36
$\begingroup$

In my story I have paleolithic era humans who were contacted by aliens long enough ago for them to have used space travel to spread across many planets. I want them to be able to fly and somewhat maintain spaceships but not produce them.

They are, however, still primitive and still live in caves with spears and bows and arrows.

What relationship between aliens and early human society could result in this?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – James May 10 '18 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ You've had a lot of interesting answers, but you also have a technology dichotomy. They can maintain the ships (replace components, follow instructions, etc.) but they're living in caves and using spears and arrows? I could believe operation if the ships are whomping automated, but not maintenance. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 13 '18 at 5:32

27 Answers 27

57
$\begingroup$

If you look at current autonomous drones, you could probably train your dog to fly them. So with the right automation, a cavemen could easily use a spaceship even without a concept for the stars. They´d just get a touchscreen with destinations to choose from, and upon pressing one, the ship would do the rest.

Maintenance is a harder task. Maybe the ship has advanced robots for this also, but needs raw materials to be restocked?

The Aliens could use the cavemen as exploration and/or as mining-crews, or to populate space.

  • Maybe they are themselves not so fertile and numerous to explore fast.
  • don´t care to spend all of their time in transit so they let the cavemen do the travelling.
  • want civilizations to spread across multiple planets to have some infrastructure when they travel there in a few 100 or 1000 years, and be received as gods.
  • Want to harvest the humans in the future.
  • Retrieve back the ships once they are loaded up with the desired resources by the cavemen
$\endgroup$
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of the cavemen being (perhaps ignorantly) a labor force for the aliens. Maybe the alien race requires a certain hard-to-sustain-in-spaceships atmosphere, or a certain food source that can't be grown off their home planet, etc. $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 8 '18 at 12:51
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @PStag glad you found an answer that works for you. We do generally advise to wait 24 hours to accept answers. This is because 1) it gives users in other timezones a chance to answer and 2) some users do not answer questions that have a green accepted tick, even if they do have another solution. Don't worry, if they really want to, they will. You just might be loosing out on potential answers. :) – $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps May 8 '18 at 13:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps I got excited. $\endgroup$ – PStag May 8 '18 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @PStag, lol, we have all felt that excitement, I still do frequently. Because everyone understands that reaction, you will even find those users who answered and was accepted will still give out the same advice :) $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps May 8 '18 at 17:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As an aside, there actually is a video of a dog flying a drone $\endgroup$ – Aequitas May 10 '18 at 7:10
45
$\begingroup$

There is an inherent misunderstanding of the "cave man" concept. It is true that various groups through history have chosen to live in caves, but that is because caves were more convenient and better than other types of shelter for at least part of the year. Today, we have space travel and paleolithic cultures of the same species living side by side on the same planet.

People from paleolithic cultures are no less intelligent than those from more technological cultures. In peru, for example, if is possible for your birth family to live a paleolithic lifestyle (more likely hunter gatherer) but yourself to be a brain surgeon. At that point it becomes a preference, often for independence and simple lifestyle.

Like the brain surgeon in Arequipa, who visits his family on vacation and uses a stone tipped arrow to fetch a monkey for supper, the crew of the starship are all professionals who strip down and go paleo when on their own time. "Primitive" is a lifestyle choice, not a state of being.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ While I'm not sure where the OP is going with the story, this is an important concept -- it warns of the ramifications of social devolution (tribalism, group think). Rather than focusing on dumb brutes, it'd be much more compelling to see intellectually capable characters who have been held back by (diminishingly?) small societies. $\endgroup$ – Courtney Christensen May 8 '18 at 15:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like your Peru analogy. I think some parts of Africa and the middle east too. I don't think its clear what the level of intelligence was for "cave men". They may have actually been smarter than we think, but had a lack of infrastructure with which to make higher technology, etc. If the aliens give them such might they not come up with some interesting things? I think its at least possible. $\endgroup$ – Len May 8 '18 at 19:47
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ We have to remember that we have the advantage of standing on the shoulders of [a long line of] giants. Our ancestors had less of this advantage. $\endgroup$ – Paused until further notice. May 8 '18 at 20:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You have not been NOR actually seen a "paleolithic culture", In your example, it is NOT considered paleolithic culture because they are actually thought by the outside world. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J May 9 '18 at 3:00
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Mr.J OP used the phrase "cave men" originally, which is coloquial for "homo sapiens sapiens using simple stone tools" . If you have a better word than "paleolithic" to describe cultures who choose to continue in that vein in spite of the surrounding technology, I'm all for it. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy May 9 '18 at 3:34
20
$\begingroup$

