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Technology Uplift

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Many civilizations that have access to technology more advanced than modern day humanity in speculative fiction works have some sort of law against sharing tech with "lower" peoples. But then there are those who not only are willing to trade with the local primitives, they might even see it as their "duty" in some way.

If a work has both a civilization that uplifts and one that doesn't interfere, they can be portrayed in one of two ways depending on the author's sympathies. The uplifters could be exploitative imperialists who use their "clients" for cheap labor, or those who refuse to share tech could be stuck-up elitists who treat less advanced societies like wildlife. Rarely, both sides will be sympathetic, with no clear right answer.

May result in Low Culture, High Tech if screwed up. Giving Radio to the Romans is when the uplifted and uplifting culture are temporally rather than spatially separated. ET Gave Us Wifi is kind of an unintentional example. Often involves Imported Alien Phlebotinum. See also Uplifted Animal, when the client race initially isn't even sapient and is modified by their patrons.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Defied in Creature Girls: A Hands-On Field Journal in Another World. Certain technologies, namely gunpowder, electricity, and the internal combustion engine, are banned by societal convention due to monsters irrationally attacking any settlement that develops them. The author states in an endnote that he wanted to give himself a challenge by preventing the modern Japanese protagonist from simply introducing modern tech.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 6 episode 12, Mr. Lightbulb introduces television to the technology-lacking Planet Guling, and the natives seem to enjoy it once they figure out what the TV does. Big M. uses the TV in a scheme that involves convincing Smart S. that Mr. Lightbulb, Miss Peach, and the village mayor are kidnapped.

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

    Fan Works 
  • In Event Horizon: Storm of Magic, The Company™ makes a killing (both figuratively and literally) selling weapons to medieval societies like Westeros and Middle-Earth.
  • Flashman and the Throne of Swords:
    • The British were more than happy to sell firearms and cannons to King Robert to outfit a royal army, but made sure to only sell outdated muskets, and refuse to divulge the recipe for gunpowder so they can maintain a monopoly.
    • The Dutch merchant Jan van der Decken makes a living buying cheap old machinery such as clocks in Europe and reselling them in Westeros, where they're centuries ahead of anything they have there.
    • On Flashman's expedition to Dragonstone, he discovers that the French are selling rifles and Minié balls (which are far newer and deadlier than musket balls) to Stannis Baratheon.
    • On their journey back from beyond the Wall, Flashman and John Charity Spring offer to trade muskets to both the wildlings and the Night's Watch. Flashman muses about what effects this will have on their conflicts.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover and its sequel Origins, the Trans-Galactic Republic has an Alien Non-Interference Clause that can be waived aside if the other society agrees to accept help (usually on the Republic's terms). Or if you're a sufficiently clandestine well-connected intelligence agency it doesn't matter what the actual rules are...
  • In Fury and Flame the presence of the Fire Nation in Westeros results in this as Stannis and Azula build the Royal Navy with steam ships and bring industrial manufacturing to Dragonstone. It doesn't change the fact that the Seven Kingdoms remain a Medieval European Fantasy ruled by a Decadent Court and power hungry lords making this very much a case of Low Culture, High Tech scenario.
  • Kings of Revolution does a more realistic form of this trope. The main antagonists forge a Mega-Corp as a public face, developing Earth's civilization at a slow and steady pace to prevent being conspicuous violators of the Alien Non-Interference Clause. Their ties to the Britannian Empire and and the Japan Liberation Front also gives them access to manpower and resources.
  • Done accidentally in Inheritance in the aftermath of King Cold and Turles' attack on Earth. The surviving ships are full of technology far ahead of Earth's so the government claims it all both to advance technology in general and to hopefully be able to fight off future attacks on their own without having to rely on the Z Fighters.
  • Deconstructed in Wheels Towards Whatever. Cromwell is trapped in Hallownest but had the benefit of coming across the kingdom before the Infection destroyed it. He decides to start using his unique sources to enhance the inhabitants of Hallownest further with a combination of both Earth technology and similar effects via the use of Soul. It leads to problems when other factions start noticing the changes he has given to the other bugs thanks to his technology. This soon leads to an all out civil war between the Greenpath nobles and the rest of Hallownest in an attempt to gain this technology for themselves. By the time its all over and the kingdom starts rebuilding from this, Cromwell resigns to himself to limit the advancements of Earth technology he gives to the bugs to prevent a occurrence of this happening again.

  • In the Lensman universe, there are two prominent examples; Bennett and Klovia. Both are industrialized worlds, but neither has access to space travel or nuclear energy. Bennett becomes the Navy Yard of the Galactic Patrol in Virgil Samms' time, while Klovia performs the same function when the Patrol extends its influence permanently into the Second Galaxy. Velantia is a third example, with influences from both the Galactic Patrol and its neighbouring planet of Delgon. However, the Delgonian influence is entirely malign, the Delgonians accelerating the Velantians to intra-system space-faring status so that they can travel to Delgon to be tortured to death and have their ebbing life-force consumed. Subverted in-universe in that by the time the Patrol and the Velantians make (accidental) contact and common cause, a sublight generation ship was already on its way to Patrol space to seek help.
