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Humans Advance Swiftly

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"Lost somewhere, between immensity and eternity, is our tiny planetary home, the Earth. For the first time we have the power to decide the fate of our planet, and ourselves. This is a time of great danger, but our species is young and curious and brave. It shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries, about the cosmos, and our place within it."

For every species bar one, Medieval Stasis is how the world works. Changes in technology and society take hundreds of years, and any existing alien civilization or elf kingdom today looks more or less the same as it did a century ago — or will in a century more. For most races in the setting, slow change is the norm.

The great exception are humans. Somehow these talking plains apes, who have only learned to walk fully upright a few hundred thousand years ago, have mastered technology and civilization in a fraction of the time it took everyone else, despite their incredibly short individual lifespans. Or maybe it is that very brevity that drives humans, the sense that they don't have decades to spare and need to accomplish things now. Or the rapid generational turnover means that once we become set in our ways we don't last long enough to impose our views on successors still young enough to be open-minded to new ideas.

Extremely common in both fantasy and sci-fi.

In some cases, the trope may be an excuse for people living 20 Minutes into the Future to go toe-to-toe with Kardeshev II alien civilizations.

A Sub-Trope of Humans Are Special.

Compare Humanity Is Advanced.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Most monsters have Telepathy, therefore they don't use maps or writing. This, coupled with the fact that they can't pass as much knowledge onto their children, has made it so that humans have become the most advanced civilization.

    Comic Books 
  • This is part of why Thundercracker quits the war and throws his lot in with Earth in The Transformers (IDW). Being stranded on Earth for a year and half and nicking some TV to keep entertained, he saw that humans did more in that time than their entire race had done in millions of years besides find new ways to blow each other up.
    "There are few things currently on Earth that have lasted as long as we have. [...] I used to find that transience laughably fragile. But I see now that it's actually a strength I'm just beginning to grasp. [...] I believe I'm finally understanding the meaning of the word... "beautiful". I can't think of the last time we created anything. We have so much to learn here."

  • Child of the Storm has this as one of humanity's hats, as part of the occasionally discussed Humans Are Survivors theme (Thor, and most Asgardians, assumed that it was Humans Are Warriors, but Dumbledore points out that there's considerable overlap). No matter what, no matter how, humans adapt to survive. This manifests biologically with magical humans (adapting to magic in the environment), mutants, and the apparently near unheard of ability for humans to 'incorporate other forms of DNA into their own' (cue Harry, "Oh, is that what they're calling it these days?"). It also manifests technologically, with Thor's canon comment of Earth showing it's "ready for a higher form of war" being demonstrated by the rapid progression from basic nuclear technology to:
    • Dimensional manipulation for teleportation and 'Nexus Bombs' (Jane Foster, HYDRA, and the Red Room).
    • SHIELD and HYDRA successfully reverse engineering Destroyer-based energy weapons (enough that SHIELD feel comfortable giving Harry Dresden his own Destroyer-based Hand Cannon), and in HYDRA's case, reverse engineering the Destroyer outright.
    • HYDRA creating the ''Dreadnought'', a Helicarrier armoured with stolen Vibranium that can shrug off Mjolnir (it has less luck against Magneto, however). MI13, meanwhile, recover its remains and, with reluctant Wakandan help, improve it by building HMS Valiant, a helicarrier capable of taking on the Elder Wyrm, a Thor-level planet buster and giving better than it gets.
    • Tony Stark improving his Power Armour to the point where in an ordinary suit of Earth-based materials, he can overpower Volstagg, one of the most physically powerful Asgardians outside Heimdall and the Royal Family. The most powerful, Project Prometheus, is noted as being — even when incomplete — "a planetary scale emergency" all by itself.
    • It is therefore unsurprisingly noted other species are starting to dimly understand why Asgard is so interested in what was once an insignificant blue planet...
  • An important background element of Renegade. The technology available to the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod is not necessarily as advanced as that of the Citadel, but it is taken in directions that the Citadel species never went. However, the reason for this is because Earth was infested by Tiberium and humanity was locked in global warfare for about fifty years, yet still managed to survive on a planet where the very ground was trying to eat them.. Word of God also implies that Kane is behind a lot of humanity's rapid technology growth. Even so, the Scrin are supposed to be even more advanced.
  • The XSGCOM series is rife with this. Being a fusion of the Stargate-verse and the X-COM series of games, humanity quickly advances. For example, the heaviest weapon that the humans can field in chapter one is a laser rifle. By the latest chapter, we have plasma micronukes, Gatling staff weapons, Power Armor with enough firepower to level Manhattan in a matter of hours, Naquadria-powered satellite weapons, our own ready-made Sarcophagi, artificial gravity, hyperdrives that outstrip comparable Goa'uld designs, Plasma Pistols (AKA "Streams of hyperkinetic death"), and so, so much more. By chapter nineteen of the sequel, humans have already destroyed a quarter of the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy, and we're making money by selling less advanced versions of our weapons to our allies. The true sign that we're advancing fast? The Goa'uld have taken to copying our weapons just to stay in the game, and they're still losing.
    • Although it's worth noting that the reason humans are advancing so fast is because we were made that way.
  • This is noted in the Mass Effect story First Contact. The specific example used were the automatically opening doors being featured on Star Trek, and then within only a year or two such doors were Defictionalized simply because people thought it was a cool idea. The asari explorer who makes first contact with humans is amazed at how swiftly the humans develop new technology so shortly after the idea for it was conceived.
  • Another example from Mass Effect fanfiction is Transcendent Humanity. While the Council civilization is stuck in a time warp — largely unchanged since its inception — Humanity has advanced all the way from destroying Earth's ozone layer by burning fossil fuels to become a full-blown Type II civilization. They lift matter from the Sun for energy consumption and basic construction material. This practice has actually extended the Sun's lifespan. Most of the population -- hovering around two trillion -- lives in quantum substrates, but can download themselves into on-demand bodies instantly, organic or robotic, as current circumstances demand. And that's really just the mundane, daily-grind stuff. Humans did all of this not merely inspite of, but because they did not discover the 'Mass Effect'. Humans did not develop FTL, A.I.s, interstellar colonization, or encounter another space-faring civilization for over two thousand years, and got along just fine. So much for the Magic Space Dust...
  • Yet another example from Mass Effect, is the fic Mass Effect: End of Days. Like the example above, humanity never discovered eezo or relays, but did develop FTL, AIs, interstellar colonization, and did encounter another (hostile) space-faring species. Eventually, A.I become commonplace, and averts A.I. Is a Crapshoot and Robot War. While humanity itself moves along technologically faster than the Citadel, and have already started experimenting with eezo-technology, it is noted that the friendly A.I and the extreme exponential growth A.I's enable, is the reason they are as advanced as they are on a whole.
  • A main point in Ttomalss's study on Humans in Worldwar: War of Equals. According to him, no previous species that The Race has encountered has advanced as fast as the Humans and he think that Human governments stimulate innovation.
  • This can, and will, come up in any fic in the MLP fandom that has anything to do with the meeting of man and pony. Humanity is virtually always depicted as more technologically advanced than Equestria, and tends to have done so in far shorter a period of time. Of course, this is as often used as a virtue of humanity as one of it's vices.