If you're not stuck on the idea of spaceships, you could always play off the "Stargate" idea. In case you're unaware, Stargate was a sci-fi movie and television series where human explorers used ancient alien devices to travel between worlds. The titular Stargates would, when used properly, form stable wormholes between two Stargates which allow people to simply walk through them and be transported across the galaxy.

Despite the fact that the main characters frequently discover human civilizations on other planets, and some of these civilizations are actually quite advanced, there is surprisingly little use of the Stargates by these other cultures. In terms of the show, this was likely done to make the main characters more special in that they are the ones exploring the galaxy. The other cultures can be forgiven for not achieving what the main characters do because there are various factors that make use of the Stargates both challenging and dangerous.

And this is where you have the opportunity to do something completely different - by making the "Stargates" in your story excessively simple. Perhaps it could just be an alien structure that contains archways that look completely normal, but are actually a tear in space that connects to another world. I think what would make this reasonable for primitive peoples to make use of and not impact their development too much would be to first make the interface extremely simple or even non-existent, and second not have any hostile aliens occupying the planet network.

$\endgroup$
13
$\begingroup$

Cavemen are to aliens nothing more than goldfishes are to us.

We took goldfishes long time ago from the place where they lived free, grew them into our water tanks and sold them around. So now you can have goldfishes in New York, Sydney, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Monrovia.

Apply the same concept to cavemen, and you have cavemen spreading around the galaxy, in places where they would not be able to reach on their own.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ But we carry the goldfish. They don't travel on their own. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 8 '18 at 7:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, that's why cavemen are more entertaining: you put them in a place and they start travelling around, colonizing the planet. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 8 '18 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch, however Goldfish have never managed to escape, the were released by people not thinking about the ramifications of their actions. while this is possible with humans, the required gene pool size would make these type of ocassional release end with those same cavemen, two Goldfish with no predators can quickly explode a population within a pond, humans breed too slowly for this. also... getting the colony ship onto the planet in order to colonise is going to be problematic for sure. $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith May 8 '18 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ I get your analogy, but I'm going to give "cave men" more intellectual credit than gold fish. Whereas we spread the gold fish, the cave men would spread themselves. Which raises another interesting topic. If the cavemen start to spread across the galaxy because aliens took them there would they evolve in many different ways on all the different planets they're on? A few million years later, the cavemen on planet A might be completely different than those on Earth and planets B, C, and D. All human but wildly different. Cool concept and I'm gonna run with it! LOL $\endgroup$ – Len May 8 '18 at 19:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Len Indeed, in fact its already obvious enough in humans on earth now. there are numerous visible differences in cultures from around the world, (This is not a racist comment) you can see from just the faces of Asian, native american, Africa and European people, and that has realistically only had a 10 or so thousand years to develop, a less than that in some cases. give it a millions years and have bigger differences than just climate and separation from the others, and evolution would take effect. it would be interested to see what the changes would be... $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith May 10 '18 at 7:26
12
$\begingroup$

Space Whales!

They domesticated a species of space-faring animal and use it to hop from planet to planet similar to current nomadic peoples (IE: Native Americans that lived on the great plains or Mongolians living on the Steppes.)