  • The Uplift series is the Trope Namer, as with Uplifted Animal. There every sophont species in the known universe, with the possible exception of humanity, was both culturally and biologically uplifted by another species.
  • Older Than Television: In Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets", 1897) by Kurd Laßwitz, Friedrich Ell briefly mentions that his father All, stranded on Earth after his spaceship crash-landed in Antarctica, eventually reached Australia, where he became wealthy as an "inventor" by recreating bits of Martian technology. Later of course the contact with the Martians results in a general technology uplift for Earth.
  • The Kzin of Known Space were bootstrapped by another species to serve as mercenaries. Unfortunately, they then turned on and enslaved their patrons.
  • In Animorphs, the Yeerks were given advanced technology by an Andalite named Seerow, whom the Andalites then named their Alien Non-Interference Clause after when the Yeerks used their new tech to conquer and enslave other species.
  • Noon Universe:
    • Deconstructed with Progressorism, the in-universe name for this trope. The authors explore everything necessary to transform a pre-modern society into a futuristic one, and social uplift receives much more attention than giving fancy gadgets. The later novels explore the question whether this practice is ethical by introducing a mysterious precursor alien race which possibly practices covert Progressorism on humans.
    • This practice is deconstructed in The Stars Are Cold Toys, in which a Human Alien race nicknamed the Geometers engage in a more nefarious version. Their ultimate goal is Friendship with all known races. They achieve it with a two-stage process. First, they send in operatives known as Regressors, whose purpose is to do the opposite of this trope and force the native culture to a more primitive state (frequently through war), thus allowing their race to appear from the sky and graciously uplift them, also imposing their cultural views. The protagonist, a human who infiltrates the Geometer society as a Manchurian Agent in order to see if they would make good allies to humans, is repulsed by this practice and resolves himself to avoid this fate for Earth (especially since Earth is already more primitive than they are). It's stated that they have already successfully integrated two alien races, native to their star system, into their culture, which also served to perfect their methods.
  • Humans decide to do this for the pequeninos ("piggies") at the end of Speaker for the Dead, and the sequels deal in part with the consequences. It turns out to be an extremely tricky balancing act.
  • Discussed in Wolfling by Gordon R. Dickson, where mankind meets an interstellar empire of Human Aliens. Every High-Born (a member of the ruling race) receives enough education to uplift a stone-age planet to the imperial level.
  • Arrivals from the Dark: Trevelyan's Mission:
    • This is the goal of the Foundation for the Development of Alien Cultures. They initially focus on primitive Human Alien cultures, but later technological developments allow them to move on to Insectoid Aliens and others. The plot of the first novel involves the titular character being sent into the planet Osier to find out why the local humanoids have been stuck in Medieval Stasis for over a millennium with every attempt by the FDAC to subtly introduce new ideas and inventions failing miserably. It turns out that the planet is under the watch of another advanced race, who subscribe to the Alien Non-Interference Clause viewpoint. They are the ones who have been subverting human attempts at instigating progress, viewing stability as more important. It's also stated that centuries of studies and attempts have resulted in a fine-tuned system for how this trope is supposed to be done to avoid catastrophic consequences (which have happened in FDAC history, resulting in the destruction of several native cultures). One of the biggest rules is to never interfere in a post-Medieval culture.
    • Human themselves are indirectly the recipients of this trope starting with the second novel of the main Arrivals from the Dark series, of which Trevelyan's Mission is a spin-off, taking place centuries later. There, a shapeshifting alien infiltrator helps a human defeat a powerful Alien Invasion force in such a way as to leave their technology largely intact, allowing humans to study and implement technology that, eventually, turns humanity in a galactic superpower.
  • Safehold:
    • This is the primary goal of Merlin Athrawes. The planet Safehold was intended to be a colony where humanity could hide from the xenocidal Gbaba temporarily. To avoid detection, they deliberately abstained from high technology and the original goal was to have their descendants begin reclaiming it in a few centuries. The operation's leaders, however, were megalomaniacs who thought humanity's hubris brought its near-destruction on itself. As a result, they set up a civilization whose Church has enforced a Medieval Stasis for nearly a thousand years and made themselves out to be its Archangels and those who opposed them as demons and devils. Enter Merlin, who allies himself with Charis, a country that's quite innovative despite all of the above and helps push them even further. He has to take things relatively slow to avoid upsetting the local sensibilities regarding advancing technology and getting them all declared demonic, he's still able to get Charis' technological level from man-rowed galleys to ironclad battleships within a decade.
