This is the perennial excuse used by leaders of world-altering secret subcultures, and people with Secret Identities alike. It's a fairly reliable way for writers to engage Willing Suspension of Disbelief and to ensure Plausible Deniability.
The technologically-advanced global defense organization of the series won't have a massive impact on the day-to-day lives of all the mundanes, because they refuse to release any of their technology to the general public. They think people are bastards who will abuse the technology for war and profit once given access, or Luddites who will riot as soon as their incredible technology is unveiled, or just selfish pigs who all want to get their grubby hands on the shiny new tech (often to the exclusion of others). And of course, the very idea of letting the government get its hands on it is unthinkable.
One possible reason for a hero to maintain a Secret Identity or to ensure that everything remains Invisible to Normals (Other reasons include protecting the hero's family and that Celebrity Is Overrated).
At any rate, the show acknowledges that the fact that there's an alien invasion going on, a demon subculture, or Imported Alien Phlebotinum that should radically change the entire world. But folks with the power to keep this under wraps don't want the world to be radically changed, so they keep everything a secret.
Fridge Logic suggests that by just sitting on their knowledge even well-intentioned secret keepers ultimately work to prevent the world from ever becoming ready. This idea will usually either never occur to anybody or else be brought up once, handwaved away, and then never mentioned again.
For practical reasons, it may be required to avoid changing society into a level which is hard to imagine for an audience, or to reduce the required amount of special effects. Also, there's little drama from story perspective if everyone can defend themselves from an alien menace. If you can instead put the safety of the entire world in the hands of one secret, tiny and underfunded hero team, the stakes get much higher.
However, the trope is not automatically unreasonable. It is possible to conceive of specific situations where the genie, in whatever form, could be put back into the bottle, and under the current circumstances such would be wise.
See also Masquerade, which covers the overall secret-keeping operation. Compare You Are Not Ready, where it's the protagonist trying to acquire something that can help them and only to be denied access for this reason. See also Science Is Bad where new technology is held back out of fear of misuse. See also Reed Richards Is Useless where the world remains unaffected for no apparent reason. Contrast with Just Think of the Potential when someone wants to expose what they've seen for the benefit of the world (and perhaps, naively failing to think of malicious potentials). Supertrope to Alien Non-Interference Clause.
- While Royalty Superpower is an open fact in the Castle Town Dandelion universe, the real nature of Aoi's power has been hidden from the public or even her siblings, after a re-diagnosis shows her superpower is Compelling Voice, rather than Photographic Memory. Understandably this is out of a PR concern, as she is best-known for her Nice Girl demeanor to a degree she feels guilty for having such a power.
- This is the government's supposed view of the Contractors in Darker Than Black. Ryuusei no Gemini showed that the world could be made ready relatively painlessly; the government agencies simply liked keeping their secret weapons.
- This is the main reason for The Masquerade in Mahou Sensei Negima!. Chao decided to get proactive and force the mages out into the open. Negi never really does come up with a reason that proves it would be a bad thing, but still fights her because he reasons that if she really had a good justification, she would need not hide anything. Towards the end of the manga, Negi decides to work towards introducing the world to magic. And if UQ Holder! is anything to go by, he succeeded.
- Subverted in Transformers Cybertron. Optimus Prime refuses to throw off the masquerade and have the Autobots attempt to join with the humans in an alliance, even in the midst of a full-out Decepticon attack on Earth, thinking that humanity would feel betrayed when they found out alien robots had been hiding among them. Not so, it turns out. The Men in Black types that had earlier seemed threatening turn out to be a force for good, and play a role in turning the tide. It's a warm fuzzy moment for everyone but the Decepticons.
- Shoukoku no Altair: Guns, since it's set in the 15th century. Prince Beyazit brings back some firearms from the Orient which he uses to end the Turkish civil war, but later destroys them because he's afraid of the fact that they will change warfare forever. Prince Ismail points out, however, that he's merely delaying the inevitable.
- Effectively averted, or at least ignored, in most Super Hero universes — the world is so filled with heroes, villains, aliens, mole men and so on that they're impossible to cover up. Of course, this leads to Reed Richards Is Useless.
- Note that even in those universes most people still won't believe in magic, even with magic-using heroes operating openly; they are considered metahumans and liars. This is best known with Doctor Thirteen of DC Comics. Originally a skeptic from the Golden Age would debunk so-called magicians, he is now portrayed as a skeptic who's disbelief of magic is so strong that he actively causes magic around him to not work (ironically enough, his own daughter, Traci Thirteen is a magic user while the Doctor actualy dated Zatanna for a while, simply thinking she was just a very good magician.) As of New 52, he's more of a scientist trying to study magic analytically, but the skeptic role has gone to his dad, the original Doctor.
- One She-Hulk story from the '90s was based on the idea that the existence of aliens was not public knowledge, even after several alien invasions, Galactus standing on the Baxter Building more than once, Skrulls on TV, etc., etc.
- This actually got played straight in What If...? #9, where President Eisenhower orders the "Avengers" team of the 1950s to disband after their first mission - reasoning that the world simply isn't prepared to be protected by a talking gorilla and a wunderkind from Uranus.