OR, they didn't so much "domesticate" as "are parasites on", which would give you some interesting story dynamics such as the organism's immune response trying to kill them, overpopulation ultimately leading to the organism dying, or the organism deciding to leave a planet early before the people could all hop back on.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 but this would only allow them to spread faster once in space. But other wise would only work if the whales come to the ground, which feels a bit magical if I am honest. $\endgroup$ – PStag May 8 '18 at 16:35
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I had the image more that the whales either migrated planet to planet on a periodic schedule (once a year) kind of like how birds winter in florida, breed and raise chicks, then go back to canada in the spring, rather than constantly being out in space and landing every so often. So it gave a mechanism that they could hop from planet to planet outside of the people's control, but it was regular enough that they could conceivably develop a culture around it. $\endgroup$ – jongscx May 8 '18 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure I've read a book with something similar: interstellar transport was via gigantic, intelligent animals. If not whales, something similar... $\endgroup$ – TripeHound May 10 '18 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think you're thinking of the Spline, a race in Stephen Baxter's "Xeelee" stories. They actually started as intelligent whale-like creatures, eventually developed the technology to fly through space, and ferried humans between planets for a fee. $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson May 10 '18 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @ShawnV.Wilson Not read that book, so it wasn't that. I think I may have been thinking of the ships in Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile series which are huge, self-aware, psychic organisms often in a symbiotic "mind-marriage" with a "shipwife" to provide interstellar travel. There are a few other Bioships listed on Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – TripeHound May 11 '18 at 10:39
8
$\begingroup$

Okay I don't know about flying spaceships and living in caves but being flown in spaceships and living in caves is doable. Automated ships wouldn't require any particular input from the caveman crew/cargo, so they could transport cavemen without seriously contaminating their way of life. In fact if you're talking about a planetary population, or populations, that still live the primitive way then I'd like to point out that if a group of modern humans were scooped up in only what they stand up in and dumped on a hospitable planet elsewhere with zero equipment they'd be living in caves and using stone tools within a few days of arriving too, or they'd be dead.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Automated spaceships that look like small hills with cave mouths for entry ports? They just enter a cave-like cargo hold and the ship takes off for the next habitable planet? $\endgroup$ – Arluin May 9 '18 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Arluin Nice embellishment, I'll have to steal it and add it to my answer when I have more time. $\endgroup$ – Ash May 9 '18 at 19:37
6
$\begingroup$

Your alien civilization created an advanced AI that is capable of adapting.

At first the cavemen were unable to use any alien tech. It looked different from the surroundings. Smooth surfaces, light colors, lights, etc. Naturally they thought of it as a god and started revering it.

With time the AI learned the cavemen language. While the AI is not made to advance the cavemen it is not unwilling to help if asked.

Eventually the AI controls ships towards stars the cavemen gestured in the sky.

as for maintenance: While extremely unlikely the ships might be in need of materials/fuel that can be harvested in some form by hand. Or each ship has some exoskeletons that can be operated by humanoids.

The cavemen follow the voice commands of their goddess(AI) to harvest fuel/spare parts as offerings.

The amount of exoskeletons is limited and they are holy, so not everyone runs around in one but only the chosen ones. Since they can only maintain and not recreate they are stuck with spears and bows.

They live in caves, because the ship is like a holy place. A place where you pray nothing you linger around.

They might even be fearful of the AI's voice.

Alternatively, the AI is not so benevolent, but it uses the cavemen as a form of tool. It trains them in the most basic knowledge they need and use them as a work force that acan biologically reproduce. That's easy to maintain and can be recreated with basic materials.

Some chosen ones are injected nanobots that make them immortal and give the AI full control over their bodies. Those are the leaders and "avatars of the goddess". They are following the AIs plans to do whatever the aliens wanted. This includes traveling to other planets and creating outposts.

They live in caves/use bows and spears because it is cheap.

Personally I like the "biological tools" explanation more, that would imply that keeping them "stupid" makes them easier to be controlled. Nanobots are expensive after all...

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I like that the AI simply uses them to gather fuel and raw materials and further directs them to make repairs. However homo sapiens sapiens being what they are I can see them start to subvert the repairs and ship resources for their own ends. Like wearing hardened vacuum suits into combat with other tribes wielding 1m spanners. $\endgroup$ – Arluin May 9 '18 at 19:39
4
$\begingroup$

Might be a cultural thing.

Look at predators, for example. They have FTL technology. FTL as we imagine it would require obscene amounts of energy, which could be directed towards comfort and hedonism. Yet they insist on spending their free time hunting animals in forests. Not seldomly they will forego using their high-tech weapons and will use spears.