  • In Animorphs, Ax cites this as a reason why the Yeerks fear human exposure, predicting within the century humans would develop FTL travel. At least as far as the books are concerned, that "within the century" is a gross overestimate.
    • Makes for good snark, though:
      Ax: <At times you humans truly scare me. A mere four decades from first orbital spaceflight to the discovery of Zero-space communication? We Andalites may wind up wishing we'd left you to the Yeerks.>
      Rachel: So far, you Andalites pretty much have left us to the Yeerks.
    • There are a couple explanations for this in-universe: The Ellimist once essentially said that some species start out later but develop faster, and other sentient races start early but advance slowly, with humanity and his race being at the respective ends. In Visser, it is suggested our development is at least partially due to the fact that our dialectic, hemispheric brains allow us to second-guess ourselves, making for carefully thought-out decisions, which are ultimately more useful than rushed decisions.
    • At one point the series specifically says that Andalites took 3,000 years to go from achieving powered flight to putting a man on the surface of another celestial body. Ax is astonished that humanity made that leap in less than 70 years... and when you see it put like that, it's hard not to agree with him.
  • A major plot point in the Doom novelizations. Humans are the only species known that don't reincarnate (with full memory), which oddly enough makes humans much less cautious and more eager to advance. The enemy demons in the books scouted Earth around the 15th century, saw the Age of Sail, and left to report back, figuring that when they returned in 600 years (space travel being subject to relativity), humans would still be working with archaic weapons and would be an easy conquest. The fact that humans managed to get to Mars in that time frame scares the crap out of the entire galactic community. In the end of the series, another species is met that advances even faster and ends up being the true threat.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "The Gentle Vultures": One of the alien theories on why World War III didn't happen on schedule is that so soon after humans started manufacturing atomic weapons, we built enough that we knew we would destroy ourselves. This theory is based on humanity's rapid development from industrialization to weaponized nuclear fission. The theory is dismissed on the basis that the result should only be an earlier World War III, not a cessation of hostilities.
    • The "brevity breeds progress" factor is used in his Robot Series, even though there aren't any alien life forms. "Spacers" (humans who live in one of the 50 space colonies) regularly live for upwards of 300 years and have stagnated; Earthers (humans on earth) live to be 70 or so and have advanced geometrically.
  • Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke, is built on this trope.
    • Played with in a later story of his, in which humanity encounters an even faster-advancing, shorter-lived, more explosively breeding species than themselves.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, the lizard-like Race is absolutely amazed that humanity has gone from swords and chainmail to internal combustion engines and radio in only a mere 800 years, when it took their own race tens of thousands of years to make the same advances. They are also amazed that mankind is so willing to advance in the first place. To the conservative Lizards, technology needs several thousands of years to be refined, introduced, and integrated into civilian life. Mankind is willing to strap tubes full of explosives onto a box and call it a spaceship, regardless of how well it works. The Race took generations to even conceive of most advances even when they had all the pieces, while humans make the intuitive leap of combining the pieces almost immediately, even if they're not able to do the actual engineering yet (after building a crude guided missile and an atomic bomb, humanity immediately came up with the idea of a nuclear missile, even if they also knew it would take several generations of both parts to reduce the warhead size and improve the rocket power before such a missile could blow up anything other than the launch pad). The Race also assumed that they already knew everything, so after a hundred years or so, humans are doing crazy things they never even dreamed of (like FTL travel).
    • An earlier Turtledove story, The Road Not Taken, has the premise that interstellar travel is actually stupidly easy to do, but that humans not realizing it allowed them to invest their inventive power in other technologies instead of spaceships. Humans learn of this when would-be Alien conquerors arrive armed with pikes and black powder arquebuses, and they are promptly massacred by human militaries.
  • The aliens in Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series put Humanity on Trial, not only because Humans Are the Real Monsters but also because our technological progress has been much faster than any other alien race's, which combined with the aforementioned cruelty makes the rest of the galaxy very nervous about this little Earth race. In the last book it's explained that the rapid development without a corresponding increase in social development has made humans Low Culture, High Tech from their perspective, and they're looking at the very real possibility of what's essentially a barbarian invasion.
  • In Out of the Dark, aliens decide to send a warrior race to conquer humanity after being horrified by a medieval battle. Said race is considerably alarmed to find the situation rather changed when they finally arrive, centuries later, and their ground forces subsequently take a beating. The sequels reveal that, while humanity is definitely a huge outlier, there have been other species the Galactic Hegemony encountered that advanced faster than the galactics would like, so they took measures to nip the threat in the bud. There's also a more or less believable explanation for why the Hegemony's technological development has plateaued tens of thousands of years ago: incredible longevity (they live for centuries), post-scarcity (no consumerism or competition to drive the progress), and the dominance of herbivores (who don't see the sense of advancing past the point where their safety and needs are met). Still, in only four decades after the failed Shongairi invasion, humanity has used the captured technology to make incredible breakthroughs that go far beyond what the Hegemony has even considered possible, including Lightspeed Leapfrogging a ship humans sent out 40 years previously. The space battle over Shongaru is a Curb-Stomp Battle without a single human casualty and the entire Shongairi home fleet wiped out. Humans only take casualties during the assault on the orbital habitat and only because the Shongairi are fighting on their home turf, and the humans are deliberately holding back in order not to harm civilians.
  • Remembrance of Earth's Past:
    • The Trisolarans estimate that in the five centuries it will take them to reach Earth four light-years away, Earth will have far surpassed Trisolaran technology and will easily crush the invasion force... unless Trisolaris can halt Earth's scientific progress.
    • Even with the sophon block, humanity makes some astonishingly rapid progress. By the early 23rd century, while the Trisolaran invaders are still two hundred years away, they've built a massive Standard Sci-Fi Fleet and constructed space habitats all over the solar system. And this is in spite of a colossal economic collapse (the "Great Ravine") that pretty much shattered civilization as we know it for decades and halved the population of Earth.
    • It is told that this trope is another reason why exactly the Dark Forest Theory is so prevalent in the universe; because the moment that "Civilization A" becomes aware of "Civilization B" and tries to look at them again, it is likely that "Civilization B" will have advanced technologically faster than "Civilization A" has and would pose an even bigger threat.