- Played straight by almost any hero with proprietary technology. Iron Man in particular is perpetually concerned about his technology falling into the wrong hands. In fact, this has happened several times.. This has led to multiple "Armor Wars" and other miscellanous incidents in the canon and alternate universes, such as suicide bombers detonating themselves with Arc Reactors. The amount of times Tony's fears of his tech being abused is confirmed a startingly number of times.
- Subverted in the comic book Doctor Strange: The Oath. Doctor Strange has brought back Otkid's Elixir, a magic potion that can cure any disease, from another dimension. The main antagonist, Nicodemus West, tells him that humanity isn't ready to include magic as part of modern medicine. Strange points out all the inventions, like artificial hearts and CAT scans, that seemed like magic when they first appeared, and claims this would be no different.
- Deconstructed in the comic series Planetary, in which an evil version of the Fantastic Four shows what happens when less than noble people use this excuse. They only claim the world isn't ready for technology so they can keep it all to themselves. They also actively kill and suppress anyone who tries to oust their secrets and take any super discoveries for "safe keeping".
- In Marvel Comics, billions of years ago, the Watchers tried an experiment. They gave a primitive race the secrets of atomic power, which was an elementary science to the Watchers, but would allow the aliens to make huge advances to their society. The first advance they made was to build an interplanetary fleet with atomic warheads and go invade other planets. This resulted in other aliens killing the first aliens off in self-defense. The Watchers' reaction was to go "oops" and put their Alien Non-Interference Clause into effect.
- In Concrete, the title character is abducted by mysterious aliens who transplant his brain into a 1200-pound stone-like body. When Concrete insists on living outside the confines of a government laboratory, The CIA concocts a story that he is the sole survivor of a failed super-soldier program, rather than admit to the existense of extra-terrestrials. Concrete agrees to play along, in exchange for his freedom.
- The trope is used from time to time in the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics to justify why all their genius inventors haven't already changed the world:
- The first use of this trope is in "Island in the Sky", published in 1936: for the whole story professor Einmug, whose technology allowed him to have a whole island floating in the sky and other marvelous inventions, had considered sharing, but in the end, after a bad run-in with Pete, he decides not to because even if his technology ended in the hands of good people they would eventually have to use for war to keep it from villains, and tells Mickey and captain Doberman he'll bring his lab on another world (later revealed to be the Delta Dimension). Doberman quietly concedes the point... And considering Einmug's inventions are all based on incredibly advanced nuclear technology, when he returns in the 1959 story "The Delta Dimension" he wastes no time to allude to certain events that proved him right. He's also Genre Savvy enough to know the world will be ready one day... And takes active part in accelerating the process, helping other scientists, sharing some of his less dangerous inventions, and keeping contact with Mickey to recover whatever gets stolen (possibly because he's not paranoid enough), the latter being the very reason he came back in "The Delta Dimension".
- Gyro Gearloose makes many more inventions than people know. People don't know because if he thinks they're dangerous he'll destroy the prototype and destroy the blueprints. He originally dealt with the blueprints by throwing them in the thrash, as pretty much nobody can understand them, but after a case of a Mad Scientist being smart enough to do just that fished one of his dangerous blueprints from the thrash...
- Paperinik New Adventures has multiple examples:
- Everett Ducklair shares most of his inventions-in fact, he built up a massive economic empire out of it. His weaponry, however, is kept secret for the most part, and the one he sells to the US Army is tighly controlled because he knows very well the damage even the lesser things could do if they ended in the wrong hands.
- This trope, combined with preserving the timeline as much as possible, is part of why the Time Police sabotages Seamus Hogg's cold fusion experiment to not make it work. As before his intervention to change the timeline the experiment would have nuked Duckburg, Paperinik concedes the point-and is in fact happy when the events of the story get Hogg fired from his job.
- This is also why Paperinik and the US government are keeping the existence of the Evronians secret-what would be the reaction if the public learned there's a Horde of Alien Locusts posed to invade Earth? Indeed, when the Evronians are exposed in "Might and Power" there's immediate panic, at least until that invasion force is defeated.
- "The Banks of Time" ends with Paperinik, Lyla and the Raider sabotaging an Artificial Gravity experiment... Because the events of the story proved how apocalyptic it can be if done unproperly. Fittingly, the one who screwed up was Seamus Hogg, inspired by a disguised Raider's mention of said technology in an attempt of making his cold fusion experiment work without exploding.
- The whole reason the Strategic Prevention, Extraction, and Ablation Regiment (with their Weaponized Extraction Teams) exists in the Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk. There are allusions to the supernatural in the past that were successfully covered up (feudalism, whaling, the Salem Witch Trials, something involving the Catholic Church), and then the Cryptic Background Reference of the Roman Empire—which is why all those covers were necessary. It hasn't been explained exactly what happened however.
- Appears towards the end of Reflections. Celestia and Luna are discussing the future of ponykind. They could theoretically make everyone immortal star goddess like themselves, but they cannot because they are being punished for past crimes, as well for the simple fact that the ponies are very very very far from being ready to join them in eternity.
- Racer and the Geek inverts the trope. The world was not yet ready for firearms, or any of the other instruments of modern war. The results are not pretty.