So maybe the humans involved are trained for starship maintenance (though the ship AI's will do the bulk of the maintenance themselves), but they think that bu grabing their food by the horns and delivering the killing blow they might commune with nature and expletive. They might buy the ships from the aliens by trading furs, or the ships might be leftovers from a lost alien civilization (and plot twist: the aliens might be humans from the past).


Alternatively, the ships themselves might be biological in nature. Look at the Zerg from Starcraft. They are even less advanced technologically than neanderthals, yet they are able to fly through space.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Maybe this all happened so long ago even the smallest traces of society have been wiped over by natural erosion, wind blowing sand, earthquakes, etc. At the peak of our society we did have alien contact as an intervention to the destruction of our own planet by... well, human means.

The aliens and humans successfully made their exodus and relocated to a new and better world. Naturally, there are some who decided not to go. Left with a world in ruins, the population of earth gradually died off, leaving only those in the most remote of places. So few, in fact, that encountering another human would almost positively mean they spoke a different language, or killed you on sight to take your supplies.

Earth was abandoned in a sea of ash covering the sky. The only living things were subterranean or in sheltered, controlled environments. They exist, but few and far between and nobody left a map for the remnants. If you came across it, it was purely by chance. As it happens, chance didn't happen for centuries. Maybe even millennia. Until the savage humans left touring the waste of a planet happened across a large pit far in the north where there used to be ice. An installation left in abandonment for technical reasons back in the exodus that were too complicated to repair, and so they were abandoned.

After all these years left open, with the ice melted and nothing natural to cover the massive installation, a few of the people left on earth happened across a fleet of interstellar vehicles. Unguarded, and open for pillaging. For whatever reason, the issue that caused this installation to be abandoned is no longer a threat. Maybe massive electrical storms, maybe a system failure that triggered a pressure based safety fallback that forced the hanger hatch open 200 years later when the power source died. Who knows?

These humans, now long past the concept of societal structure, exist by scavenging what they can from wherever they can since very little grows on the surface anymore. Essentially, cave men. Weapons and ammo are long gone. So they have their primitive weapons to guard them as they carefully approach a fleet of vessels that were prepared for liftoff. Some with doors wide open. Some crushed by environmental failures, but some of them still had enough reserves to power on when motion entered the door ways. GUI was advanced back in the day. Just a simple happenstance of a few hand gestures around the pilot console closed the doors, counted down, and plotted the course for rendesvous A. Several ships made it out. And now we have cave men traveling the stars in a ship they have no choice but to figure out. There's hydroponics. There's water. There's power reserves enough to keep them alive as long as they would naturally live.

And to be fair, they are cavemen and savages by way of condition. This doesn't mean they're stupid or cannot speak. They know they have to figure it out. They want to go wherever the ship will take them. So they have a reason to learn the ship while staying calm, preserving their food source, and knowing they have only lived because of their savagery.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Our aliens used the cavemen the same way flocks of sheeps are used to clear plots of unwanted vegetation: for example to kill other large animals in a number of worlds the aliens are terraforming.

The aliens set ships with very easy maintenance and prefixed routes. They are the hyper-subway taking cavemen from their residential cave complexes to their hunting workplaces.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

What relationship between aliens and cavemen or caveman society could result in this?

A gruelingly intensive few hundred years of education and breeding of only the most intelligent members of multiple tribes.

Remember that 20,000 years ago, man was making primitive cave paintings, and it's taken that long to develop Cat In The Hat and 3x^2 - 4x + 5 = 0. Cramming that into cavemen plucked straight out of the forest is unreasonable.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Humans 20,000 years ago were the same species we are today. It would only take a generation or two to educate cavemen sufficiently. The gap between cave paintings and the Cat in the Hand is cultural. The aliens may simply have better educational techniques. This could enable cavemen who retain their culture, to be able to run spaceships. The difficulty of bringing cavemen up to speed in running spaceships is not different from plucking contemporary humans and doing the same. $\endgroup$ – a4android May 8 '18 at 8:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @a4android it still does not answer why the cavemen will only live in caves and use primitive weapons. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J May 8 '18 at 8:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Mr.J Yeah I know. What worries me is how they live in caves & run spaceships. Where do you put a cave in spaceship? $\endgroup$ – a4android May 8 '18 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android that's actually my point, to actually create a house is far more simplier than riding a spaceship, yet they still opt to use caves? $\endgroup$ – Mr.J May 9 '18 at 3:44
2
$\begingroup$

They domesticate a space-faring animal, the way that we domesticated horses long ago to travel long distances.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Made me think of Horizon Zero Down.

