove its user insane and eventually, to suicide.
  • The Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout applies this in territory they control. They dedicated themselves to protecting humanity by preventing dangerous technology from falling into the wrong hands, but slowly became more overzealous about it with time, confiscating energy weapons from wastelanders and eventually declaring war on the New California Republic for ignoring their demands in regards to their technology use. If in Fallout: New Vegas you join the Brotherhood by ousting the current Elder in favor of a more traditional one, he orders you to kill the Van Graff family for selling wastelanders energy weapons. In Independent Vegas endings they continue to harass traders for technology, but are much more lenient if the player opts to go the NCR truce route instead.
  • Divinity: Dragon Commander: In the ending, the alliance destroys all their advanced technology and reverts to cobblestone houses and well water, out of fear that the demons who taught them could continue to interlace insanity and mind-control into the equations, as they did to the emperor's children and half the nation. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a horrible idea as it allows centuries of racial discrimination, genocide, and everyone's pants are down when Damian re-invents plasma cannon frigates.
  • 10,000 years before the start of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Sheikah tribe developed advanced Magitek that proved useful in the battle against Ganon. But the other peoples of Hyrule feared that the Sheikah might turn against them with that same technology and thus forbade them from continuing to use it. 100 years before the start of the game, when Ganon's return is foretold, the buried technology is unearthed and put back to use by the Sheikah of that era, but their ignorance of its minute workings as a result of millennia of disuse proves lethal when Ganon possesses the Guardians and Divine Beasts to decimate Hyrule.
  • During the reign of the Forerunners in the backstory of Halo, they prevented the other intelligent races of the galaxy from advancing technologically, believing that their "Mantle of Responsibility" meant that they were the only ones worthy of being so advanced. The San'Shyuum and humanity initially were sufficiently advanced already so as to avoid being held back, but the violent conflicts the humans fought against the Forerunners in their scramble to escape from and hold back the Flood ended with the Forerunners forcibly reducing humanity to primitive tribes as punishment.
  • Kenshi has the organized nation-states follow this trope. It is widely believed that the apocalypse that made the whole place a Death World was specifically caused by robots and rogue AIs, and as a result, everybody stays away from computers, robotics and information technology. The degree of repulsion ranges from the United Cities and the Shek Kingdom tolerating their presence but refusing to actively pursue these technologies, to the Holy Nation making possession of AI cores and robotic limbs illegal and clandestine and being attacked on sight if you had to replace a missing leg with a mechanical prosthetic.
  • The modern setting of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of Medieval Stasis, with magic and melee being the dominant form of warfare, and unremarked-upon cannons aboard ships. Conversely, Those Who Slither in the Dark wield advanced technology such as mechanical golems, Magitek siege weapons, and ballistic missiles. Scraps of information found in the Abyss implies that Rhea and her staff are responsible for stifling technological development in Fodlan, both to prevent humans from destroying themselves and the environment again, and to ensure the Church of Seiros remains the dominant political power in the country.

    Western Animation 
  • In the pilot of Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben and a Plumber come across Kevin selling "level 5" alien technology, at which point the Plumber points out Earth's only cleared for "level 2" technology. After a Forever Knight incinerates himself trying to use a damaged laser rifle, the Plumber justifies this trope, saying humanity isn't ready for it. There's apparently historical precedent for this, as Ben mentions in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien that recklessly accelerating a planet's development via alien technology will usually lead to the planet's doom.
  • In Men in Black: The Series, the agents mention that some alien technology should not be discovered by humans until X years later.
  • In one episode of The Venture Bros., Doctor Venture manages to invent teleportation but the OSI forces him to keep it under wraps so that he doesn't tank the global economy by wiping out several industries (namely auto, oil, mailing, etc.) at once and cause society's elites to come after him.
