What could happen if, say, a small island off of the coast of Africa became overnight the most powerful country in the world? Can we predict what would happen? Would the world's superpowers be nice and invite the small island nation to the world leader meetings and play nice or would they not like not being the strongest countries in the world and threaten and try to steal the technology of the small island nation?

By most powerful, they are 50 years ahead of any other nation in terms of technology. Technology such as fusion power plants, energy shields, and railguns are commonplace. Bombing or invading the land is pretty much impossible. They have metal storm guns set up everywhere on the island to stop nukes and other missiles or paratroopers. Railguns and predator drones are set up to deal with any hostile ships. Undersea mini-drones armed with torpedoes are set up to deal with any submarines or any undersea threats. The island nation is 100% self-sufficient and is heavily militarized. They build everything from the ground up, and they have mastered undersea mining to supply their needs.

They are interested in being a part of the world. If the world refuses to let them be apart, they will respond violently. They will not share their advancements with anyone and no one from a different country is allowed on the island.

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    $\begingroup$ Did this occur before or after the American military completely imploded because the US could no longer afford its upkeep? Already a great portion of their navy is suffering from lack of maintenance. We already know that the Russian military has pretty much been reduced through cutbacks, and European nations are severely hamstrung in keeping up their military. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2020 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend taking a look at the book The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberly which has a country called the Grand Duchy of Fenwick which does exactly that. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Zeronineseven Would you please clarify the first sentence of your edit - do you mean "a part of" or "apart from", which have opposite meanings in "they are interested in being apart of the world"? Do they want to participate in world affairs or do they wish to exist in isolation? $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ So... the British Empire? $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ Re "If the world refuses to let them be apart": Don't you mean the other way around (together or similar)? $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 14:00

6 Answers 6


There would probably be a lot of countries trying to become the ally of this island nation. There probably wouldn't be any attacks on the nation, especially if their technological superiority is common knowledge. Once they have a line of countries lined up for their technology, they will become very wealthy.

Even technology 5 years ahead of where we are would have a decisive strategic advantage over any company operating, so they won't offer the rest of the world their best stuff, just stuff better than everyone else has. They would suddenly become the center of a new technological revolution. Manufacturing in this island nation will boom. They'll get most of their resources from Africa, and within a few years, they will produce virtually all computers, machinery, drugs, and chemicals for the rest of the world.

As they become the center of manufacturing, science, and research, they will also become the center of government and corporate espionage. Everyone who can afford it would send spies to this nation to steal the technology. To survive, the island nation will have stringent measures for immigration(maybe ban it altogether) and all exports will be heavily monitored.

As this country continues to assert technological dominance, the rest of the world will feel their economies begin to fall apart. Suddenly, all of their factories are outdated and even their research programs are now years behind. Hundreds of millions will lose their jobs and the sudden economic downturn will throw the world into a recession. At this point, governments will take strong action against the island nation. Some will ban imports, some will stoke flames of nationalism within their borders so people renounce the island nation of their own will. Others may band together and go to war.

Those that go to war will rapidly regret their decision. If the island nation did a good job of hiding their true level of tech, then they will be able to launch attacks their opponents never dreamt of. Maybe they have satellites in space that launch precision rails gun strikes, leveling every single factory, bridge, sewer system, and electrical station within days of war commencing. Such an attack would catapult a nation two hundred years backward in time and render them incapable of fighting. Any ships or planes that get sent to attack the nation won't return. Unfortunately, unless the island nation has robot armies, they won't have the population for occupation(if they do have robot armies, then they may annex the states that declared war against them and install rulers that are pro-island. They will give these nations a semblance of autonomy, but they will buy products from the island in exchange for resources).

When the dust settles, the island nation will emerge as the only super-power on earth. They will be the masters of space and the heralds of humanity. Or, the government espionage will have been successful, and in just a few years other technological superpowers with far larger populations will emerge and in less than a decade, the island nation will have faded into unimportance.