    • As the series progresses, a balancing act is formed as Merlin is able to bring more local Safeholdians into the knowledge he possesses. The Empire of Charis wages its open war with the technology and innovations Merlin's introduced, but the "Inner Circle" is given access to far higher technology such as near-omnipresent spying capabilities and long-distance communication among each other to better plan and strategize. This frequently imposes limits such as not being able to react to events they've seen happen until official word reaches them, or Merlin having to fake travel time when he could (and has) simply used his recon skimmer to get where he needs in hours. Also, despite his loyalty to Charis, his duty to his ultimate mission requires him to make sure the Church gets the chance to make those same innovations and level the playing field since that breaks the Medieval Stasis mindset the Church enforces.
  • Minor example in The Iron Teeth: Blacknail spends some time commanding a goblin tribe while recovering from a fight with their former leader, and passes the time by teaching them skills like cooking, snare-setting and sling use. Very definitely just so they can make him more comfortable, of course.
  • In Star Carrier, several alien races are stated to have been given space travel technology by some hyper-advanced race long ago. While the humans initially assume that those aliens are the Sh'daar, many start doubting this, especially since the goal of the Sh'daar is limiting technology along certain paths. Those alien races are stated as being incapable of reaching space on their own due to their physiology or the conditions of their homeworld. For example, the H'rulka are huge colony organisms from a gas giant, who were unable to make technological progress on their planet due to inability of obtaining heavy elements in a gaseous environment. Generally, unless someone else gives them a push, these races end up stuck at a certain level of development and never leave their planets. After making into space, however, they're generally pretty good at continuing on their own thanks to obtaining resources on asteroids. The Slan are a race, whose primary sense is echolocation, and their rudimentary light-sensing organ is unable to detect the faint light of stars. This means it took them far longer than most to develop astronomy, only after building their equivalent of a telescope, which, in their case, is a device that converts visual images into understandable sounds. Even then, the concept of space is foreign to them. They treat it as an enormous airless cavern that can only be crossed with the use of spaceships.
  • In Deathworld 2, interstellar adventurer Jason dinAlt is stranded on a Lost Colony which has regressed to barbarism. Various bits and pieces of more advanced technology, generally regarded more or less as sorcery, are held as closely guarded secrets by the different clans (one group still knows how to make primitive petroleum-fueled engines, another how to make some crude electrical devices, yet another clan practices alchemy-level chemistry). The hero winds up completely revolutionizing the planet's backwater society solely out a desire to get off that primitive dirtball and back to someplace more civilized. The language issue is avoided as everyone on the planet speaks a (somewhat degraded) version of Esperanto. Interestingly, Jason manages to make working engines despite claiming that no one knows how internal combustion engines work anymore.
  • In the Zones of Thought novel A Fire Upon the Deep, two groups on a medieval planet get technological advice, but not physical help, from stranded human children with, respectively, a small computer and an FTL phone, allowing them both to advance significantly. It helps enormously that the child's computer has a full history of technology stored, while the people on the other end of the phone can look up theoretical academic research on bringing technology to lost colonies, which is apparently a minor academic discipline in that galaxy.
  • An interdimensional rather than interplanetary example: the fantasy world in The Reunion With Twelve Fascinating Goddesses advances in technology considerably within ten years due to a human who was summoned from Earth with his smartphone on him. The new technologies (which include things like motorbikes and telephones) tend to be Magitek in nature, being powered by the native spirits instead of petrol or electricity.
  • Played with in Alien in a Small Town. Earth's first real colleagues in space turn out to be a race of Space Amish called the Jan, who are happy enough to share such technology as they use on a regular basis, but that isn't necessarily a lot. Conversely, when their rivals the Arachne show up, they're willing and eager to share anything and everything, but some of it comes with considerable drawbacks.
  • Hayven Celestia: Geroo in the Krakun Empire are taught that the krakun found them in a medieval state and gave them the technology to industrialize and make it into space, but without the cultural adjustments required they overpopulated Gerootec and practically destroyed it, fortunately the krakun provided a fleet of ships to evacuate the dying planet. However, this narrative is undermined by the krakun's subsequent Hostile Terraforming of Gerootec and enslavement of the planetless geroo.
  • The Spiral Wars: Done by many alien species, often to gain aliies. Humans uplifted the Kuhsi who are dealing with a bit of a Low Culture, High Tech problem. The Tavali also uplifted the Kaal, who while technologically advanced were never able to develop flight or space travel on their own due to their world's extreme gravity. To a lesser extent, the Alo shared a lot of advanced technology with the already-spacefaring Chah'nas, who shared it with the again already spacefaring Humanity.
  • Deconstructed in Mostly Harmless where Arthur tries to uplift the technology of the primitive planet, Lamuella but it occurs to him that he doesn't know how any technology actually works and ends up inventing the sandwich.
  • In the Schooled in Magic series, Emily has a long term goal and plan to bring her new world into the modern era. Throughout the series she slowly introduces the populace to new ideas, inventions and way of doing things. She knows the risks and possible wars that will come from this, but she feels that the benefits it will bring to the common people will be worth it.