- Episode 75 Sonic X: Dark Chaos reveals that this is the primary motivation for Maledict trying to rule the entire universe. He believes that sentient mortal beings are not ready for freedom to make their own decisions, and must be controlled (freely or by enslavement) for their own good.
- This happens in every Indiana Jones film, and its video game counterparts Tomb Raider and Uncharted.
Zero Punctuation: And I think I speak for the world when I say, "Could we at least have had a 6-week trial period first, you asshole?"
- It's for this reason that Forbidden Planet's Dr. Morbius doesn't release Krell technology to the rest of humanity. Commander Adams accuses him of wanting to horde the technology for himself. As it turns out, Morbius was righter than he knew— nobody could control the Krell device: not humanity, not the Krell themselves... and not Morbius.
- The main premise behind the Men in Black films (and animated series) is the world not being ready to accept the existence of alien species, let alone be trusted with any of said aliens' advanced technology. Left unspoken is the issue that Earth is the galactic Truce Zone; it's important that we be ready because if we aren't ready for the responsibility when the public learns, we'll probably cause a major galactic war or twelve.
James Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.Agent K: A person is smart, people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. 1500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, you knew that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow...
- Used in the Transformers Film Series. After the resident Obstructive Bureaucrat demands to know why the Autobots have not shared their technology with the world, Optimus reasons that humanity would abuse it.
- See also You Are Not Ready, since it's used in the context of the humans wanting new weapons to help fight the bad guys.
- Funny enough, in the sequel, Sam has a sizable chunk of Cybertronian science uploaded into his brain. Besides being laughed at for saying that Einstein was wrong, he can't even seem to find words for what he knows, lapsing into what sounds like a fax machine having a seizure, just when he's about to correct something.
- In Chain Reaction, the Big Bad's justification for murderously suppressing the existence of clean fusion power is that the world economy would collapse. Unfortunately for him, the hero faxed copies of the blueprints to every conceivable location.
- Morpheus in The Matrix explains that most people are not ready to be freed, as they've become dependent on the system. He goes on to explain that some are "so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."
- Ms. Yutani and her henchmen at the end of Requiem, on the Predator gun they salvaged; "The world isn't ready for this technology. But it isn't for this world, is it, Ms. Yutani?"
- Why the Tesseract is returned to Asgard at the end of The Avengers. The events of the film demonstrate that humans would misuse the Tesseract's power, but on top of that, the Earth simply can't deal with the kind of attention it would bring if it became widely known that humanity possessed the Tesseract. The fact that the most immediate use for it by SHIELD was to create weaponry didn't help either.
- Batman comes to this conclusion several times in The Dark Knight Saga. In the third movie, Alfred calls him out on the fact that he seems to apply this to everything. Sure, we can understand the world not being ready for a super-advanced sonar spy system or a fusion reactor that can be turned into a multi-megaton bomb, but you're not willing to give the police a wi-fi hacking device?
- In Man of Steel, Clark starts off believing this as a result of Jonathan's advice.
- In Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead the laws of Starways Congress about contact between the new alien life reflect this trope. Ostensibly the laws were passed to "preserve the natural culture of the Pequeniños" but it's later realized that the laws are actually there so humans can stay on top of the technological race between species. So that when the Piggies actually can build a starship, and colonize other planets, they'll find that humans have already been there, done that. This is not entirely unjustified: in the sequels, when the Pequeniños do gain access to a Faster Than Light starship, there is a significant faction that wants to use it to travel to settled human worlds and infect them with The Plague, which is necessary to Pequeniño biology but unfailingly lethal to all forms of life not native to their planet.
- In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Sherlock Holmes makes brief mention of a case which involved "the Giant Rat of Sumatra", and adds the world isn't ready for that story. Attempting to thwart this trope, numerous later authors have written fan-fic about the Rat.
- In Top Secret by John Gardiner, the protagonist finds a way to cure world hunger forever by allowing people to photosynthesize. This technology is suppressed by the President on the grounds that it would lead to the collapse of the food preparation industry.
- A Quantum Murder, a sci-fi murder mystery by Peter F. Hamilton, involves a murder commited via a laser mind-programming device (originally developed as a learning tool) and solved through a neurohormone that enables someone to look back in time. Alarmed by the implications of both devices, Julia Evans, the idealistic but powerful CEO of Event Horizon, arranges for the destruction of all records, and gives a generous job offer (of the accept-or-else kind) to the scientist who witnessed these events so she can keep an eye on him.
- The antagonists of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light use this as a justification for keeping their vast technology restricted to a tiny portion of the population. The protagonist calls them on it by asking why they've been actively quashing the spontaneous invention of technology.
- Subverted in the Animorphs series. The Yeerks needed to keep their invasion secret because if humanity knew about it, they would overwhelm the invasion by sheer numbers. As Visser One once put it, "6 billion humans, all firing one bullet, missing almost 100 percent of the time, would wipe out the entire invasion." The Animorphs needed to keep their identities secret because if the Yeerks knew they were human, they could find them. Averted at the end of the series when the Big Bad of the series becomes Visser One and does take the invasion public—and almost wins.