  • $\begingroup$ the "small island country" can build the factories for the "world quality" goods in africa instead of their - small - island. But the superior "island quality" goods will of cause be build on the island, and all secrets will be there. I can imagine a island country with even more rejjection to foreigners than 19th century Japan. They will not allow any foreigners to come to the island (because of the spies). Or maybe they have total surveillance? $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 5:32

It all depends on the population and size of the country and the time-span in question.

Would the world's superpowers be nice and invite the small island nation to the world leader meetings and play nice or would they not like not being the strongest countries in the world and threaten and try to steal the technology of the small island nation?

I don't really think that this is an either/or scenario, of course if such a nation suddenly existed all other nations would want to get ahold of their technology and reverse engineer it regardless of their posturing from an international relation perspective. Once discovered, technological secrets are impossible to keep under wraps for long in the modern world, and discovering a new technology (application of scientific discovery) is orders of magnitude more difficult than reverse engineering an already existing technology. With the already robust scientific capabilities of developed nations, it would not take long (~years, 1-2 decades at most) for most if not all technological superiority to disappear.

To elaborate on way, of the technologies listed, railguns and fusion reactors are realistic 50+ year technologies whereas energy shields are not and metal storm guns already exist. To guess on what 50+ years of technological advancement will look like, other probable areas of technology this nation would likely possess, would be the usage of advanced alloys and polymers, quantum computing and highly honed "A.I." and much more efficient energy generation and storage. These are the primary areas of modern day scientific research, and it stands to reason, we are most likely to see significant developments in these areas of technology. Thus, baring any "quantum leap" in technology (everyone turning into biologically immortal cyborgs for example), it is unlikely that, with our current technology, we would not be able to acquire this advanced nations tech for ourselves and found out how it works in a rather short time frame. Since we know that it works, we would have a clear line of research to conduct rather than all of the "poking-around-in-the-dark", which is common place among research today.

Thus, if this nation wanted to maintain its superiority for anything longer than a decade or so (two at the most), it would have to be quite Wakandaesque; remaining completely isolated and hidden, or have an extreme Edo period like position, allowing controlled trade but maintaining a very isolated status. The only other option would be to wage war on the entire world and this is where population comes into play. Nothing brings foes together like a common and powerful enemy and if this nation was populous enough, the technological superiority might allow for world domination.

But even superior technology has its limits, for instance a world war against this nation by most if not all nations would be laughable for a nation of 100,000 in-spite of 50+ years of advancement (consider a nation of that size with today's technology against a world armed with the tech from the 60s). For a million strong it would still be a quite a stretch; 100,000,000 on the other hand starts becoming more realistic...etc.

No, in all likelihood, this nation would simply enjoy a few short years of unequaled dominance on the international stage, as other nations vied to catch-up technologically, while depending on the population size and the culture, it would quickly be eclipsed as other much larger and more populous and well-established nations acquired its technology and regained their former status.


Most likely, the world would probably more or less ignore them. They would allow them to participate in world events, but it's debatable what the islanders would actually be able to do beyond have their sovereignty recognized. They don't seem to be interested in projecting their power overseas onto...say mainland Africa. They would be seen as a sleeping giant, but becaue they are entirely self-sufficient and don't allow people in or technology out their impact on the world stage would be limited to theoretical projections of why not to risk their aggression. If the islanders started acting imperialist that would change real fast.

Most large nations are post-imperialist enough to not want to bother with them, and their level of technology and isolationism would make even hegemonic attempts to cultivate influence not work well. If this were the 16th-19th century the answer would be very different. Modern China might be the exception.

It's kind of a mistake to think that there is any kind of "world stage" that the united countries of the world can and cannot allow people on. It's more of an unspoken social rule, and that only lasts as long as every country in the world independently agrees to follow the same lead. For example China still interacts heavily with North Korea despite the rest of the world considering them persona non grata. The islanders could show up for world meetings and nobody would really complain about that, though they'd get memed to death about their secrecy.

Most "world stage" agreeements are independent agreements between two or more nations. Mostly trade agreements and defensive pacts. There isn't much they could weigh in on in global affairs beyond maybe agreeing that global climate change or ocean acidification is bad (since they are on a small island), but it's one of those things that everyone agrees is bad and no one is willing to take the necessary steps to stop it because that would put them at a disadvantage to everyone else.

