Okay, the title is a little misleading, but in Michael Hicks' In Her Name books an alien race many millennia old has achieved space travel and has highly advanced technology. When I say advanced, I mean they use nanobots to convert an uninhabitable planet into programmable matter and reconfigure that matter to make a habitable world.

This is a very warlike race and has wiped out countless alien races. An emerging human confederation is growing and has been discovered by the aliens. The aliens could easily destroy us and all of our worlds in weeks, but they follow a code of honor that prohibits the genocide of a species without fighting it. They think hand-to-hand combat is the most honorable and their infantry wear laser-proof armor and wield swords.

They destroy our artillery and war machinery via orbital bombardment and then fight us man to man (or rather woman to man as their species' males are nothing more than mindless drones).

My question:

How would such an honor-based civilization gain the ability of space travel and is this a realistic set up?

I am more interested as to how the projectile weapon system that we have honed on Earth might not develop here or how it could come to be shunned. Could this in some way be a more efficient way to fight in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ The impression I got from those books is that they developed on similar lines to us, but then went away from projectiles and such later once they had sufficient technology to render it mostly obsolete. $\endgroup$ May 8 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Curious. This looks suspiciously like an alien race I built a year or two ago. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    May 8 '15 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Suspicious because he published the book six years ago? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    May 8 '15 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel No, not at all. I've never read the books. Never heard of them before now, actually. I just find it fascinating that I developed a similar species without ever reading those books. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    May 8 '15 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ Is it absolutely necessary to bring chivalry to space along? $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    May 10 '15 at 1:11

Humans could probably one day become similar to the race described here really, it depends on when the honor code came up. If we transition to post scarcity when we reach for the stars, then we enter a phase where money isn't the motivator. If money isn't, what is? Enter honor. I think that's the key thing you can focus on here, this honor code could develop late into the races history as a response to post scarcity society's evolution (We currently say 'he who dies with the most toys', they say 'he who dies with the most honor'...though in any event the line ends with 'still dies')

If a species has nanobots that can reconfigure a planet at whim, then there really isn't that much of a need to attack another race (I think you can say they are post scarcity if they can rearrange matter as needed)...there's an absolute abundance of other planets, moons, asteroids, and any other manner of matter floating around space for them to use. They are so well advanced that their opponents don't offer much of a threat against them...so whats the reason they are even attacking other species? The only parallel I can take from current earth is the same drive that makes a human go around earth shooting animals on safari (In lost world, saying "I hunted the biggest Dino" is enough to risk ones self)...it's not because there is a need to, but because it's sport. It's gathering experiences, fame, pleasure, honor, and whatever else one gains in killing a creature that can't really defend itself from you brings.

And there's my answer to your question...they've reached the point in their development where they are not attacking for land or material gain, nor are they fighting for their survival...they are fighting for sport. Sport has rules...if a golfer picked up his golf ball and dropped it in the hole, he has infact accomplished the aim of the game (ball was sunk, no?), but there is no glory in it because he didn't do it according to the rules. I'm sure a MMA fighter could win if he took a gun into the octagon as well. Killing a lesser species in a manner other than hand to hand combat is the same type of cheating as picking up and walking around your golf ball. If you're going to play the sport you've gotta play by the rules.

I find it's humorous that the potential of getting caught cheating on an invasion is a possibility...your alien race invades a planet and a few of the soldiers bring in advanced rifles and slaughter everything. This is investigated by the alien species 'invasion commissioner' who determines that heavy plasma weapons were used which results in the disgrace of the invaders under the scandal name 'plasma-gate'.

Incidentally...don't under-estimate the humans race ability to defend ourselves. Guerrilla warfare is a very valid technique vs a technologically superior species and even if your alien species can kill off every tank and plane on earth prior to the invasion, they are going to find a very warlike human race hiding in their home terrain and resisting in every manner possible. Your aliens are going to be in trouble if they can't resist heavy projectile fire, explosives such as RPG's, anti-tank weapons, and even nuclear devices. Like it or not, our current human race is warlike to it's core...there's a good chance the invading aliens with swords might be facing prop planes loaded with explosives and manned by a suicidal pilot wanting to take as much down with them as they can.

Edit as suggested from dsollen - One would have to assume with how far this race has come that the simple destruction of their body/physical form isn't necessarily death to them (otherwise the sport seems pretty risky)...they've got nanomachines and can rearrange matter as is, restoring consciousness from a single surviving cell (5th element style?) or copies/clones or avatar style combat is all a method around this.