"People were just glad they weren't the Borg."
- Played straight in that the Andalites have their own version of the Prime Directive, "The Law of Seerow's Kindness", enacted when Prince Seerow tried to help another species, the Yeerks, out of their And I Must Scream existence. This bit the galaxy in the ass, big time. Resubverted when the only way to fix the mess is to break the rule.
- And then subverted again in the final book according to Marco, who says that humanity doesn't panic at the revelation of extraterrestrial life. Or at least the side that wasn't trying to pull a mass Grand Theft Me invasion.
- A major theme of Atlas Shrugged, though used unconventionally. First seen when a technology that allows electricity to be gathered from the atmosphere without any adverse side effects, pollution, or factories, lightweight and apparently easy to construct, is hidden by its inventor out of fear that the setting's collectivist governments would exploit that inventor and people like him. Later the same principle is applied to innovation and skilled labor in general, to greatly destructive effect.
- In the first book of the Harry Potter series, Hagrid answers Harry's question about this with: "Everyone'd be wantin' magic solutions to their problems." (Hmm, is it still okay for wizards to acquire those magic solutions from other wizards? Right then.) The question is never raised again for the rest of the books. It is worth noting that magic is the only real defense against supernatural predators, some of which prey on humans. (An entire branch of the Ministry is devoting to keeping said predators from breaking The Masquerade.) And it makes the housework a lot easier.
- Some have suggested, inferring from the implications of some Word of God statements, that the real reason is that the Ministry is terrified of what would happen if the Muggles ever did find out. Just imagine the practicality of modern technology enhanced to an unlimited degree with magic, Muggles would be unstoppable. So the wizarding world has cultivated condescending paternalism towards Muggles in their culture to conceal this underlying fear.
- The fearful reactions of the Muggles are justified and demonstrated in the fifth book when Dudley, a Muggle teenager, gets attacked by a Dementor, the Harry Potter equivalent of a soul eater. Dudley is predictably mentally scarred by this and does a turnabout in treating Harry and accepting the existence of wizards... but only after being brought home from the attack in a shell-shocked-like state... and if Harry hadn't saved him he flat-out would have DIED.
- The sixth book clearly states that the English Prime Minister, for one, has had The Masquerade revealed to him. This implies that other world leaders are also kept informed of the wizarding world.
- Some have suggested, inferring from the implications of some Word of God statements, that the real reason is that the Ministry is terrified of what would happen if the Muggles ever did find out. Just imagine the practicality of modern technology enhanced to an unlimited degree with magic, Muggles would be unstoppable. So the wizarding world has cultivated condescending paternalism towards Muggles in their culture to conceal this underlying fear.
- In Ray Bradbury's 1953 short story The Flying Machine, a man invents the titular device in ancient China. The Emperor realizes that the machine could be used for war (such as for flying over the Great Wall of China), and has the inventor executed and the machine destroyed.
- Hinted at in The Lord of the Rings, in which Gandalf observes that any device of an art deeper than one's own is dangerous. This doesn't go all the way to saying such devices should not be used, it's more like an observation and a call for caution, the reality of the risk is displayed by Denethor and Saruman.
- In Quozl by Alan Dean Foster, stranded alien rabbit-people conclude that The World Is Not Ready for them to reveal their presence, so set about getting the world ready by working with human Secret Keepers to produce a children's television series about stranded (and harmless!) alien rabbit-people.
- Subverted in that the Quozl are far more frightened of humans than humans have reason to be from them; the first encounter between a human and a Quozl resulted in the Quozl dying from a shotgun blast to the chest, while the aliens' own ray guns took multiple shots to put him down; they were designed for handling hostile fauna, and the Quozl never thought they'd face anything that could fire back. In fact, they were utterly shocked to discover that other sentient beings exist, considering the odds to be impossible. Despite being more primitive, humanity has frequently speculated about intelligent aliens; it never even occurred to Quozl, so they were less ready for us than we were for them.
- Umberto Eco parodied this in a short story where a caveman professor invents the handaxe, but after realizing that the leaders want to use it against another tribe, says that it should be destroyed.
- Major plot point of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court as Hank tries to introduce 19th-Century technology and democracy into the medieval era. It works for a time but only when he's there to teach them. The moment he has to leave the country for a family emergency, everything falls to pieces leading to a full blown war.
- Becomes a major plot point in the My Teacher Is an Alien series. A vast alliance of aliens is terrified of earth because we are advancing quickly enough to soon discover interstellar travel, but still primitive enough to engage in war, meaning that when we learn the existence of the other races there could be trouble. Some aliens want to destroy us, some want to ignore us in the hope that we'll destroy ourselves, some want to sabotage our advance into space, and some want to take over the planet. In the end, the human Secret Keepers convince them to take a fifth option by sending alien teachers in disguise to peacefully guide humanity away from our savage behavior, so that someday we will be ready.