  • In the fourth Tales of the Magic Land book, Fire God of the Marrans, Urfin Jus does this to the eponymous primitive tribe, effectively helping them speedrun the Neolithic Revolution until they not only revere him as a benevolent deity, but become a sufficient force for him to use in his next war with the Magic Land. After he is unmasked and deposed, they keep the tech and ditch some of the social inequality that came with it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Probably the most famous example is the "To Serve Man" episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), in which alien benefactors arrive on Earth and provide technology that ends war by nullifying all weaponry, cures to all known diseases, and other remarkable benefits of their advanced technology. In the now-stock twist, it turns out it's all a scheme to make humans helpless and dependent so they can be bred as food stock.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Underworld" it is revealed that early in their history the Time Lords offered technology uplift to the planet Minyos, only for the Minyans to kick them out and then get into an internecine war with their new advanced weapons that devastated the planet. The Time Lords subsequently adopted an Alien Non-Interference Clause.
    • In "The Horns of Nimon" the Nimon claim they're going to provide advanced technology to the Skonnos, but in actuality the Nimon are going to denude the planet of everything.
  • Babylon 5 examples:
    • A lot of the technology of the known Younger Races derive from Centauri technology acquired when they were Centauri subjects (they also make a few attempts to justify their first conquest and enslavement of the Narns as bringing them to the stars). Ironically, the Centauri themselves got to the stars when they themselves received a technological boost from passing Technomages, who taught them enough to allow them to defeat the Shroggen invasion (the Shroggen being there because they were chasing the Technomages to begin with) and then reverse-engineer their technology.
      • Much earlier, the Centauri were taught agriculture and other basic technologies necessary for civilization by a visiting alien they now worship as the Great Maker, their Top God.
    • After losing much of their empire, the Centauri started selling technology to less advanced races with the intention of making them economically dependent. The strategy ultimately failed when the Narn conquered their dependence and started selling weapons comparable to what the Centauri were willing to sell.
      • Backfired horribly when they tried it with Earth Alliance: realizing what the Centauri were trying to do, the human government decided to buy as little technology as they could and reverse-engineer it, allowing Earth Alliance to become a major power-one that rivals the Centauri, and occupied a number of abandoned and resource-rich Centauri systems before they got around to reclaiming them. They also started actively seeking new advanced technologies to do the same with them.
    • The Earth Alliance's policy is to construct jump gates in new systems and charge any natives tolls to use them.
    • Played with in one episode, where an alien probe arrives to Babylon 5 and requests answers to a series of complex scientific problems, claiming it will reward correct answers with many technological boons. Everyone eagerly starts looking for the answers, but Sheridan is suspicious. Eventually, he realizes that the probe is a weapon meant to wipe out potential galactic rivals. Anyone who is able to answer these questions is deemed a threat by the probe, causing it to explode violently. They let the probe go, but then have a remote drone relay the correct answers in order to have the probe blow up harmlessly.
    • The Expanded Universe adds some details to this:
      • One of the means the Abbai use to entice new members in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds is by sharing their older technology. As the Abbai are one of the most advanced races, even their cast-offs are often more advanced than native technology.
      • The Vorlon raised the ancient Minbari from pre-civilization into an advanced society. When the Vorlon set the record straight, the cultural shock was such that the Minbari murdered the Vorlon on the planet before being bombed back into the stone age. The Vorlon now heavily limit just how much technology they're willing to share with anyone.
      • The Minbari are noted to engage in a very limited version with the races under their Protectorate, mostly allowing them to develop at their own pace and giving only limited pointers while keeping them from potentially destroying themselves.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • A frequent dilemma for the more advanced races in is whether or not to do this. Most races are reluctant to provide Earth any advanced technology due to either bad prior experiences, such as the Tollan who in the past gave a lower-tech planet an unlimited energy source only for them to blow themselves up the day after, or believing Earth is not yet mature enough as a civilization. The main exceptions are the Asgard, who owe Earth, and the Tok'ra, with whom Earth was in an alliance.
    • An episode also features the Aschen, a race that appear to do this but are doing so for their own ends.
    • As the series progresses, and Earth becomes a (if not the) major power in the galaxy, the protagonists face this dilemma themselves from time to time. They're usually willing to provide things like food, medicine, and knowledge, but not weapons technology, which becomes a sticking point in their negotiations with the Langarans (who are approximately at the level of Earth in the 1950s and have a Space Cold War going on between them). In "It's Good to Be King", Harry Maybourne is revealed to have introduced irrigation, crop rotation, and a legal code to an Iron Age offworld culture after getting himself elected their king.
  • Star Trek: As Prime Directive is the Trope Codifier for the Alien Non-Interference Clause, the United Federation of Planets normally studiously avoids intervening in the technological development of pre-warp alien cultures, but exceptions exist.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • "A Private Little War". The Klingons are arming an Iron Age culture with increasingly sophisticated black powder muskets (rifled barrels were about to be introduced when Kirk and company intervene). The Federation responds in kind by similarly arming a different faction of that culture, in a very anvilicious parable about the Cold War.