The story is, basically, an earth populated by cultures that still use bows an spears, but living with auto-sufficient AI left by ancient humans cultures, that wander arround them as fauna.

They 'hunt' thoses AI, use the scratch they can gather from them, and when one of those people found a device into ruins, she's able to figure out it's purpose and use it, though nobody taught her.

This device provide her informations like topography or weather, that she's able to understand, because it's entirely composed of vocal messages, holograms and such clears user interfaces. After that she use others devices, more complex as she understand the logic of the conceptors of those devices

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Bring the Command &Control interfaces down to their level

Civilizations on a paleolithic level are theorized to know how to do certain things: Hunting, possibly fishing, basic sewing and maybe weaving, shaping of wood and bone and stone, gathering, and navigating by terrain and possibly by stars.

Interfaces which replicate these actions would be the easiest to train them on. Logical progressions would be the next step. If a shaman or some other leader enters the "magic hut", settles all his folks in the "magic piles of fur ala beds", and then hops in the "magic canoe" in the "sacred room" and paddles to the next nearest "magic island"... lo and behold, they have just instructed a star ship to go from one star system to another.

Mining or other operations might take the form of animal hunts, or hunting for valuable objects. Even communications could be filtered through a "magic window" or some such if translation was needed between various races. Might even be mistaken for various religious ceremonies over time.

I imagine that alien devices would be VonNeumann style robotic units capable of self-replication as well as building new infrastructure in new locations, subject to the occasional command from the trained individuals.

And, of course, there is always the possibility that any sufficiently advanced form of magic is indistinguishable from technology and they actually figured out a way to pull off interstellar travel without what we recognize as technology or alien intervention.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Okay, let's play with this concept a bit.

"Cavemen" - apart from it being a very racist term, I mean, dude, if I was a Neanderthal I would be seriously offended; don't do that, pls - basically describes people living in conditions similar to the Paleolithic era. It says nothing about the world around them, as other commentators already pointed out: There are Stone Age cultures on Earth right now.

But let's say it is a planet where really there are no advanced civilizations. Still, it doesn't mean that there wasn't one in the past, and it was destroyed. But it's also not really post-apo: There's abundance of greenery, the world is flourishing with life, and there's still a lot of self-replicating, self-maintaining technology, powered by renewable energy sources. Only that it's just lying around doing nothing, because there's no one to operate it anymore. But there are cavemen. Descendants of the people who created that technology. They don't remember their history, they know nothing about science, and they treat these technological artifacts as magic and gods.

Fortunately for them Graphical User Interfaces of these artifacts were made to be idiot-proof.

A shaman of one of the tribes figured out at some point that if you do certain moves, touch screens in right ways in right times - basically, if you perform a ritual correctly - then the artifact will do something useful. This dark, deep knowledge was then passed through generations and developed upon. So, after hundreds of years, shamans of this tribe are actually able to launch a small space shuttle into the orbit and come back alive.

And then, with another hundreds of years maybe, if the GUI is really well designed, they will be able to perform magic spell which will put them in a long, cold, sleep and make them travel to other planets, still without knowing what is really going on.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How is it racist. Are you saying there is something wrong with living in a cave? Now I am offended. $\endgroup$ – PStag May 8 '18 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ There's nothing wrong with living in a cave, but c'mon, how would you feel if someone called you a flatman? The type of your dwelling is not defining you, bro! $\endgroup$ – makingthematrix May 8 '18 at 12:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I performed a ritual during my driving license, the car crashed. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J May 9 '18 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ @PStag, there's actually something wrong if you live in a cave, Batman does not live in a cave, he lives in a mansion, because he is no caveman, he is Bruce Wayne. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J May 9 '18 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ heh heh @PStag lives in a cave heh heh $\endgroup$ – Len May 14 '18 at 20:35
1
$\begingroup$

A variant of Spherical Regression as described in Piers Anthony's Cluster series of novels might be helpful.