  • Played straight in the Skylark Series universe at least initially, with Dick Seaton going from World War One-era aviation technology to FTL spaceflight in a single jump. After he gets to Osnome, almost everything he does from that time on relies in some part on knowledge or technology borrowed from, captured from, or granted to him by other spacefaring races, and his only edge seems to be an ability to put it together into a more seamless whole.
  • Inverted in Sergey Lukyanenko's short story Evening Conversation with Mr. Special Ambassador, where the aliens who originally planned to take Earth for themselves decide to leave us alone after realizing how ridiculously dumb we are compared to every other race. The titular "Special Ambassador" mentions off-hand that his grandfather invented the wheel, while looking at their starship. Basically, they make monumental discoveries every few months, if not weeks. At the end of the story, they leave but let the humans keep their ships, which are obsolete by then, in the hopes of jump-starting our progress.
  • In Troy Rising, this is one of the reasons the alien Glatun ally with humanity. They (the Glatun) are a race on the decline, while every analysis of humanity's potential says that the primitives from Earth a) won't be primitive much longer and b) are going to be a force to be recognized simply because humans have a history of technological advancement that no other species can match.
    • Lots of this is due to Humanity being the first species in a long time that wasn't technologically uplifted from a pre-space culture. Despite barely being in space as galactics figure, we have a complete technological culture, with understanding of our technology. Most other species were Bronze Age at best when discovered. As a result, when given access to galactic tools, we can do things with it the other races can't. And the few things we really don't understand, we spend a lot of time reverse engineering. Especially A.I.s.
    • Another thing unique about humanity is the concept of science fiction that seems to be utterly absent in every other civilization. This means humans can imagine technological applications and solutions no other species would even consider. For example, when the humans first show off their Orion Drive during a battle, the aliens nearly go insane from the concept itself.
  • Inverted in Codex Alera. The human technology and engineering of the Lost Roman Legion eventually stagnated when humans developed bonds with furies and gained various Elemental Powers. These powers allowed humans to develop a form of Magitek, but a combination of a very conservative mindset (engendered by constantly fighting against other civilizations for simple survival) and the advantages of furycraft meant that Aleran technology stagnated to the point where after two thousand years their tech hasn't changed much. By comparison, the Canim's technology is far more advanced, and is actively employed by a species that also has access to Blood Magic and superhuman speed, strength, toughness, and senses, and totally outnumbers the Alerans by a vast degree.
  • Illegal Aliens: Though initially technologically inferior to the alien races they encounter, Humans catch up quickly (albeit with the help of an alien technician) and surpass the weaponry, medical, and general technological abilities of the aliens they got most of the technology from in the first place. For example, they regenerate members of an extinct alien race, create a type of unobtanium ship armor that an alien earlier on in the story was lying about to make them think alien ships were tougher than they really were, created original weapons based on an "atomic vortex" that started with a pistol that was ridiculously powerful and escalated to a cannon that could wipe out massive fleets of automated attack satellites, and generally overcame any and all opposition by races whose technology they hadn't even known about mere months before.
  • In The Excalibur Alternative, human advancement is startlingly fast compared to the stasis of other races. This leads to the Federation sending a squadron to destroy humanity... except that another human group objects violently.
  • In the Uplift series, pre-sentient species are genetically uplifted by extant starfaring races and are given knowledge and technology by their patrons. Since almost every sentient species goes through this process, innovation and original research are not exactly encouraged. Humans, who apparently evolved to sentience without a patron species, had to develop all of their technology up to rudimentary interstellar travel for themselves, and so place a much higher value on ingenuity than the rest of the galactic civilization.
  • This appears to be the case in Ender's Game with humanity quickly advancing from just being able to leave Earth to traveling and settling faraway worlds in just 70 years. Of course, it's revealed that much of that technology is reverse-engineered and/or adapted from the Buggers. This is showcased by the following novels, which take place 3000 years later with about the same level of technology.
    • That stagnation being justified to a certain point by the fact that the best and brightest of at least one generation were packed onto near-lightspeed starships and taken out of circulation for decades (possibly centuries in some cases) of relativistic space travel before arriving on colony worlds where they were too busy with the logistics of setting up new colonies to make much headway in theoretical physics. That accounts for the first few centuries, maybe the first millennium if you're being generous; after that, it's a case of Modern Stasis / Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale.
    • Then come the prequel novels that Retcon some of the inventions to being purely human in origin, including gravity lensing and the Little Doctor (originally a "gravity laser" developed for asteroid mining).
  • The atevi of the Foreigner (1994) series developed their technology a lot more slowly than humans did, which puzzled humans a great deal, since the atevi are just as smart as humans while being much better at math. The humans eventually decided it was due to two things:
    1. The atevi are perfectionists who will concentrate on getting a technology just right before moving onto the next form of technology, while humans are completely fine with "good enough".
    2. The various philosophical systems of the atevi are numerologically based, so when a new scientific discovery is made, their culture spends a long time completely integrating that discovery into their numerologies before moving onto the next thing.
  • In Pact, this trope is cited by Johannes Lillegard as the reason why humanity is ultimately winning in their two thousand year war against the supernatural, a war which most of humanity doesn't even know that it is fighting. Because supernatural creatures root themselves in concepts, the rapid change in human society following the Industrial Revolution has resulted in them being beaten back— by the time they adjust, the concept that they've attached themselves to may well have become obsolete. Only the most powerful of them, rooted in fundamental concepts, endure— and they are powerless to act against humanity as a whole, because they have usually signed a Magically-Binding Contract that they cannot attack humans that haven't penetrated the Masquerade.
  • In the Perry Rhodan universe, Arkonids have had an empire for 20 thousand years, but Arkonids almost immediately stopped caring about space and became reclusionist. Yet neither has ever explored all the galaxy, not even talking about anything beyond. Humanity needs about 200 years from being gifted a drive to produce as many ships as the Arkonid empire, reverse-engineer a different type of hyperdrive, make the traditional one require way less fuel and jump way further, and find stealth methods to prevent detection of the use of the jump drives. In about 600 years Earth is destroyed and humans become kinda nomadic, leading to them travelling to other galaxies. At least the Terrans get help from some Arkonids and from the best microtechnicians in the known part of the galaxy. Until, after a few hundred years, mutated humans who are only 20 cm tall are better microtechnicians than the ones which used to help them.