That said, other countries would try to steal their technology. Constantly. Technological espionage is very lucrative for nations, and these islanders just made themselves target number one. But beyond declaring open warfare on whatever nation got caught they don't have many options for retaliation, especially non-violent options. They are isolationist, so embargoes mean nothing. Unless they have the population of the Kowloon Walled City, they don't have the forces necessary to occupy any world power. Which just leaves retaliation options like nukes and biological warfare, which is the definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face since the islanders need Earth too.

However, given their isolated nature, they are at a real disadvantage in that the world will rapidly outpace them in tech. This is part of the reason why the world would probably ignore them beyond espionage. A small island inherintely means a smaller population unless you have massive crowding, and even then you couldn't match the population of the U.S., China, India, or Russia. Only 0.1% of the population are scientists, but the rest of the world simply has more people. More scientists mean the rest of the world advances faster. And because they're not isolationist, scientists in different countries outside the island can share ideas with one another and the rest of the world advances even faster. The islanders may be fifty years advanced over the rest of the world, but in fifty years they will not be able to maintain that tech gap. There's no reason to antagonize a small nation for technology that will soon be obsolete anyway.

The bigger problem is that "Wakanda Island" doesn't appear to have anything to offer the world. The only thing that they appear to have as a potential bargaining chip for trading with others is technology, and you've already said they don't want to trade that. On top of that "no one from a different country is allowed on the island". Which makes it really hard for any goods to be brought into the island, as most incoming trade vessels are crewed by foreigners. Even when Japan did allow limited trade despite maintaining isolationism, they allowed limited foreign presence of Dutch, Koreans, Ainu, and the Ryukyu Islands in specially-designated cities. So no one will want to trade with them, and it doesn't seem like they have any reason to trade in the first place.

So, if these islanders aren't willing to let anything leave the nation, and nothing is coming in, then why do they even want to be a part of the world stage to being with? What do they want that the island doesn't have?

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    $\begingroup$ What do they want that the island doesn't have? Control over ocean pollution and global warming might be the thing. Island technomancers might be a bit ticked of at those barbarians trashing the planet. $\endgroup$
    – PTwr
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ @PTwr But there's nothing they can really do about those issues because they would just be one more voice clamoring for less pollution and global warming and individually they don't have much power to effect change. If they show up at the UN saying "we think pollution is bad" it won't change anyone's mind on the topic (see: Kyoto Protocol). The island can't declare embargoes and its hard to build alliances when you don't interact much. The only lever they have left themselves is the threat of war. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 19:19

Being a part of the world implies having embassies, which conflicts with "no one from a different country will be allowed". Embassy staff will, without doubt, consist of at least 50% spies and saboteurs. Probably more like 80%. There's a very significant amount of illicit stuff going on with them even today, in a no-special world.

The first thing to happen will be, witout any doubt, cowardish, deceitful acts of piracy with invasion attempts. In other words, the righteous and fair will do what they call "black operation". After realizing that none of the men who have no name and whom nobody sent return, and after denying any involvement, the respective nations will resort to the next step, diplomacy and treason. They might, however, start both strategies in parallel, both to save time, and for synergy.

Particularly malicious nations such as the USA will likely try to kill the population with biochemical warfare, and blame it on the Chinese. Oh wait, that is already happening right now. Forget what I said. Russia might use a neurotoxin, and later reply "So what? Prove it. I see no evidence." when challenged. Oh wait, that has already happened, too.

The most likely thing is they'll one way or the other try to assasinate the government and key persons (and temporarily disable defense infrastructure), and take over the otherwise completely functional island with the mostly helpless but knowledgeable civil population. To quote Guzman (or Axl Rose, if you prefer):

We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum.

Other than that, if this fails, there will be no significant change.

As you said, the isle will not share their technology with outsiders, so they are not interesting for the rest of the world. At best they are a threat, so other nations will be somewhat bootlicking them, just in case. Nobody will try to start an open war.