- This is the main premise of a short story called "The Sack", about an alien creature found on an asteroid, who can answer lots of questions on all kind of topics. As the creature remarks to a human guarding him, it knows that the humanity isn't ready for the answers, and that it's likely to wreak havoc (it's quite noticeable by the end - both researchers and politicians are asking The Sack instead of thinking, and in the latter case, it's Scry vs. Scry). However, it's the only thing that gives it some pleasure in his loneliness after (the rest of its race has been destroyed by meteoroids). Fortunately, at the end of the story, The Sack is kidnapped by a group of criminals, and once these fall victim to Gold Fever, the alien is lost.
- In the Schooled in Magic series, Emily is always introducing new ideas and technology to the medieval world she finds herself in. Yet, she hardly shares all that she knows, such as the effect of splitting an atom or basic understanding of chemistry, for she believes that this power would be used for terrible destruction. Even so, she does use a nuclear bomb spell of her own making at one point.
- In Terra Ignota, the adults of Bridger's bash' keep Bridger and the fact that he can work miracles very secret. Part of this is because Bridger is still a child, but they also want to map out his ability and develop his personality as much as possible before revealing him to the world. Not only is his ability exceptionally dangerous — there's nothing preventing Bridger from taking a vial that says "world-ending plague" and making it real —, but they know people won't believe it even if they see it with their own eyes.
- Subverted in the Clive Cussler novel Sahara. Finding a Confederate Ironclad that made its way across the ocean only to end up in a dried-up spot in the desert, Pitt, Giordino and historian Perlmutter discover the corpse of Abraham Lincoln. Perlmutter explains what he found from a secret diary: The Confederates captured Lincoln and planned to use him to force decent surrender terms but things went badly as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (wanting power for himself) kept it quiet and faked the assassination of a double. Pitt wants the truth to come out with Perlmutter warning him that it's better the world not know as it will destroy Lincoln's standing as a martyr. Pitt lampshades how the line is used by "arrogant politicans to keep their self-interests" and the American people are a lot stronger than Perlmutter and people in Washington think. As it turns out, Pitt is right as the American public revere Lincoln more than ever once the truth of his fate is known.
- In obscure Russian novel Guest from the Sea a secondary character — a scientist researching underwater breathing equipment — mentions a manuscript of Leonardo da Vinci about diving techniques. Da Vinci claims to have created something he called alitò (Italian for "breath") allowing to stay underwater "as long as it is possible to stay without food", but refused to write the details down because of "malicious human nature" that will apply this knowledge to sink ships. But the scientist is optimistic and expects to rediscover the method eventually. Fast forward to the novel climax when a submarine is damaged by a just-discovered giant sea eel and is stuck at the bottom of Sargasso Sea. The researcher dives without any visible breathing apparatus, cuts the debris off the propellers and saves everybody. But in the aftermath he becomes gloomy and says that the world still isn't ready.
- Discworld: Leonardo of Quirm (the Leonardo da Vinci expy) is kept in a locked room in the Patrician's palace, regularly brought food, ink and drawing paper. He's not locked to keep him imprisoned but to keep people away (he designed the locks himself) and to prevent them from applying his inventions for evil purposes (Leonard just can't help himself from designing things like explosives that could remove mountains or submarines that can cut through hulls alongside flying machines and a more efficient tea stirrer).
- Mentioned in The Name of the Rose, when William of Baskerville is talking with another monk about someone in China inventing a powder that can blow up large amounts of rock, and therefore can probably blow up large amounts of people. The monk asks about using it against God's enemies, William asks which of the Emperor or the Pope is the greatest of God's enemies at the moment. The monk concedes he wouldn't want to be the one to answer that question.
- Sometimes the reason that the Power Rangers must keep their identities a secret, even though the villains always know who they are.
- Justification for International Rescue keeping their technology to themselves.
- Justifies the secrecy of the SGC in Stargate SG-1 though it turns out that a lot of this is being enforced by non-NATO allies (oh hi, Russia) and international businessmen who want to use Imported Alien Phlebotinum to dominate the tech industry.
- There exists a healthy dollup of realpolitik on the U.S. government's side, too. There's been times when The Masquerade only hurt Earth's defense, as seen already in the first season when one Obstructive Bureaucrat was enough to get the Stargate program shut down because they couldn't go through proper channels to appeal. For all its levity, SG-1 poses a real philosophical dilemma over free exchange of information vs. national security.
- And we did see the consequences of ending the Masquerade on a parallel Earth - mass panic, and the apparent transformation of the US into a dictatorship.
- Whether or not the world actually is ready is not as open to discussion as it should have been, given that in the Aschen timeline in "2010", the Stargate's existence was publicly revealed and people just treated it as another form of public transport. But the main-timeline SGC never learned anything about that timeline other than that they must not go to the Aschen homeworld, so they had no way of knowing this.
- One late episode had a particularly interesting use of this trope: SG-1 visit another planet where they encounter a man who they end up telling that the Stargate (which was just a museum piece there, no-one knew that it did anything) can transport you to other planets. At the end of the episode, the alien government finds out about this, and, to the horror of SG-1's ally, declares that the world is not ready and begins their own Masquerade.
- Alien technology is being slowly allowed to filter out into public use, however, "laundered" through various labs. Medical nanotechnology, for example, is more advanced in the Stargate verse than in real life due to things that have been learned from alien sources.