In Cluster, colonisation spreads in spheres, outward from the home system (Earth/Sol for the most part, although there other spheres described). Travel outward from the centre takes three forms:

  • Teleportation (or mattermission): instant but prohibitively expensive for loads of any size. Mostly only used for data transmission, if I remember correctly.

  • Freezer Ships: cryonically frozen crew on auto-pilot take decades to reach the outer edges. The downside is that half the ships are lost due to failures in the containment units or the ships themselves.

  • Lifeships: slower, safer, but controlled (and, to some extent, repaired) by a living (and reproducing) crew who will go through several generations before reaching their destination. This last form is used for the bulk of a planet's colonisation, at the cost of "technical regression" by the end of the journey.

(There is also Kirlian Transfer – the ability to transfer a person's aura/soul by a variant of mattermission – but while this is central to the series, and can keep knowledge up to date on an outlying planet, it doesn't really affect the process of spherical regression).

With slightly contrived, but fairly plausible reasoning, Anthony argues that the combination of technical regression over the long journeys, plus the inability to ship materials often needed to maintain "modern" technology in any quantity mean that the further you go from the centre, the less technology the inhabitants of a planet will use. In the extreme, the inhabitants of Outworld, Sol's furthest colony, are palaeolithic, hunting with flint spears but not much else. (For the most part, it's not that they aren't aware of higher technology, but being so distant, they aren't able to maintain the use of such technology).

In Cluster (as far as I can remember), the outward-lying colonists no longer have use of the ships that took them there. However, it should be possible to adapt his argument so that while day-to-day technology has regressed, the ships can still be used – perhaps advances in self-repair mean that the ships remain viable for long periods, but the colonists don't have enough technology (or the raw materials to maintain that technology) to use in their everyday lives.

I can't remember whether the ability to teleport, or send freezer-/life-ships was discovered "naturally", or kick-started by aliens: as far as spherical regression is concerned, it doesn't really matter.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Something akin to War of the Worlds, where the aliens took several tribes of humans, and then unknowingly exposed themselves to an (inert to Humans) virus or bacteria that ends up killing the aliens

Or have the Cave men attack the aliens, they were overconfident in their tech and the didn't see the cave men as a real threat until it was too late, although this is more of an "Alien Invasion" trope

you could easily add into the mix, that the aliens weapons are similar in design to say Stargate, Staff weapons, the tribes men perhaps were unable to figure out how to make the energy weapon fire, but can use it successfully as a staff, they would already have bow and arrow.

in terms of the figuring out the ship that is the hard part, if modern humans were shown say: Star Trek's USS Enterprise and found themselves on the bridge, then they could figure out the very basics of flying it from having see enough similar shows even if they hadn't ever seen the show before. however just 50 years ago that probably would have been unlikely, some but not all, 100 years and very few would have, due to fewer and fewer points of reference

The primitive tribe would have no basis for understanding that pushing something inside the ship would make the entire ship move, this could be solved by say a holographic training designed for the alien kids (therefore no weapons) system taught them the basics, or maybe the ship is AI controlled, and simply doesn't care who is in charge of the ship, or it simply sees that the aleins gone mean these humans will die so the AI helps them.

Modern humans would be able to figure out how to fly an alien ship IF the design was for bipedal humanoids, being that the basics for the design of the bridge would most likely be similar to something we would except, however we would only be able to build one ourselves if we have the entire resources of earth to do so, not just a single tribe

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

No way.

A screwdriver like the ones they need to operate to do basic maintenance of the ship is a better weapon than anything the cavemen had. The minimal knowledge needed to fly a spaceship, let alone to maintain, as well as the spacehip itself would provide the cavemen with enough ideas, know-how and materials to improve its civilization level to bronze-age at the very least.