You almost have to assume that if they're coming in with swords when they could simply convert the planet with nanobots (us included) to whatever they felt like, that they must be doing it for some form of entertainment/pleasure (be it from actual combat or the 'glory'/honor afterwards) over practicality. Isn't that the background in AvP anyway? The bigger of a resistance we mount is simply more honor in combat to be found for them

  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer a lot. Because of the possible controversy around the 'sport' this leaves a chance for your human race. (Invasion was deemed un-honorable so the planet is left alone etc...) // I can also see Aliens betting for or against their fighters. One betting tons for the humans that he's researched and deemed 'nastily' aggressive and resourceful in war and conflicts. $\endgroup$ May 8 '15 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer, in that it's about the only plausible way to meet the OP desires, and could make an interesting story. However, it still leaves the question as to why their willing to die for their sport. Sure a few hard core folks will do dangerous games, but not this dangerous, or in this many numbers. I would either say they don't really die (brain uploads, or impervious armor and they retreat when deemed 'killed'), or suggest that those who win earn mating rights; many species will risk death to mate! $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    May 8 '15 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ I like the sport analogy, but it would only work if and for as long as there is no serious threat of death to the aliens, no one would go into MMA or boxing if there was even a 5% death rate (and they'd be illegal) so as soon as humans do start making any headway and start taking aliens down with guerrilla tactics then the sport ends and extermination with weapons begins. Like if a bull in a corrida somehow gets loose and kill a few people he'd just get shot without any sporting rules $\endgroup$
    – Maxim
    May 8 '15 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth gladiators had a 1/10 chance of surviving in the ring, and only went infrequently during a given month. The ones that were willingly signing up for it lived longer. This is a time when your average life expectancy was much lower, so they had less to sacrifice, and often needed the gold they made to survive. these aliens would face much greater death rates (assuming humans stand a chance), when they have a much better life expectancy when not in combat. It's still not an even trade of risk vs reward. Plus it seems post-scarity beings wouldn't be as religious either. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    May 8 '15 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth I agree, but that still falls under "no serious threat of death to the aliens" if they can survive destruction of the body. My point was that sportsmanship can not be detrimental to their society, if losing physical body isn't a big deal, sure they won't break the code for that but they will stop using it if humans ever become an actual threat. $\endgroup$
    – Maxim
    May 8 '15 at 22:05

In short: probably not

Any civilization that has become advanced enough to travel through space has to be at least somewhat pragmatic, otherwise they'd never reach such heights. Fighting hand to hand is a pretty significant limitation, many species can be immune to it, too large or too small (you couldn't fight bacteria or spores hand to hand very well). And given limited time any species that does a lot of thinking about space travel does proportionally less lifting of heavy things and building muscle, you can have some separation of labours but on average evolution will favour certain traits. Even the best MMA fighter can't be competitive against a bear or a gorilla.

So in general smart specie has to rely on technology rather then muscle and if any code stands in the way of that they'll have to either abandon that code or they'll meet species that they can't deal with and lose.

Also it's hard to see how it would evolve, even if they come from a planet that doesn't have bears or any equivalent of such there is a matter of fighting each other (and if they are war-like species you you know they fought each other a lot) If one tribe only fights hand to hand and another uses bows and arrows AND hand to hand, the second tribe will win, wipe out the first one and their culture. In a war-like species the society that will become dominant and eventually go to the stars is the one uses the most effective and least laborious method of fighting, not only because it'll let them survive better but because it'll also free up more of their population to be scientists, and over the millenia that it would take their values will reflect that

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    $\begingroup$ But what if they use technology to enhance muscle? I can imagine a society that makes themselves better by constantly challenging themselves; and what better way to challenge oneself than to commit genocide with one's bare hands? $\endgroup$ May 8 '15 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ Committing genocide with bare hands takes prohibitively long time and takes up a lot of people. Essentially say you have 100 people, and it takes, say 10 to maintain society (provide food, electricity, whatever): you can either have 10 scientist and 80 muscled warriors or 80 scientist and 10 warriors who push a few buttons and kill millions. The second setup allows for much better science in the long run since more people are doing it. $\endgroup$
    – Maxim
    May 8 '15 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ "Committing genocide with bare hands takes prohibitively long time and takes up a lot of people." and what if the goal is to take up a lot of people for a prohibitively long time? I mean these guys obviously have no problem with resources, but they may very well have problems with population control. $\endgroup$
    – NPSF3000
    May 10 '15 at 14:13

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