Although, they would likely not be bootlicking too much as it is obvious that they will not be a "powerful ally" in some prospective war. Why would they, there's no reason for them to give such a guarantee or even engage in a war that isn't theirs. Although history tends to repeat itself, and the stupid never die out, one should nevertheless assume that someone so advanced should be aware of what happened only a hundred years ago. They'll not repeat that mistake.

Also, "respond violently" is very likely to be seen as a relative term. If they are sufficiently advanced as they are, they will certainly not start a war by themselves because they will know that they will lose either way.
War means, at best, to lose a couple of drones and drive forward global pollution, and at worst (or rather, in the to-be-expected case) ending up with an awesome island that has fusion power and energy shields, but is located in an ocean with, uh, radiant water, so to say. And the rain is black, and skies are grey.

Shields may be able to block a blast, and drones may be able to destroy every ship and airplane. You may be able to speak the word, and have fire and brimstone rain from the skies onto the heathens, whatever.
Be that as it may, you are still dependent on the rain that nature kindly gives to you, and you are still surrounded by an ocean. You still need to breathe, too. If the rain is toxic and the ocean is radioactive, that's not a lot of fun (unless you also have gate technology and have already terraformed a Juiter moon or something, then again why would you stay on a small isle...). You still need the sun, both to grow plants, and to not go crazy. So... when the sky is clad in one huge dust cloud for a decade or two, where's the sun?
So... starting a war is very likely not what you'll want to do, even if you know that you will win. It will be a Punic victory (which I think isn't a real idiom in English, but very well in other languages, it means as much as lose-while-you-win). Jean Jaurès, the only intelligent socialist in history, was wise enough to know that, and courageous enough to say it in public. Unluckily, a bullet to his head from behind was the only reward he got from doing so. No good deed goes unpunished, heh. But we should assume that a very advanced society is a bit smarter than early 20th century French nationalists, so they will know that going to war is generally a bad idea.

On the other hand, the rest of the world is not very interesting to insulars either because the world has nothing to offer that the insulars cannot make themselves (except Korean girls). So... interaction will be rather limited, there's not much of a base for trade and the like.

Seeing how the island is close to the west coast of Africa, though, two things are going to happen for certain. Traffickers will get super super rich from selling places in low quality boats, and you will have thousands of dead bodies being washed upon your shores every week (unless you rescue them, which you won't, as this would be letting other people in).


Conflicts between powers and the search for economic hegemony is the "art of humanity", so we can work with speculation. We have superpowers that have been fighting each other for years, their territories are vast, because from the beginning the territorial extension represented power. The emergence of an island nation as a power represents a breakdown of old structures, where power is no longer based on territorial extension, domination and exploitation of the resources of underdeveloped countries, in this way the superpowers of the world would take the island nation as threatening and seek to unite among themselves, a union between former economic enemies, with the aim of forming an alliance capable of overcoming the new competitor. It is a fact that the "alliance" or the "axis" would seek friendly relations with the island nation, inviting it to meetings of world leaders, among others, in order to strategically appropriate its technologies. With the approach, it would be easier to enter the territory without having to use weapons and thus disrupt the nation from within (disrupt the government and create internal conflicts that need intervention).

  • $\begingroup$ If the OP wants an answer based on the real world today, China would totally embrace the nation, nurture and support it, and form an economic union with it. Just like it has done with Iran, North Korea, Russia, Afghanistan, and even Israel and Palestine. (China is now Israel's major trading partner). The world scenario today is all about China gaining economic trading advantage through friendship, and America increasingly isolating itself. Since China's goal is to make as many friends as it can, and America's goal is to make as many enemies, the conclusion is obvious. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:33

Their technology collapses.

military power is not the same as economic might. The major limitations of a small island nation is lack of raw materials including food, either they are trading their advanced technology or they can't get the labor or materials needed to build it. You can't have advanced technology and be highly insular, you will not have the rare materials needed to build said technology. worse in a small island nation advanced technology is the only hope they have of feeding themselves.

  • $\begingroup$ An island nation can get all food it needs from the ocean, but indeed not all raw materials. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit an island nation with a small population sure, but a small population can't build even modern technology. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 15:10

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