Remember: they lived in caves and hunted with crude fire-hardened spears because they didn't know any better, not because they were stupid. Show them a better way and they will learn quickly.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ If the spaceship is a bio-living ship, it could do all the maintenance and repair itself. No need for screwdrivers. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps May 8 '18 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ OP specifically said the crew is able to fly and make basic repairs of the ship. It's screwdrivers or something more advanced. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft May 8 '18 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ True, they can make repairs. If all they have to do to effect repairs is spread a biosynthetic paste around the wall/object being repaired, they could use nothing but their animal-skins (as buckets), hands and maybe a primitive hair bristle paintbrush. They would just need to know when to make repairs.... $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps May 8 '18 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ I think you don't realize the enormity of the pool of knowledge required in the sentence "they would just need to know when to make repairs". As it's been answered many times on questions about post-apocallyptic worlds, we are all living on the top of a huge mountain of scientific and technical knowledge built by our ancestors. Just being able to fly the ship is giving them knowledge enough to advance its civilization up to the modern age. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft May 9 '18 at 9:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ IMHO, the best option would be "the ship is on autopilot, auto-repair mode and the cavemen are just puzzled passengers". $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft May 9 '18 at 9:25
0
$\begingroup$

How should we know what a future technology might even look like?

Here's an answer inspired by popular culture - you could describe standing stones on hilltops as ancient star-gate devices which became abandoned by some alien culture and then were appropriated by cavemen to populate different planets...

Bonuses - no maintenance or technical skill required, no language skills needed - cavemen and animals could literally get teleported by accident if they are in the right place at the right time - fits in with the landscape so well you wouldn't even suspect it, you could write in a possible connection between summer solstice and some kind of universal GPS.

The one thing this doesn't answer is the flying about part.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! When you get a chance, please take the tour and visit our help center. $\endgroup$ – bendl May 9 '18 at 15:16
0
$\begingroup$

The aliens could have trained the primitive humans to maintain the ships, and if the ships in question are well enough engineered, the humans are essentially along for the ride. This reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous with Rama" series of books.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

In Terry Pratchett's Long Earth humans have the ability to step through dimensions to alternate Earths if they are in the right frame of mind. The ability was discovered by accident, and it is implied that people had been doing it accidentally since paleolithic times.

You could use a similar plot device. Maybe staring into a fire in a trance and going to sleep leads to your humans occasionally waking up in a cave somewhere else in the universe.

Aliens may have given paleolithic humans a DNA altering virus that allowed them to use their minds to open wormhole tunnels to suitable habitable planets - but over time the exact trigger was forgotten and it now happens rarely if at all.

(Maybe all those missing persons presumed murdered triggered this ability)

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

If you look at a certain species of cricket or locust like insect (the specific name eludes me, but I will update if I can find it), it is completely capable of being totally frozen and coming back to life when it thaws out.

So, if you will pass that it is not totally inconceivable for humans to survive being deeply frozen, I will submit the following as being almost plausible, although, not without issues.

A super-large, high speed, near-miss asteroid creates a catastrophic wind and simultaneous gravity anomaly flinging several humans off. Because of the combination of unimaginable wind and the gravity anomaly (near miss with planet Nibiru) the humans are flung out of Earth's gravity, past orbit and out into space. This alone could not get the humans out of the solar system, but it could distribute them within it.

Given time their mass would accumulate space dust. It is nearly, nearly, nearly believable until re-entry. Suppose in an intricate and almost fantastical way they accumulate a lot of ice (perhaps a lot of water was swept off of the Earth as well?) then perhaps they could survive re-entry to a planet with an extremely thin atmosphere if they landed in water. Mars. It is not totally certain that they would be pounded into abysmal dust if landing into water.

On Mars they learn to grok and you have the alternate pre-lude to an existing series.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Stargate, biological version:

Some alien made a synthetic lifeform. It's method of spreading it's seeds is a stargate. While it does make fruit it's contained within the plant, not available for eating. It grows a bunch of fruit (which is extremely long-lasting) and then builds a stargate around it. If it manages to complete the gate it's last act is to activate it.