  • In Alien in a Small Town, the aliens come from a world with very little atmospheric oxygen, and so they note how "absurdly early in their prehistory" humans discovered fire.
  • In Rhythm of War, the Fused Raboniel mentions this as the reason why she admires humanity, unlike the rest of her kin who want to Kill All Humans. When comparing humanity's technological advancements across history to the immortal Fused's, she likens it to the sprinter outpacing the steady runner, as her own people suffer Creative Sterility by her standards.
  • Of the World of Ulella Nor: The titular main character comes from an alien race whose advanced technology took millions of years to invent, as they always prioritized projecting the potential consequences for centuries before designing any prototypes. After giving the humans a head start in mathematics that supposedly would take 'at least 20 human generations' for any species to progress into space travel and even further for nuclear weapons, the humans invent nuclear weapons in less than a century, and take slightly longer to begin a space program, dumbfounding the main character with how humans are equal parts barbaric and ingenious, eventually settling for 'insane'.
  • Wearing Power Armor To A Magic School: In comparison to almost every other race in the galaxy, who have access to magic and have long since migrated to an alternate dimension with near-unlimited raw resources and stable FTL trade routes, humans have been forced to advance swiftly because they couldn't cut corners with magic— as their ability to tolerate magic devolved and has outright become a Weaksauce Weakness. While magic has its own technology tree and the galactic community is on par with humans in terms of military potential, the importance of using bodily magic to manage everything magical means the they are eternally stuck in a Feudal Future; the magic-saturated nobles are incapable of realizing that their Low Culture, High Tech lifestyle is holding them back from swifter progress and true greatness— if they aren't abusing their magically-deficient slaves for the lulz. Meanwhile, the humans react to their horrific first failure of a student exchange by building a magic-resistant drone-assisted military-grade suit of power armor capable of absorbing twenty-nine types of magical radiation in less than twenty years.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek shows a vision of a future humanity which has eliminated war, disease, material need, social unrest and prejudice entirely. This is achieved in at most a century; despite the Eugenics Wars and World War III having devastated the planet in the mid-21st century, by the mid-22nd a United Earth Government has been set up. By the late 23rd century, humanity are technologically on par with the other galactic powers and are founding and influential members of an enormous Federation of hundreds to thousands of alien species.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise both the Klingons and the Vulcans (and thus the Romulans) are barely less advanced then they are in the era of Kirk a century later and have been in space a lot longer than humanity has. The Bajorans have also had interstellar capability for centuries longer than humanity. Humanity not only catches up with all of these races (and passes the Bajorans by in the process), they become the driving force behind technological advancement in the entire known galaxy. Given that Earth had a nuclear war just a century ago, Vulcans of the ENT-era find the rapid technological advancement of the humans to be a bit worrisome.
      Soval: We had our wars, Admiral, just as Humans did. Our planet was devastated, our civilization nearly destroyed. Logic saved us. But it took almost 1500 years for us to rebuild our world and travel to the stars. You Humans did the same in less than a century. There are those on the High Command who wonder what Humans would achieve in the century to come. And they don't like the answer.
    • It's also shown that the war that ended with the Romulan off-shoot leaving Vulcan was nuclear in nature. Which was 2000 years ago. Not much has changed since then for the Vulcans or the Romulans, except for the warp drive. Which is strange, given that Vulcans place a lot of emphasis on science and discovery, while their Romulan cousins are as ambitious as ever. Although it is possible that they bombed themselves back to their Stone Ages.
    • It's revealed that the Klingons got a jump-start on their technology in the 14th century, when an alien race known only as the Hur'q invaded Qo'noS. After kicking them out (to the point where there are no Hur'q to be found), the Klingons appropriate their technology and embark on a quest to conquer the galaxy. Scientists are treated like crap in their society, as are doctors, although there are some indicators that this is a fairly recent development. Archer's Klingon lawyer explains that his used to be a revered profession, as well as his father's, who was a teacher. Now, all Klingons think that honor and glory belong only to warriors (including those who slaughter defenseless civilians). The IKS Gorkon novels show how difficult it is for a doctor and an engineer (both of whom are women, although that is irrelevant in Klingon society outside of politics) to make significant changes in Klingon society due to social taboos.
    • To the other races' credit, the appearance of humans on the scene seems to light a fire under their collective asses—the Klingons advance just as much as the Federation between Kirk's time and Picard's, and the Romulans seem to be ahead of both the Federation and the Klingons.
    • Even before Star Trek: Enterprise, other cues pointed to the Klingons being nearly in Medieval Stasis: their uniforms haven't even changed in 100 years between the movies and the TNG-DS9-VOY era. It takes them THAT LONG also to come up with new ship designs, and they are still using hardware in the Dominion War that was around in Kirk's day (the Bird of Prey and the K't'inga-class battlecruiser) alongside the newer warships. Meanwhile the Federation's come up with about 100 new ships in the intervening decades.
      • Star Trek: Discovery does show that the Klingons seemed to have developed cloaking tech all on their own. Previously, the commonly-accepted fan theory (stated in several novels) was that it was due to a technology exchange with the Romulans during a short-lived alliance (explaining why Romulans are using Klingons ships in a few TOS episodes). While it's still possible for T'Kuvma to have obtained the tech from a Romulan or a Suliban, this isn't mentioned. At least one Klingon House has pretty advanced surgical techniques, which can be used to create a Manchurian Agent that passes all Federation testing.
  • In Stargate SG-1, humanity advances swiftly through reverse-engineering captured alien technology (not to mention having the Asgard just hand humanity all of their technological knowledge when they realise that they're about to die, along with giving all their ships a serious tune-up — though as is pointed out, actually accessing and understanding that knowledge, let alone implementing it is going to take a very long time). That said, this trope applies because it honestly seems as if no other species has had any significant technological advances in millennia. For example, the technology used by the Goa'uld of 3000 BC (as seen in the episode "Moebius") is no different from what is being used by the Goa'uld in the present day.