- Sometimes the reason that the demonic subculture is kept a (not particularly secure) secret in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- The reason for the secrecy of the Blackwood Project in War of the Worlds.
- Knight Rider: The technology controlled by Knight Industries is kept a guarded secret lest it be used for ignoble purposes.
- Played straight in The Lone Gunmen episode "Like Water For Octane" with the car that runs on water. The heroes themselves decide to suppress the technology because they felt humanity would make so many cars that engine oil would cause a greater environmental threat than gasoline usage would and that mankind wouldn't figure a way around that problem (besides, you know, recycling the stuff, like we do nowadays).
- I thought it was to save the US economy from the collapse of the gasoline-based automotive industry.
- A comparable discovery (broadcast power) is concealed by the heroes in Legacies, a Repairman Jack novel. Averted in that it's covered up because the late inventor's daughter, whom he'd molested, didn't want a bastard like him to be remembered as a great genius.
- Babylon 5:
- "Deathwalker" A notorious Dilgar war criminal has a medication that will give a person immortality. She later sadistically reveals that the essential components come from other beings of sapient species. Thus she intends to throw the various civilizations into murderous chaos in revenge. However, just as she is transported to Earth to give her medication and carry out her revenge, a Vorlon ship suddenly appears and destroys her ship, her and her medication. When the Vorlon ambassador, Kosh, is asked why that was done, he simply responds "You are not ready for immortality". Of course, it also denied everyone the opportunity to study the process and do research that could have eliminated that flaw. And considering how the Vorlons ended up treating the younger races, it could be a case of "we don't want you to have what makes us special."
- Also the common excuse for those Minbari in the know not to reveal why they surrendered at the Battle of the Line. Or that Valen was in fact Jeffrey Sinclair. Humans would have dismissed the revelation as meaningless Minbari mysticism. It was the devastating consequences for the insular (and frankly quite racist) Minbari society that the Gray Council was worried about.
- The basis of the Prime Directive in Star Trek.
- One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ends on this for an alien world with the government deciding that their people are not ready for space exploration or the knowledge of aliens because of the reaction of a cabinet member.
- The Fourth Doctor of Doctor Who once told the tale of the planet Minos. The Time Lords of Gallifrey, being a young race then, decided to help out the primitive planet Minos by instructing them in science and technology. The Minosans responded by kicking the Time Lords out at gunpoint then engaging in a nuclear war that reduced their homeworld to an asteroid belt. After that the Time Lords put their Prime Directive in place.
- In the Series 5 two-parter 'The Hungry Earth'/'Cold Blood', a plan for the Silurians, the original reptilian inhabitants of the Earth, to re-emerge gets postponed for this reason. Considering that peace talks between them and the humans had broken down because of the murder of POWs and both sides claim equal right to ownership of the surface, this is probably one of the more justified examples. The Doctor also puts into motion a plan to make the world ready, by asking the humans to spread the message of the Silurians' return in 1,000 years.
- In a more mundane example, an episode set in 1969 features an FBI agent thrown out of the service because of who he wants to marry. After he helps save the world, President Nixon concludes that she must be black and says he might be able to help with the legal issue, since the US seems to be ready for mixed-race marriage. The ex-agent then corrects him, saying he is black. Nixon decides that landing on the moon is far enough.
- Often mentioned in Torchwood as a justification for having to hide the existence of aliens or alien technology.
- In Dollhouse this is the reason given for why their technology is so very misused. Not that, frankly, they seem particularly ready for the tech themselves.
Kids playing with matches. And they burnt the house down.
- As it turns out in Epitaph One they're absolutely right and the widespread use of their technology destroyed civilization. As Echo put it:
- In Friends to avoid hurting Joey's feelings, Rachel tells him that the world is not ready for him and his unisex bag.
- Allie in Steven Spielberg's Taken miniseries was supposed to be a gift to humanity, a mixing of human and alien, but they decided the world wasn't ready for her.
- In a Series 8 episode of Smallville, Clark publicly reveals himself to be "The Blur". After things initally go well for him, eventually however, his inability to be everywhere causes the public to descend upon him in an angry mob, blaming him for deaths he's failed to prevent. He retreats back to the farm, only for the military to arrive, attempting to apprehend him for study and experimentation. Clark is eventually forced to use a Legion Ring to go back in time to avert that reality, deciding that the world clearly wasn't ready for him just yet.
- A major plot point on Farscape. The Ancient Crichton calls "Jack" (because he takes the appearance of his father) leaves hidden information on wormholes in Crichton's brain as a guide to help him find a way home, but doesn't outright tell him how to access it, specifically invoking this trope if Crichton is unable to figure it out on his own. The wormhole knowledge is soon hunted by both Scorpius and the Scarrans, who will stop at nothing to obtain it to use as a weapon. Later in the series, the Ancient named "Einstein" shows Crichton more overtly why wormhole technology should not be taken lightly. Finally Crichton himself demonstrates to Scorpius and Emperor Staleek in Peacekeeper Wars exactly why a species gaining access to wormhole technology before they're ready to use it responsibly is a very, very bad thing.
