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Playing With / Aliens Never Invented the Wheel

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Basic Trope: A highly advanced alien race lacks an invention that seems totally trivial to humans.

  • Straight:
    • The Centaurians have achieved interstellar travel but have never seen a wheel before.
    • There is no Centaurian alphabet. All information is relayed verbally or through non-standardized pictographs.
  • Exaggerated:
    • The superintelligent Centaurians have somehow become a Kardashev Type IV civilization without ever discovering language.
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    • Centaurians are the race of god-like beings, who never discovered fire and don't know the basics of mathemathics.
  • Downplayed: The Centaurians are more advanced than us in most ways, but have never harnessed electricity; something else powers their equivalents of our electrical appliances.
  • Justified:
    • They discovered the technology for Anti-Gravity while still in the stone age. Wheels were never necessary.
    • They're a Mage Species, and all mechanical technology is redundant.
    • If they don't have a language, they could be telepathic.
    • If they have never discovered fire, their planet's atmosphere contains little or no oxygen.
    • The Centaurian homeworld has a heavily rugged and mountainous terrain making invention of the wheel for transport impractical, so no-one thought to conceive of it.
    • Centaurians are robotic in nature and have wheels naturally built into them, just as humans didn't invent arms.
  • Inverted:
    • They think it's a joke that we never discovered Anti-Gravity, when the necessary tools are perfectly available to us.
    • Even though they have Anti-Gravity, the Centaurians tend to prefer wheeled ground vehicles for whatever reason (though if one's tires are too large and elaborate, the others may suggest he's Compensating for Something).
    • The Centaurians are inferior to humanity, except for one advanced piece of technology.
  • Subverted:
    • A Centaurian archaeologist reveals that the Centaurians once had wheels, but they've advanced so far since then that nowadays the average citizen knows as much about them as we do about flint-knapping.
    • The Centaurians do not know what "wheels" are, and the humans assume that the Centaurians never invented the wheel. However, it turns out that the Centaurians have wheels but call them "circular mobility aids".
  • Double Subverted:
    • He was lying, so that we "jumped-monkeys" wouldn't think we were superior to the Centaurian race in any way.
    • But then it turns out they're missing something else.
  • Parodied:
    • Following a What Is This Thing You Call "Love"? discussion, the Centaurians question every concept the humans mention, until they cotton on that the aliens are screwing with them.
    • The aliens don't have delicious fruit pies. First Contact is salvaged by empty calories!
    • The aliens don't invent porn, so they have no problem seeing naked people doing stuff.
  • Zig Zagged: Technology Levels are thrown out of the window - the alien civilization has some technology that vastly outstrips our own, some that is about our level, and some that even cavemen would sneer at.
  • Averted:
    • Technology Levels are in full effect; every alien race's tech is across the board either better or worse than ours.
    • The aliens, while advanced, also have simple things in place, such as wheels.
  • Enforced: The portrayal of futuristic civilizations using hover-tech for Mundane Utility where wheels would be more efficient is a pet peeve of the author, so she works a parodic explanation into her alien culture.
  • Lampshaded:
    • "How have you advanced this far without wheels?"
    • "Just because we've never heard of a wheel - except from you - doesn't mean you're better, oxygen-breathers."
  • Invoked:
    • Both civilisations were created and guided by aeons-old Precursors to settle a bet as to what's better - the wheel, or the leehw.
    • When the Centaurians invent hover-tech, they stop using wheels. They then decide to erase all evidence that they ever had wheels, just to screw with other civilizations.
  • Exploited: A Proud Merchant Race specializes in making First Contact, identifying that world's unique techs, jumping on the Galactic Patent Rights and selling them to worlds that don't have them.
  • Defied: The Centaurians want to be considered superior to all other races, so they spy on all other intelligent life that they are within reach of, and do their research to ensure that they have every invention in the universe including simple and unnecessary ones.
  • Discussed:
    • "Captain's Log: Am descending to the planet's surface to initiate First Contact. Who knows what our races will have to teach each other? They may even lack some of the things we take most for granted. I've got 500 credits on the wheel, Science Officer Smug has fire, and Ensign Mickey is hoping they haven't established the link between sex and pregnancy."
    • "Why do you insist on trying to find the technologies we don't share? Face it, we're just better than you."
  • Conversed: "How could they have cogs and rotors but not wheels? How big a mental leap is that?"
  • Implied: The Museum of Centaurian Inventions showcases the Centaurians' many technological wonders (including Anti-Gravity and intergalactic teleporters) but makes no mention of wheels or any wheeled vehicles.
  • Deconstructed: The introduction of a paradigm-shifting technology overnight has unintended consequences, which serve to show exactly why First Contact is so heavily regulated.
  • Reconstructed: The introduction is revolutionary, as any new technology is, but it's shown to be no worse than any native breakthrough. While the human high command discipline the contact crew for breaking the rules, and the alien ruling elite are predicting the downfall of their civilization, the Centaurian on the street loves the wheel and is grateful to humanity for its introduction, seeing the elite as closed-minded traditionalists devoted to the Good Old Ways.
  • Played For Laughs: Finding out they've never heard of a "wheel", Ensign Mickey sees an opportunity for profit, and introduces them to... roulette.
  • Played For Drama: While the Centaurians may have been missing some human inventions, over the centuries they'd achieved a utopian technological stasis, and the planet was at peace. This simple new introduction proves to be the straw to break the camel's back, and throws the whole world into war.
  • Untwisted: The Centaurians do not know what a wheel is. The human contact crew asks them about "transportation discs", and the Centaurians still don't understand.

Can you believe that the Centaurians' version of Tv-Tropes doesn't have links to return to the main page?!