    • Justified in the case of the Goa'uld. It is heavily implied that they have stolen all of their technology, as befitting their nature as parasites, and with the exception of only a few characters (primarily, Ba'al and Nirrti), none of the race is ever shown to have any interest in developing technology on their own. They're much happier sitting on their thrones and ruling over legions of slaves — though the smarter ones do come to realise that if they don't at least partially adapt, then the Tau'ri will keep picking them off.
    • There are other human civilisations that are more advanced than Earth, such as the Aschen, but the only human civilizations to consistently advance besides the Tau'ri are the Tollan and the Genii, the latter in the Pegasus Galaxy (the Orbanians have nanotech and advance pretty fast, but only appear in one episode).
      • The Tollan are beating Earth humans by a few centuries (and they don't like to share their tech — suggested to be on the grounds that the last time they did share their tech with a less advanced civilisation, they blasted themselves to pieces with it — so the Tau'ri never reverse engineer it like they do with Goa'uld and Asgard tech). Unfortunately for them, they also seem content to take a measured path towards progress, are somewhat naive and militarily speaking, are entirely dependent on their technology — if it doesn't work, they run out of ideas. When Anubis finds a way to counter their only means of planetary defense, they agree to help him develop phasing WMDs... instead of using those against him.
      • The Genii are about on par with WWII Earth, with near complete nuclear weapons (close enough that Rodney McKay's brains and a bit of C4 more or less finishes them off), guns, and radios. That being said, they don't have planes or similar technology, since their chief strategy for dealing with the Wraith (and everyone else) is leaving an apparent low-tech farming society on the surface, while the majority of them live in underground cities.
  • In Babylon 5 humanity went from a primitive ability to cross their own solar system to one of the setting's major powers, with relatively advanced technology, in less than a hundred years. There's a good reason for it: the Centauri, the race that discovered humanity, started selling Earth Alliance what for them was antiquated technology planning to make humans dependent on them and slowly subjugate them economically and then politically, a plan that was actually working on some members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds (an alliance created specifically to counter them), only to be caught by surprise when Earth studied how they worked, made their own (often more primitive) version, and advanced from that — that is, exactly what the Centauri would have done (and do with every piece of technology they get their hands on) — before starting to actively look for advanced technology all over space. The Centauri and the Minbari still outclass humanity, and the First Ones are even more advanced, but by the time of the series the gap has been greatly reduced.
    • Following the series the gap would be further reduced as the newly formed Interstellar Alliance was established. Fellow members like the Minbari shared their technological advances with Earth. Among the advances were showing humans how to create artifical gravity in space which would allow humans to create ships and space based installations that did not need to make use of rotating sections for gravity.
  • In Ultraman Z, humanity is shown to be this compared to past series, as while STORAGE starts off with Sevenger, a basic Humongous Mecha with no special weapons, they quickly start developing newer, stronger SAA units by analysing and replicating alien technologies, culminating with Ultroid Zero, an artificial Ultraman. This was all part of Celebro's plan, as the villainous parasite instilled fear in humanity by sending monsters to attack them, prompting them to develop stronger weapons until they make a weapon strong enough to wipe out themselves, which he would then hijack and use to commit planetary genocide.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller:
    • When the Terrans meet the Vilani they are 20 Minutes into the Future. By the end they are state of the art.
    • Granted, the Vilani are humans as well, they just had an over-emphasis on conservatism. The Third Imperium (ruled by a mix of both races) is a heterogenous mix of high- and low-tech planets.
    • There's another example, called out in-setting as even more extreme than the Terran takeoff. The Daryens (Transplanted Humans like all other human races except the Terrans), after an influx of refugees fleeing the collapsing Second Imperium, went from hunter-gatherers to just about the highest technological development of an interstellar human civilisation ever in roughly 500 years.
  • A mild example in Dungeons & Dragons. Of all the standard races, only half-orcs age faster than stock humans (because orcs are even shorter-lived). Because of this, they learn their trades/classes faster and at younger ages.
  • Inverted in the main setting of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man uses essentially the same (admittedly advanced) technology they had 10,000 years ago. While humans do get new technology — how else should Games Workshop sell more models? — much of it is implied to be simply rediscovered old tech. Humans have basically stagnated into a Medieval-European Used Future setting where access to technology is restricted to a priest class that invents and builds all technology and views the stuff as magical in nature. Meanwhile, the alien Tau went from stone tools and fire to an interstellar empire in just 6,000 years, surpassing the Imperium's technology in a number of respects.
    • In the background canon however, this is played with. After discovering Warp travel, humanity quickly went on to become one of the most extensive and technologically-advanced civilizations to have ever existed, surpassing even the Eldar at their height. This period of humanity, the so-called "Dark Age of Technology", was ended with a Robot War when the Men of Iron turned against humanity. This, combined with a series of devastating Warp storms brought about by the fall of the Eldar, led to the Age of Strife. Then The Emperor pretty much marched humanity through a second Renaissance, uniting them under a single banner to became the single most powerful race in the galaxy, on the cusp of entering a new golden age, reconciling the power of science and technology with a rational humanist agenda. Then along came the Horus Heresy and several millennia later, you have the tabletop Imperium that we all know and love.
  • Warhammer:
    • The humans of the Empire are one of the most technologically advanced races in the whole setting, possessing cannons and muskets aplenty, the odd rifle, a handful of steam-powered tanks, and even clockwork horses. Most of the really cool technological marvels come out of the city of Nuln and the city's technology is only surpassed by that of the Dwarfs, the Chaos Dwarfs and the Skaven, though these races have all pretty much fallen into Medieval Stasis — the Dwarfs refuse to use anything that hasn't been tested for at least two hundred years (and even then you still have some who think gunpowder is a newfangled fad that isn't worth a good crossbow), the Chaos Dwarfs are very few in number and prefer to rely on slave labour, and the Skaven are fractured by constant infighting and rarely ever unite long enough to threaten anybody else. The Empire meanwhile are building new stuff every day.
    • Also, the Chaos Dwarfs primarily power their technology through daemonic possession, and the Skaven power their machines with warpstone (which has a tendency to mutate anything it touches, if it doesn't just explode) and many of their machines explode before they can build a second one. Plus, there are Dwarfs who will use machines without testing them for two centuries, but they usually head to the human city of Nuln, meaning that the only Dwarfs who might actually innovate at a decent rate are doing it for the human empire.
  • Space 1889 Humans Advance Swiftly indeed, compared to Martians. Even at their best, they do not seem to have advanced as quickly as humans, now they are moving backwards.