Crichton: OK, boy and girls, here are the rules. Find a penny, pick it up. Double it, you got two pennies. Double it again, four. Double it twenty-seven times and you've got a million dollars and the IRS all over your ass. Round and round and round it goes. Where it stops no one knows. But it all adds up...quick.
- In Elementary episode "Solve for X", the Victim of the Week had been working on P versus NP, one of the biggest unsolved mathematical problems in the world. Statement Another mathematician later proved that P = NP, a world-shaking result which would (among other things) invalidate most existing cryptography. They're promptly silenced and the results confiscated by the FBI. The fact that the FBI can now blow up the Internet at will goes unmentioned.
- Ultraviolet. The main protagonist Mike is a policeman who discovers that vampires exist and is therefore recruited into a covert government agency to fight them.
Mike: Why all the secrecy? Why not just go public, let people protect themselves?Vaughan: Listen. Every week there's a panic about some puny little bug. Now how do you think it would be if this got out? Hm? You'll have paranoia, you'll have vigilantes, you'll have people running back to religion in droves. The next thing you know, you'll have the Archbishop up for Prime Minister. I don't fancy living in Iran, do you?
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Avalanche, Jonah and the Bots buy out so many names for Film/Sharknado-type movie title for the sole reason of preventing their usage in making crappy movies.
- Played with in Ayreon's 01011001 when some of the Forevers argue that humanity isn't ready for advanced technology. They give humanity technology anyway - turns out humanity wasn't ready...
- The main reason why The Rite Of Spring caused such a riot was because it was meant for the ears of 1940 rather than those of 1913. Interestingly, it also appeared somewhere else in 1940...
- In recent Dick Tracy comics, Diet Smith tells Tracy that he has become more and more reticent over the years to share his biggest scientific discoveries, because criminals have stolen his inventions and used them for evil purposes so many times over course of the comic. In particular, this is Diet's (in-universe) excuse for mothballing all the Moon technology. In Real Life, the reason these elements were removed from the strip was that Chester Gould's successor as writer, Max Allen Collins, considered the strip's Moon Period a massive Dork Age and preferred to ignore it. The current writer, Mike Curtis, is a fan of the Moon Period and has brought some of the Moon stuff back, but also gave Diet the above-mentioned explanation for his previous behavior.
- This trope is used profusely by the Knights Templar/Abstergo Industries in Video Game/Assassin'sCreed. They believe that if humans ever found out the truth about the Isu AKA Those Who Came Before, there will be world wide panic.
- This trope inadvertently led to some of the conflicts of Final Fantasy IV. Some Lunarians wanted to simply observe the planet and leave humans alone; others, like KluYa, wanted to grant them the gift of advanced technology, producing the Tower of Babil, the Devil Road, and airships, but didn't take it further lest they adversely affect existing human civilizations. Dissidents like Zemus wanted to take over the planet wholesale, and giving the Puny Earthlings mechs and tanks puts a crimp in those plans.
- Retroactively inverted in Mass Effect 2. Mordin will explain that this is what should have been done with the krogan when the salarians found them. Instead, they gave the krogans (who had achieved nuclear technology only to blast themselves back to the stone age) spacecraft and advanced weaponry, the reason being that krogan toughness, aggressiveness and sheer numbers were needed to combat the rachni. As a result of this "uplifting", the krogan expanded explosively with nothing to check their numbers or their aggression, necessitating a Depopulation Bomb that meant that only one out of every thousand pregnancies was born. Had the krogan naturally developed beyond their aggression, Mordin explains, this may not have been the case, and the krogan could have been prosperous.
- This is a common theme in Mass Effect 2. Legion states this as the reason why the majority of the geth did not follow Sovereign. The Reaper was offering what they wanted - true unity - but they preferred to reach it on their own. Also invoked when discussing the fate of the Collector Base.
- To say nothing of the Reapers, of course; one of the big reasons the Council denies their existence is to prevent the galaxy from descending into panic. Not that they'd need to cover it up in Mass Effect 3, of course...
- In The Elder Scrolls series, the Psijic Order is a powerful Magical Society and the oldest monastic order in Tamriel. Initially, after their founding, they had this belief toward magic in general, believing that the world must learn magic slowly, at a safe rate. Thousands of years later, they still maintain this attitude toward certain magical artifacts, as seen in Skyrim's College of Winterhold questline, where they decide that Ancano's attempt to destroy the world with the Eye of Magnus (which is actually the true mission of the insane Aldmeri Dominion ruling class) is proof that world is not ready for it.
- Present in one of the endings to Deus Ex, and heavily implied throughout the game. Everett literally asks - "Do you think they`re ready for this? After everything you`ve seen? Everything you`ve done?" That question gives JC pause, and he answers - "No. Not yet."
- This is the justification the Brotherhood of Steel gives for their hoarding of pre-War tech in Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas as well. Since mankind had already nuked the planet halfway to oblivion once already, the Brotherhood fears something similar happening down the road.