      • A similar thing happens in "A Piece of the Action": The inhabitants of a primitive culture get a book from a visiting starship, "Chicago Mobs of the '20s", and model their entire society around it. When McCoy discovers he's left his communicator behind, Kirk postulates that they may find it and remodel their society after Federation technology.

        More details of how this came about were revealed in one of the Enterprise Expanded Universe stories. A civilian freighter suffered an engine fault and had to drop out of warp in that system, and the crew made First Contact with the locals to ask for help. In exchange for the raw materials to fabricate the replacement parts they needed, the freighter's crew printed off copies of every physics, chemistry and engineering textbook they had in the onboard library. As they left, two of the crew expressed concern about the fact that the aliens were extremely quick to learn how to imitate others but not so good with innovation or original thinking, and worry about the long-term consequences... then realise Chicago Mobs of the '20s was left behind on the surface by accident. Oops.
      • By contrast, "Errand of Mercy" has Kirk offering to share technological goodies with the pre-industrial Organians, who seem oddly disinterested in such things. (This is before the Prime Directive was written into the show.) It then turns out that the Organians have already evolved into Energy Beings and only project the illusion of an agrarian society.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • Before adopting the Prime Directive, the United Earth Space Probe Agency sent out Friendship 1, a warp-capable probe that contained a great deal of cultural and technological information as a gesture of peace and friendship towards any other intelligent species. As shown in the episode "Friendship One", it was a good thing they sent only one. Centuries later, the probe reached a Delta Quadrant planet called Uxal, and its inhabitants eagerly upgraded their planetary power grid to make use of anti-matter (and also built anti-matter missiles). Since they didn't have any experience in working with it, an accident resulted in the entire power grid exploding and put the planet into a long nuclear winter. Naturally, the remaining Uxali aren't big fans of humans, as they think that the probe was an intentional attempt to destroy a potential rival.
      • A two-parter reveals that humans unintentionally did it to themselves. A 29th century timeship crash-lands in The '70s. A hiker finds the ship and uses the tech within to start the Digital Revolution. While some of those events are undone by breaking a Stable Time Loop, the Digital Revolution remains.

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Mindjammer this is the Commonality's preferred method of assimilating lost colonies, usually starting by installing a local Mindscape node. Though some planets are deemed "unacceptable" and quarantined for some time. They also have a habit of letting Corporacies do most of the work.
  • In Myriad Song the Syndics uplifted all of the Myriad races, but treated most of them as slaves. Still, many revere them as "the Patrons".
  • Traveller
    • The Vilani Imperium did this with the civilizations of planets it added. This included molding the civilization to fit the Vilani culture. At first, they allowed their client states to trade with non-integrated planets, but after a few wars they clamped down hard on them and turned into a state so rigid they stopped expansion just short of running into Earth.
    • Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. After the planet Vanejen was re-contacted by the Third Imperium, the Imperial Navy showed uncommon (for them) discretion by giving the planet more scientific knowledge and advanced technology in a gradual manner so it wouldn't cause culture shock.
    • The Hiver Federation is known for manipulating low-tech species to accelerate their development and form cultures friendly to them. Some suspect them of doing the same to humanity, and in fact after the collapse of the Third Imperium they openly teach some of their tech to the Reformation Coalition.
    • Unscrupulous player character merchants can sell TL12 weapons to TL1 societies.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Emperor himself previously did this when he first led the Great Crusade to reclaim all human worlds and form the Imperium, humanity's original civilisation having collapsed due to warp storms cutting off most planets from interstellar travel (and, this being Warhammer, plenty of infighting, alien attacks, robot rebellions, and so on to help the collapse along). He tended to be a bit nicer about it when first approaching a planet, but ultimately wouldn't take no for an answer. And in some cases, the cultures encountered were already technologically-advanced, just in ways that the Emperor found problematic or the Adeptus Mechanicus considered heretical.
    • Zig-zagged with the modern Imperium. Sometimes a Lost Colony is found and dragged into what passes for modernity in the Imperium of Man, while in other cases Imperial bureaucrats decide that the inhabitants of a medieval Feudal World, Stone Age-equivalent Feral World, or Death World are fine as they are, perhaps because they aren't strategically worth the effort of uplifting, perhaps because the brutal conditions of a world mean the locals Had to Be Sharp and make for good recruits. In these cases, the assigned Imperial governor will rule with a light touch, often from orbit, monitoring the backwards planet for heresy, mutants and psykers, while encouraging legends about "Sky Warriors" who will take those they deem worthy on grand campaigns beyond the stars.
    • The Tau are willing to share their advanced plasma rifles with some of their auxiliaries, though of course they don't give them the tech to build them.