    Video Games 
  • The human Systems Alliance in Mass Effect has, within thirty-five years of discovering Imported Alien Phlebotinum on Mars, advanced to the point where it's seen as a threat to the current galactic order. Said galactic order has stood for 2800 years and has not had any significant technological advances since. In the second game it's made clear that the majority of new technologies are coming from human sources. However, this is the point: every race discovered the same Phlebotinum that humanity did and has based their civilizations around it, just as the Reapers planned. It is worth noting, however, that the geth as a species are actually advancing the fastest, and being a synthetic species, they're advancing technology in ways that the Reapers didn't intend.
    • At the same time, some of them are trying to be more like the Reapers, believing the latter to be perfection itself.
    • In the third game, the entire quarian fleet is under threat from a single geth dreadnought, the largest dreadnought ever built.
    • This trope is actually invoked during a conversation in the first game, where Liara comments that humans are seen as bold and aggressive by many in the galaxy, but after spending time with them, she realizes that they're just incredibly driven. Shepard replies that, unlike the asari who can live for over 1000 years, humans have to make the most of the 150 years or so given to them and don't like to waste time sitting on their hands.
      • Salarians only live for 40 years, and are stated by in-universe sources to have photographic memories and to be able to learn and think faster than other species, including humans. The salarians are not new arrivals, and discovered space travel shortly after the asari did, well over 1000 years ago. The problem is, they will overthink everything before making a decision about how to proceed. In comparison, humanity is the only race brazen enough to admit that the real reason they want to try impossible things, is simply for no other reason than to prove they can, just for the sheer hell of it all!
    • This takes a much darker turn when humans become the first race to destroy a mass relay, when Shepard crashes an asteroid into one to prevent the Reapers from using the system as a beachhead to mount their invasion.
    • The Precursors of the current "generation" of species, the Protheans, died out 50,000 years ago. Many of these species still remember the Protheans in their mythologies. This means they had to at least be at the Bronze Age of development (yes, there are Space Romans in this game) or somewhere thereabouts. Meanwhile, 50,000 years ago, humans hadn't gone past drawing on cave walls. Some species that remember the Protheans in their mythology (like the asari) discovered the Citadel 2,000 years ago, while humans didn't have space travel until 200 years ago, and discovered their first mass relay a couple decades ago.
  • In Sword of the Stars, humanity built a military machine called SolForce, capable of defending itself from the stagnant Hivers and Tarka who both beat us to the stars by a few millennia, in a matter of decades. Humanity are still chump change compared to the Liir, who just popped up into the galactic scene from practically nowhere in a manner of years. In-game, the humans are second-best at research, behind the Liir and above the Hivers and Tarka. With A Murder of Crows they share the second place with the Morrigi in the beginning, but the latter's economy bonus means they zoom past humanity in research once they've started trading.
    • The Zuul also advance quickly, but most of their tech is stolen or reverse-engineered from other races. It's heavily implied in The Deacon's Tale novel that their FTL is based on the human Node drive with a few alterations (supposedly, the guy who designed the drive is a traitor). The Liir, though had no choice in advancing their tech. When they were enslaved by the Suul'ka (who are their own Elders who have gone mad with power), the latter force-march them through Industrial Revolution into the space age.
      • The second game reveals that the Liir actually have had spaceflight for 320,000 years. It's just that until recently the only Liir with the motivation to make use of the technology were their Suul'ka overlords. A couple centuries ago the Liir heard the psychic screams of the Suul'ka-Morrigi war and finally decided to rebel and establish colonies on other planets so that if one world's Eldest went Suul'ka the others could stop him.
    • According to The Deacon's Tale novel, human space is roughly the same size as the space of the Hivers, the Liir, and the Tarka. The Hivers were in space for millennia, but have constantly fought among themselves and nuked many of their colonies, not to mention that they rely on slower-than-light ships and a Portal Network for interstellar travel while everyone else has a form of FTL drive (humans have the fastest one).
  • In Galactic Civilizations (as explained in the manual), 100,000 years ago, while humanity hadn't even begun to form civilizations, the Arceans and Drengin had fission power and stargates. 100,000 years later, they haven't really advanced on either front, while humanity has come out of nowhere and, after the Arceans shared the stargate technology, humanity combined this technology with the front on which we had advanced beyond the Arceans and Drengin — fusion power — and created hyperdrive, enabling ships to independently travel faster than light for the first time since the Precursors died out.
  • In the X-Universe, a bunch of Terran ships venture into the unknown in order to trap a race of rogue Terraformers behind them. This works, but they find themselves stranded in a universe already populated by four other races, all at a significantly higher level of technology. Through trading and reverse engineering it only takes a few decades for the rechristened Argon race to become owners of the largest section of space in the known universe, spearhead every new scientific development around, build a mighty army, give a sound ass-kicking to the local warrior race and effectively police the entire universe, much to the annoyance of everybody else except the peaceful Borons.
    • Later in the series the wormhole back to Earth that was originally sealed to stop the terraformers is re-opened, and eventually the Argon find themselves at the receiving end of an ass-kicking of their own — administered by the original Terrans, who prove that the only species capable of faster development than humans are, of course, other humans.
  • The Covenant of the Halo universe revere their Forerunner-derived technology, to the point that it would be blasphemy to even suggest merely changing the settings. They had a huge 3000 year old head start over humanity, but by the end of the war, humans were beginning to not only reverse-engineer, but improve upon captured Covenant technology.
    • Outside of religious dogma, the other big factor seemingly constricting the Covenant's advancement was that R&D in general was mostly reserved for only two species; the Engineers, who by the deliberate design of their original Forerunner creators were far more interested in improving the functionality of pre-existing technology as opposed to creating new inventions, and the Prophets, who despite their intelligence were simply far too few in number to ever match humanity's collective brainpower.
    • By the events of Halo 4, human technology has advanced to the point where their flagship (complete with Forerunner-derived engines) is able to ram through Covenant ships without taking a scratch (though the vast majority of human technology is still nowhere near that advanced yet). In contrast, during the original Human-Covenant War, it took no less than a three-to-one ship advantage for the humans to survive a space battle. For their part, the splintered remnants of the Covenant are still mostly trying to recover the pre-Covenant scientific traditions that had been hobbled by the Prophets, though we later find out that some factions, like the Arbiter's human-friendly Swords of Sanghelios, have made some impressive headway in this regard.
  • In Starcraft, humans made a start in the sector as a few tens-of-thousands about 200 years ago, but are now a credible power. In comparison, it's debatable whether the Zerg advance at all (and all of the maybe advancement in the games at least has been at the hands of Kerrigan), and the Protoss advance so slowly that it takes a major war to get anything moving at all (and half the new weapons in the second game are apparently stuff they've had stashed away for centuries).
  • X-COM
    • One of the great advantages of humanity in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. In a matter of months, humanity goes from being armed with conventional weapons — akin to peashooters when compared to the aliens' equipment — to reverse-engineering their armor, power sources, weaponry, and psionics to field soldiers better armed than the enemy's frontline troops, and equipping fighter craft that are better-armed than their battleships. That was all part of the Ethereals' plan; they wanted a slave supersoldier species that was (A) psychically gifted, (B) intelligent, and (C) resilient, which all other species they tested (including themselves) failed in some way. Too bad for them that humanity proves too good at the job..
    • XCOM 2: After pummeling humanity into submission, the aliens use the brightest of their new slaves as technicians and doctors. Said humans turn out to be more ingenious than the aliens realized once they have the secrets of the aliens' technology spelled out for them. This time, XCOM's entire R&D consists of two geniuses, less than twelve researchers with degrees in alien technology, and scattered resistance cells living in the boonies. They manage to reverse-engineer every major alien black-site project, complete the projects for themselves, and liberate their world in less than a year.
  • Also the case in Xenonauts. Within just a few months of first contact, humans will be swinging around laser weapons. Within the year, humans will be using magnetic weapons and Powered Armor. The Internet becomes popularised 10-15 years ahead of schedule. The game is set in 1979.
  • Iji: Human scientists were able to create Iji's gear, something that rivals Komato Generals, with just about 6 months of research while hiding. The Tasen and Komato have been working on this stuff for millions of years. Having nothing to do but make a super solider to fight off invading aliens was probably a big motivator.
  • Played with in Endless Space's multiple human factions. The Vaulters, a human empire originating from a Lost Colony, are among the best scientists in the known universe, but they are beaten by the eternally curious Sophon aliens. On the other hand, the Vaulters are not completely incompetent at combat like the Sophons are. The Pilgrims receive indirect science and cash bonuses via their ability to easily establish trade routes, and the United Empire and Sheredyn's industrial might allows them to churn out scientific data.
    • In the prequel Endless Legend, the Vaulters, who are the only ones on Auriga who truly remember their origins in space and utilize salvaged Lost Technology, are roughly tied with the Ardent Mages, another human faction focusing on research.
  • In FTL: Advanced Edition, human crewmembers gain a 10% boost to their skill EXP gains compared to all other races.
  • Discussed in Xenoblade Chronicles X. All humanity's recent inventions that allowed them to avoid being blown up along with Earth, including FTL travel, mechas, forcefields and Ridiculously Human Robot bodies were all developed within the last 30 years. Luxaar is rather frustrated that such "primitive" creatures could have such technology. It's revealed that all of said tech came from Elma's people.
  • Humans in Stellaris have the "Quick Learners" trait which lets their leaders gain experience 25% faster than other races. This very useful trait means their scientists can level up really quickly and pump out tons of research.
  • Deconstructed in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. Elves and Dwarves recognize that humans do advance swiftly, but their short lives mean they rarely live long enough to see the consequences of their actions. When a new technology is discovered, humans would ask "what are its potential?", while Dwarves would ask "what is the cost of its use?". Part of the Elves Versus Dwarves conflict is how the Elves blame the Dwarves for giving steam technology to humans, resulting in Elven forests getting cut down rapidly.