Unlike the TV show this stargate isn't controllable. All the mass drawn into the gate is flung to random locations but subject to energy balance requirements:

1) The air pressure at both ends of the gate must be similar.

2) The two locations must be at similar depths of the local gravity well.

3) The two locations must be at similar depths of the overall gravity well.

Each object drawn in is flung to it's own random location, but "object" is loosely defined--a group of people holding onto each other solidly will be one object for this definition.

Some cavemen from Earth were investigating a gate plant when the gate fired and were drawn through. (As the gate triggered they grabbed onto each other in fear, this caused them to be thrown to the same location.) They were in a bad way where they came from (game hunted out, bad weather), they arrived in a new land with good weather and no competition. (Remember, plants and animals can be drawn through also, the galaxy will be colonized by the same sort of life, it will mostly be edible.)

Thus was born the legend of the gate plant transporting people to heaven. Over time this has been refined as they have learned how to prod a gate plant that is almost ready to fire. When conditions are bad groups sometimes seek out a gate plant as a method of escape.

Note that while the energy balance rules ensure you arrive at a planet with an atmosphere they by no means guarantee it's habitable--most voyages actually result in a very quick death. Since there's no return nobody knows this, though, the legends only tell of the past which inherently is the jumps that worked.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Why do you need aliens? Your “cavemen” might have once had the technology to get to the planet, but crash-landed, ruining their high-tech toys. A few hundred years later, they would only have mythical remembrance of their technology.

Being a caveman isn’t being stupid. If you were stranded on a deserted island, you would become a caveman overnight.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

"Gronk, I'm going to destroy this world with a flood. I want you to build an ark. Get two of every animal...."

Then the aliens just transport Gronk's ark.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I really find it hard to imagine that the caveman of the "paleolithic" age will actually know how to operate something as advanced as a spaceship?

As defined here these guys only know how to use rocks, and before we could even go to space, it took us a lot of years to do so. A LOT.

It seems like most people here agree that someone in that age or era will actually learn how to operate something as advanced as a spaceship without any help whatsoever, and will eventually learn it with just the use of manuals?

I'm a computer scientist, I have created systems and I will proudly tell you guys I cannot fly a plane even with a user's manual, I will actually need help from someone to teach me how to fly a plane, and learn from them on how to maintain that plane.

Another example can a severely secluded ethnic tribesman who was born and lived for 80 years in the forest, use a TOUCH SCREEN cellphone?

Now tell me, how in the world can a caveman of "paleolithic" age fly a ship?

The most logical reason that comes to my mind is that, the cavemen will be held either as lab rats, carried to other planets by means of "bait", and flown through space through "space cages" so that the aliens can use the cavemen as cattle, reproduction, slaves or research purposes.

In this scenario, the aliens are indirectly helping them to fly their own spaceships, but the controls are being used by the aliens, why? for some reason that these guys only knows how to use rocks.

Now some of you will say that If these cavemen are taught, then they will know how to use the tools around them right, which is basically right, but the OP actually stated that "How can paleolithic humans colonise the stars without direct help from aliens and still be primitive?" and teaching something, is already a direct help.

Colonizing is another thing, the cavemen may colonize a planet if left alone since they will eventually reproduce, but to colonize the stars, these humans need to learn from their abductors about the technology which they use, since these aliens technology is more advanced than ours(we can travel in space but up to just what extent right?).

It might take them more than a millennium to learn how to use the alien tech for interstellar flights, but that is IF they will not be taught on how to use them.

Again, teaching them, in any way, is a direct way of helping the cavemen.

$\endgroup$
-1
$\begingroup$

I seem to recall a movie and long running television series that was all about this topic... what was it again? Oh, now I remember... Stargate!

Stargate portal

Who needs ships when you can just walk through a portal?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ there was already an answer that mentioned stargate. this answer adds nothing new $\endgroup$ – Sir Adelaide May 10 '18 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ @sir I didn't notice it when skimming this page. No need to be snarky. $\endgroup$ – Bohemian May 10 '18 at 15:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.