    • It's also established that the Guild of Calamitous Intent has strict rules over the technology associated villains can utilize in their battles against their archenemies so they don't cause mass destruction and escalate things, or get themselves killed by trying to take on someone way out of their league. They call the system Equally Matched Aggression (EMA) levels with firearms being level 5, Wave Motion Guns level 8, and the most dangerous heroes/villains like Fake Ultimate Hero Jonas Venture and eventually the Monarch being 10.
  • Played for Laughs in The Simpsons when Lisa invents a Perpetual Motion Machine and Homer scolds her, saying "In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"
  • Played for laughs in Futurama when Fry becomes a cop and pulls over a scientist for breaking the law of Lorentz's invariance by going 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of light. note 
  • Rick and Morty: Exploited by Rick in "Rattlestar Ricklactica", where he gives alien invaders information that would allow them to develop time travel, causing the Time Police to step in and prevent them from developing advanced technology in the first place, averting their attack on Earth.

    Real Life 
  • The proposed "Morgenthau Plan" after the defeat of the Nazis in World War II would have forbidden Germany from any sort of heavy industry, reducing it to an agricultural nation. Among other things, the Plan would have involved the balkanization of Germany into smaller and weaker states, the ceding of the heavily industrialized Ruhr region to France, and the forced dispersal of Germans with engineering skills. The thinking was that this would prevent the Germans from starting World War III, and the confiscated materials could help the recovery of war-ravaged Allies such as France or Russia. The idea was abandoned in favor of the Marshall Plan for several reasons:
    1. As Herbert Hoover pointed out, for the idea to have any chance of working, Allied forces would have to exterminate 25 million people or move them out of Germany (for comparison, the Partition of India happening around the same time displaced between 10-20 million people and resulted in up to 2 million deaths).
    2. German industry was so vital to the pre-war economy of Europe that it would need to be revitalized for other countries to also have a chance of recovery.
    3. The desperation and resentment the Germans would feel as a result of having their economy and industry deliberately held back would likely send them straight into the arms of the communists.
    4. The Cold War (and the threat of it turning hot) meant that West Germany, located on the front-line against the Eastern Bloc, would need to not just reindustrialize but also remilitarize in order to contribute to Western Europe's defense.
    • The Morgenthau Plan was also discovered by Germany before their defeat, which disastrously played right into the Nazis' propaganda. They presented it as "proof" that the Jews (Henry Morgenthau was Jewish) sought to exterminate the German people, and thus all Germans must fight to the death against them. American generals referred to this propaganda as being "worth thirty divisions to the Germans", but the fanatical Morgenthau refused to back down until he was forced to resign by President Truman.
  • Speaking of treaties from a world war, the Treaty of Versailles enforced this on Germany and the other Central Powers. Germany in particular was effectively banned from building, fielding, or researching chemical weapons, armored cars, tanks, most military aircraft, battleships, and submarines. The interwar German Governments engaged in Loophole Abuse and/or secretly violating the treaty terms to get around this (such as conducting research in the USSR and labelling prototype tanks as industrial tractors).
  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is effectively the world agreeing to enforce a lack of further nuclear weapon technology on itself. There have been cases, such as Iran, where the rest of the world comes down extremely hard on a country that they believe to be violating the treaty.
  • The Amish purposefully police their own technology usage, as they believe in a simpler lifestyle and think that modern technology will tempt and lead people away from religion/God.
    • Though it's a little more complex than straight Technology Levels; some Amish will occasionally admit the use of specific items of modern technology, but only if it doesn't interfere with their way of life. So, for example, phones are not permitted in the home, but they might have a one in a "phone shanty" shared amongst the community in case of emergency. Acceptance of technology also varies between Amish sub-sects, with some going further than the rest.
    • The Mennonites (another Anabaptist sect) are somewhat more accepting of technology than the Amish are. A typical restriction would be that you can have a car, but it must be painted entirely black with no chrome. Moreover, there is tremendous variation among Mennonite groups, ranging from Old Order groups scarcely different from the Amish, to modernist ones with no tech restrictions at all.