  • Addressed directly in the 'Galimaufry' arc of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire, where a historical treatise mentions that several races do, indeed, act like this: bursting onto the galactic scene, developing, conquering, and evolving at a staggering rate, while the older, more stagnant races just look on and roll their eyes. Because inevitably, those swiftly-developing races will quickly burn themselves out, blow themselves up, or just plain Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, thus restoring the status quo. Meanwhile, the more sedate races often hang around for millennia. Humanity is an odd one out, since they do indeed shake things up, but display no signs of slowing down. As it turns out, there's a reason for that... (DUM DUM DUMMM!)
  • Freefall: It's repeatedly brought up that humans advance far more swiftly than Sqids (the setting's other sapient race), to the point where Sam estimates that even if Sqid scholars spent all their time doing nothing but reading humanity's papers, we would still keep producing new advances faster than the Sqids could copy from us. This is speculated to be due to different biological imperatives producing different social structures: Sqid society is built around thievery and far more anarchistic than humanity tends to, and as such they have trouble pooling knowledge and working together.
  • In Noblesse, discussed by the Previous Lord, and Rai isn't exactly fazed by going to sleep for 820 years and waking up in a modern city. The human he spent the most time with was a scientific genius, so he probably figures that massive technological advances are what humans so.
  • This is one of the driving themes behind Schlock Mercenary. However, the main galaxy-changing human invention (the teraport) has actually been created numerous times; it's just that time around, due to the inventor joining a highly competent mercenary company by pure chance and spamming the galaxy with the design once he realized what was happening, the secret got out before it could be suppressed.
    • Later in the comics, humans are revealed to already be ahead of the curve in two other technologies that turn out to be recurring in the Milky Way's cycle of Recursive Precursors: The UNS developed a Long Gun decades if not centuries before widespread use of the teraport, and having an active immortality/Super-Soldier programme in Project Laz'R'Us. Both of these are military secrets the UNS are willing to kill to keep suppressed.