- Interestingly, this is deconstructed in New Vegas: technology has been marching along quite nicely since the end of the first Fallout, and the NCR has access to all sorts of useful tech and is still developing more. However, the West-Coast Brotherhood of Steel still refuses to share theirs, still thinking that the people (read: anyone who's not them) are not ready to handle any sort of technology. Their dogma in this has gotten so bad that they even waged war on the NCR several times to take back or hold technology they want, like at the Battle of Helios. Unfortunately for the Brotherhood, while they do have power armor and nifty laser weapons, they don't have the numbers that the NCR army has, leading to many losses on their side.
- In STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, this is the reason that you are given for the true origin of the Zone being kept a secret by the C-Consciousness.
- Devil Survivor and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey both present this as a possibility in both cases and the equal possibility to avert it in the first case. Considering these games relate the story of massive demonic infestations and the horrifying depths humankind can sink to when backed into a corner, the protagonists for both games have fairly good cases going for them.
- TRON 2.0 implies this trope at the end. Laser technology that can open up a whole new dimension? An entire civilization of artificial life forms? Human "Users" becoming Physical Gods worshiped by those life forms? Unfortunately, Thorne and F-Con exploited all of it in the worst way possible, trying to enslave the Programs and have unlimited access to state secrets, global finance, and media to rule both worlds. Jet and Alan lock down the laser and the necessary algorithims to run it very tightly after they return to analog.
Jet: If anyone's crude, it's us. We're not ready to exist here. Not yet, anyway.''
- Combined with "Groundhog Day" Loop in a particularly Mind Screwy way in the webcomic Grounded Angel.
- The Invasion of monsters in the webcomic Parallel Dementia is kept secret, because the more people know the nightmares exist, the more there will appear.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Jean takes offense at the alien Princess Voluptua's referring to the human race as "wildlife," Volly responds, "Jean, don't take it personally. Until you start interstellar space travel, everybody's wildlife."
- Played for laughs in El Goonish Shive when aliens show up at Tedd's house.
- Tedd wants to make the world ready.
- In The Dragon Doctors —a world where magic is already known to exist— a spy on an exploration team tries to sabotage the discovery of the fountain of youth, fearing it will change the world for the worse. It doesn't, as we have seen already (this is a Backstory chapter).
- In Wapsi Square, Monica is quite convinced that the world is not ready for the paranormal things that she deals with on a daily basis. The line itself first comes up after Shelly suggests using the Aztec god of alcohol to open a bar.
- The Paradise setting involves a Masquerade brought about by some unknown cause randomly, permanently transforming humans into (possibly gender-changed) Funny Animals in a way that is Invisible to Normals. Early on, characters opt to continue the Masquerade rather than trying to break it because there are too few of them yet for the world to take seriously. But eventually, it becomes obvious that the number of people transforming is doubling each year, so the various interested parties had better get the world ready because The Masquerade is not going to hold forever. Much blood, sweat and tears and a couple of story arcs later, The Unmasqued World is mostly back to business as usual.
- Actual real lightsabers, in the YouTube series Three In The Afternoon, and its sequel Six In The Morning. As Travis warns Jonathan and Corey, if they are spread throughout the world, people (especially children) cutting each other in half will become a regular occurrence, and much of the story is spent trying to stop renegade Lucasfilm execs from ruining civilization for a buck. After they seemingly succeed, George Lucas of course begins mass-marketing them anyway.
- After his invention which opens a gateway between the the fictional world of Television and the real world causing hilarity to ensue Professor Bonkers feels this way about his own genius in The Garfield Show
- After admitting to her partner Matt that the Gargoyles exist, Elisa says that part of the reason she never told anyone was because she wanted to feel special as their Secret Keeper. Later events in the series would demonstrate the world probably wasn't ready after all.
- In X-Men: Evolution, the existence of the mutants is hidden because Professor X believes humans are unready to accept the mutants. When Magneto releases a Sentinel in public at the end of the second season, thus forcing the X-Men to use their powers out in public, the Professor's theory that mutants will not be accepted is proven right.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien "The Flame-keeper's Circle", Julie tries to convince Ben that wide-spread alien technology could benefit the Earth. Ben warns her that it could destroy Earth instead. It's happened before to other planets, and one of the reasons the Plumbers exist is to prevent it from happening again.
Magister Labrid: (To Kevin) That's why Level 5 technology isn't allowed on Earth. Humans aren't ready for it.
- Also shown in the premiere of Ben 10: Alien Force when Magister Labrid tried to stop the Forever Knights from obtaining alien laser lances which were above Earth's technology level. His reasons are shown when one knight attempted to use a damaged lance on Labrid and Kevin, only to be blown to bits.
- In Men in Black: The Series, the above explanation is the reason MIB stores so much alien hardware: the public is just not ready for it. They even date each item down to the year for when the world will be ready.
- Some episodes of the Super Mario World cartoon have the Marios try to introduce modern inventions and ideas to the local cave people. Depending on what it was, this trope would be in effect; For example, Mario gives them the wheel, but goes too far and builds them cars from Bamboo Technology. The resulting mess makes no one happy. Invoked in another episode where King Koopa introduces television (Actually Magikoopas in boxes) to brainwash the people.
- Gravity Falls: When Dipper takes it upon himself to show the tourists of Gravity Falls some real magic, they end up traumatized by the Deadly Gaze of a massive Gremlobin showing them their worst nightmares.