    Video Games 
  • This is the reason behind the China-punk setting of Freedom Planet: The dominant kingdoms were originally straight-up similar to Earth's feudal China, but they were given access to technology from an extraterrestrial group of dragons who were stranded on the planet. With no means of communication with the rest of their civilization nor a means to leave the planet, they instead shared their technology and vast, nearly limitless energy source with the planet's inhabitants. The dragons had since also died off, the only surviving descendants being Lilac and Merga, neither of which have any knowledge of dragon engineering, so technology is more or less stuck at where it is.
  • In Galactic Civilizations the Arceans gave humanity the blueprints to a Warp Gate, which suspiciously had no "off" switch, but instead humans combined it with their fusion technology (which the Arceans may have wanted to take by invading) to develop a ship-portable hyperdrive. They then gave hyperdrive and fusion to every sapient species they could contact, and then the game begins.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The krogan were a Proud Warrior Race which managed to destroy the bulk of their civilization in a nuclear war. In come the salarians, who gave the krogan interstellar drive tech and space age weapons, because they needed soldiers hardy enough to stop the rachni invasion. Unfortunately, this has Gone Horribly Right: the rachni were wiped out, but the krogan started a massive wave of expansion and became more of a menace to other species than rachni ever were, forcing the other sentient races of the galaxy to use a Depopulation Bomb and drive the krogan to near extinction once more.
      Mordin: Like giving nuclear weapons to cavemen.
    • In Mass Effect 3 Javik reveals that the Prothean Empire's modus operandi was to guide primitive races to the space age, then give them the choice between joining them or extinction. When the Reaper invasion began they were just starting on humans and asari, and abandoned those races so the Reapers would leave them alone. They did, however, leave behind a beacon to help the asari reach the space age faster and dominate the next cycle.}
    • Thousands of years before the current setting, the asari discovered the elcor homeworld and taught them to use mass effect technology, allowing them to join the galactic community.
    • One species, the drell, come from a planet where they peaked in fossil fuel consumption extremely early. As such, their population exploded while they polluted and strip-mined their own planet to the point that a major population crash was imminent. A race called the hanar brought a fleet of ships to the planet and saved the few hundred thousand drell that they could. Those drell were uplifted to the galactic community while the billions of others killed each other in nuclear war before more help could arrive.
    • According to extra materials between games, a species called the raloi were discovered by the asari between the second and third game and brought to the galactic community. However, when the Reapers invaded the galaxy and conquered the worlds of any spacefaring species, the raloi retreated back to their homeworld and destroyed all advanced technology in the hopes that the Reapers would consider them a "pre-spaceflight" species.
    • A species called the yahg were discovered a few decades before the series began, and an emissary group was sent to make First Contact with them. The yahg, a super-intelligent and hyper-aggressive species, killed the emissaries and contact was immediately cut. However, we learn in DLC for the second game that one was brought off world and made an agent of the Shadow Broker. By the time we meet him, he's taken over his boss's old gig. In the third game, we learn that the salarian government considered that uplifting the yahg en-masse would make for good agents and shock troops.
  • The central conflict in Might and Magic VII centres around a dispute between two factions of an interstellar crew (ironically from a culture no more advanced itself, but they've learned a lot during the trip) about the best way to go about this. One faction argues for settling down and uplifting the world they're on specifically, with a later hardening into forcibly (if their path is followed they repair an ancient replication device and mass-produce energy weapons for a world conquest bid). The other faction still has an interest in trying to find the Ancients who actually developed all the advanced technology floating around, so their goal is to finish the local entry-point to a Portal Network and use the contacts and resources found on other worlds to help raise everyone up while the Ancients are being searched for.
  • In Spore the player can do this on planets they visit by planting a Monolith there. If there are already civilized beings, they'll soon achieve spacefaring status; if not, a random animal species will be quickly evolved to that level.
  • It's mentioned in Star Control II that nearly all spacefaring races have been uplifted by another. The Yehat, in particular, take a rather paternal view toward the Shofixti for this reason. Humans are one of the very few races who made it into space all on our own.
    • Humans may have made it to space on their own, but they received hyperdrive tech from the Chenjesu. Interestingly, their Servant Race the Androsynth developed the hyperdrive all on their own.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope
    • Edge gives some Green Rocks to 1950s alternate Earth so they can make an antimatter reactor. It ends up destroying the entire planet. This encourages Edge to sponsor the UP3 (Underdeveloped Planet Protection Pact) to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.
    • As Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a prequel, the other Star Ocean games mention the UP3 occasionally and have to work around its restrictions.
  • In Stellaris you have several options on how to do this after building an Observation Post over a world inhabited with a pre-FTL species. You can have your researchers run "Enlightenment" missions that will eventually turn the natives into their own star nation, a protectorate under you that you can eventually integrate into your empire, though this approach is fairly expensive and can take 40-500 in-game months, depending on the natives' starting tech level. Or you can take the "Infiltration" approach with the help of gene tailoring to prepare the natives to be outright annexed by your empire and even gain a temporary happiness bonus from it, an option that is only possible if the world is at least industrialized. Or you can skip the Observation Post and just send in ground forces and conquer the planet, which grants immediate control but also a "culture shock" penalty as the local species are raised forcibly and immediately to the Space Age without being properly introduced.