    Web Original 
  • The To'ul'h civilization has been agricultural for over 100,000 years and the Muuh civilization has been spacefaring for tens of millions of years by the time Terragens arrive on the scene in Orion's Arm. Over that time, the To'ul'h have made gradual but small advances, and the Muuh have been extremely stolid and unchanging. Yet in their 10,000 years in space, the terragens (not humans per se, but still, humanity's creations and descendants) have crossed six singularities.
    • The To'uls at least had the excuse of evolving on a planet with no fossil fuels and chaotic weather that made air travel impractical. Once the terragens bootstrapped them they proved as prolific as their patrons.
  • A critical element of The Salvation War, wherein the demons from Hell periodically send recon into Earth to make sure the "cattle" that they feed on are still progressing as expected. They do this regularly, by their standards — which means once every two hundred years, for an immortal species like they are. Despite the gradual advances of human technology over many thousands of years, they're still unable to mount any kind of serious counter to anything the demons possess, what with their superhuman strength and toughness, sheer numbers, and supernatural abilities. As a result, when Yahweh declares open season on humanity, the demons roll onto Earth expecting at best to be facing armies still using muzzle-loading cannons, muskets, and swords. Instead, they meet jet fighters, gunships, tanks, and rocket artillery.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is very much Truth in Television. Before the "mental revolution" in African Homo sapiens about 70,000 years ago, it was the norm for lithic industries to remain unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, even as their makers evolved in completely new biological species. If we factor in the tools made by non-hominids like bird nests and insect-catching sticks, we may conclude that the norm is for technology to remain unchanged for millions of years.
    • Oldowan or "Mode I" tools were used both by Homo habilis, who was little more than a glorified Australopithecus, and the much more human-like H. ergaster in Africa and H. erectus in Eurasia. They appeared 2.6 million years ago and were phased out 1.7 million years ago, 900,000 years later.
    • Acheulean or "Mode II" tools were used from 1.7 million years ago to only 130,000 years ago in Africa. This makes its main development, the hand-axe, the longest used tool in all of human history.
    • Mousterian or "Mode III" tools were used by the Neanderthals of Europe from 160,000 to 40,000 years ago. A brief, enigmatic new technology known as Chatelperronian (45,000 – 40,000 years ago) has been interpreted as Neanderthal attempts to imitate the Aurignacian or "Mode IV" used by newly arrived H. sapiens. If true, this means Neanderthals were smart enough to realize their technology was outclassed upon meeting H. sapiens, yet it didn't occur to them to improve on their technology before that.
  • For a perfect example of how fast human society can advance, just look at the 20th century: In 1900, America was still on the tail edge of the cowboy age, and a mere 14 years later saw the start of World War I. The intervening 86 years saw the birth or advancement of nuclear energy, the automobile, the microprocessor, television, the telephone, motion pictures, flight, space travel, and even more cultural, medical and technological advances than can be easily counted. If you were to transport a person from 1900 to the year 2000, they would not recognize the world after a mere hundred years.
    • There were people who went West in covered wagons and lived to see men walking on the moon.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Humanity Advances Swiftly


Humanity Learned Zoltraak

Frieren explains Qual's signature spell which took him hundreds of years to make was analyzed and learned by humans during the years Qual was sealed because humans can learn magic far quicker than demons. This makes Qual's trump card spell far less effective than before.

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Main / HumansAdvanceSwiftly

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