  • In Wildstar the Dominion uplifted the Draken and Chua so that they could serve the empire. In the Chua's case they took to advanced technology so well that after strip-mining their homeworld in less than a century they became the Dominion's top scientists and mechanics.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, this turns out to have been the Ethereals' modus operandi, traveling the galaxy, encountering other species, and trying to prepare them for "what lies ahead." All the various alien races encountered in their armies are what they consider failures, either primitive brutes like Mutons who never developed "the Gift," or brilliant but frail creatures like Sectoids. They're very excited that humanity, by the final mission, has managed to surpass the others by combining physical and technological might with mastery of the Gift, which explains the Sorting Algorithm of Evil used in the invasion — the Ethereals were holding back their elite forces and letting humanity adapt to escalating threats and grow stronger. Which, unfortunately for the Ethereals, means that they've created something that can beat anything they throw at them, and which absolutely hates them for devastating their homeworld.
  • XCOM 2 goes a different route and assumes the Ethereals didn't hold back in their invasion, meaning XCOM got curb-stomped in a matter of weeks and never fully developed a psionics program or energy weapons. But twenty years later, the ADVENT Administration has rebuilt Earth with shining city centers displaying the benefits of alien technology — clean Elerium-based energy, gene therapy clinics that have eradicated disease, delicious ADVENT Burgers, and battalions of heavily-armred Peacekeepers on hand to ensure that no dissidents disrupt the lives of loyal citizens. In this case, the Ethereals' interest in humanity is even more sinister...
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The story looks like it's set in the far future, with all manner of advanced weapons, holograms, FTL ships, Humongous Mecha, etc. However, the opening states that the story is set in 2042 AD, not nearly enough time for all that tech to be invented. Indeed, if one looks closely, most of humanity's technology that isn't related to weaponry or space travel is no more advanced than modern tech. A character near the end of the game Lampshades this, asking how in the hell humans have mecha, nigh-impenetrable energy shields, and other tech of that sort when all evidence says they're not that advanced. Turns out a friendly alien gave humanity a whole bunch of tech, knowing that Earth was going to be attacked in a few decades and giving humanity the means to survive it.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary: While hiding out on a primitive planet the company chaplain convinces Kevyn to build a robot to uplift the natives, unfortunately they throw it in a volcano.
  • In Terinu the Varn used this as their justification for conquering most of the sentient species in known space. When they tried this on humanity, who was already more advanced than most of the Varn's previous clients, we fought back and incited rebellions among the other races.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, it seems to be the Empire of the Seven Systems' preference with newly contacted species. And frequently worked into the frequent Author Tracts.
    • At the end of the arc parodying Star Trek Cmdr. Quinn tells a member of a species that the Federation left to the mercy of a Planet Eater because they were pre-spaceflight that the Empire will help them rebuild, and that their presence will no doubt screw up what was left but at least they'll treat them like people.
    • Another time, a member of a species the Empire had contacted fifty years earlier accused the Rangers of destroying his civilization by downloading blueprints for Matter Replicators into their network and causing an economic collapse. Quinn retorted that the real reason for the collapse was the native oligarchy's use of fiat currency to pillage the commoners, and that he had given them the technology they needed just to survive.

    Web Original 
  • In Cradleland, a man from twentieth century America had flown through a hyperspatial interstellar portal to a world populated by Transplanted Humans and got stranded there. He had patented a few inventions due to his technical knowledge, including a Stirling-cycle engine. He did not bring any radios though.
  • Infrastructure has a group of twenty-six Mechanical Lifeforms stranded in a Standard Fantasy Setting after a Blind Jump. Good News, Bad News;
    • Good News:
    1. They're more than capable of defending themselves from all but the most powerful entities on the planet, and the pre-feudal tribes populating the area they land in aren't even speed bumps.
    2. Their fabrication equipment survived the crash, and is more than capable of maintaining their bodies indefinitely.
    • Bad News:
    1. Their fabrication equipment is not capable of self-replication and thus would take over three millennia to build the tools to build the tools(etc) to re-connect with interstellar civilization.
    2. Their power source is going to fail in about twelve years.
    • They thus decide to uplift the locals in order to survive, and improving the general quality of life is pretty much paying them back in the process. It is an attempt to examine this from every angle; drop a space-age group in a flint-knapping era with nothing but Boomsticks and a complete tech database. Though they're able to get a lot accomplished really fast, it still takes them four decades to get to the Age of Steam, whereupon they get stuck; though they've peacefully claimed rich oil fields, they can't actually get the oil until they deal with the Age of Sail-era pirates who won't quit harassing their fleets.
  • NatOne Productions has the Denazra story-line, where the ruling interstellar body, The Coalition, give species access to high end technology in exchange for their full support and manpower in a way against the titular machines.
  • In Orion's Arm, many Terragen polities have done as such to both Xenosophont clades and lost Terragen colonies. The To'ul'h for instance have largely integrated into Terragen society. And there are also colonies that forsook technology under the protection of a greater polity such as the Metasoft Version Tree's Baseline Preserves or many of the domains of the Caretaker Gods, though there is one story where a Caretaker manipulates eir charges into acquiring an Encyclopedia Everythingia from a visiting anthropologist.
  • Release That Witch: An overworked, overqualified 21st-century engineer falls asleep at his desk only to wake up in the body of a prince presiding over a witch beheading in a backwater town in a fantasy world on the brink of war. First thing he does is Release That Witch. Then he hires her to help him weld steam engines and guns. And the R&D just gets better and better until the town evolves into a mega-city with modern commodities (and Gwent). Interestingly, the main theme is about learning to accept and show gratitude to the mystical and unknown, especially when attempting to move forward — like using the magics of formerly persecuted witches to fill in the technological gaps with A Wizard Did It, when there's an important technological stepping stone the engineer has no understanding of.
  • A Hero's War sees a pre-industrial world summon a Hero from Earth to help them fight off encroaching monsters — but unbeknownst to them, a young materials engineer named Cato was pulled along for the ride. While the Hero is off searching for the Sword of Legend, Cato kick-starts the industrial revolution, warts and all, but with Sufficiently Analyzed Magic taking a large role. (The Hero is not anti-uplift himself, but with different education and more public acclaim, he focuses more on social reform.)

    Western Animation 
  • The first appearance of Kang and Kodos on The Simpsons was a segment in the inaugural "Treehouse of Horror" episode offering a parody of the aforementioned Twilight Zone episode. In this one, the twist is that the aliens really are beneficent; it's Lisa's skepticism that robs mankind of their promised aid.
  • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, two aliens (the Kiwi Zoso and the Andorian Waldo) from pacifist races trade hyperdrive technology for humanity's assistance in resisting The Crown Empire.
  • A core part of the premise of Rolling with the Ronks! is that the alien Flash is trying to get the prehistoric Ronk tribe to adapt the use of a different modern technology in every episode.

    Real Life 
  • In real life there are many humanitarian organizations such as Brother's Brother Foundation and World Health Organization that work to provide medical technology and medicine to developing nations.
  • Played straight in some cases of people discovering "isolated people" and the eventual giving of current technology... at least to a partial extent.
    • Sometimes with disastrous results. Much of the famine in Africa in the 1980s was directly attributable to this. Much of the aid to Africa in the earlier parts of the 20th century involved bringing tractors to farmers who were, up until that point, still using wooden plows for their fields. Initially, the tractors boosted farmer productivity greatly, causing population booms as food became plentiful. However, since the aid did not include parts, gasoline, or technicians, the tractors broke down over time and the farmers had no means to repair them. Made worse by the gasoline crisis of the 1970s, which made the tractors too expensive to run, even if they were still operable.
    • Or even not-so-isolated people: many experts believe that one of the key contributors to the Rwandan genocide was the too sudden emergence of mass media in a country that had a huge amount of tension and resentment in a largely uneducated populace, and had not enough time to work them out peacefully. The Other Wiki details in one part of its article how, in the hope that it would promote an informed populace and assist the spread of democracy and human rights, various international agencies had assisted and encouraged the development of the radio and printing, but didn't realise until it was too late that the people who got control of Rwanda's nascent free press were actually using it to encourage genocide. Almost the entire staff of the state radio network Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), from the managers and directors down to their Shock Jock hosts, wound up convicted or accused of crimes against humanity for their role in assisting the génocidaires and doxxing their targets, as were the publishers of Kangura magazine.
    • Thanks to its unique combination of being far too populous and too far away from traditional trade routes, Japan could benefit from this trope without being conquered by a Western nation (the usual result for non-Westerners when better armed Westerners showed up). It happened twice:
      • In the 1500s, the Portuguese introduced modern cannons and arquebuses. These were quickly reverse-engineered and popularized in Japan, changing the way warfare was done there forever. They even copied Spanish galleons in the early 1600s, but these designs were lost when Sakoku was implemented in 1633.
      • After 1853, when Perry's ships forced Japan to open to foreign trade. The Japanese readily adopted Western technology and military doctrine, becoming the only Asian nation to carve its own sphere of influence in the Age of Imperialism.
    • It also happened in some Polynesian islands during the 19th century. The natives readily adopted British guns and shipping technology and used it to unify Hawaii or conquer (and genocide) the Chatham Islands from New Zealand, for example. Other times, Western interference resulted in civil wars and ended with the carving up and colonization of the archipelago, such as in Samoa.