Unbeknownst to the majority of the continent, there is an alien invasion in progress. Finger-sized and not particularly threatening, they've been confined to the coasts of North America by the unique challenges they face in being so diminutive. Like any good alien invaders, they possess advanced technology and an exotic culture that has fascinated some of the people who happen to live or travel near them. Not so burdened, these artifacts and ideas precede their creators, destined for every corner of the world.

The only question is: how quickly?

Problem Statement:

Assuming the Algonquin tribes along the east coast of North America have acquired some technical knowledge (scientific thought, science books, building methods) and small, civilian devices built-to-scale (radios, primarily) from the miniature European colonists, how long would it take for them to spread across the continent? Major checkpoints include: the plains, west coast, and the city of Tenochtitlan.

Since this can be considered a very open question, answers should involve examples from history. Arguments involving the spread of real colonial technology are best, but others taken from the history of the Old World are welcome, too.


  • The state of the Americas is almost identical to that of their real, pre-Columbian counterpart.
  • The culture of the colonists is recognizable, although distorted by the circumstances of this world.
  • Disease, foreign and domestic, has not plagued the continent in recent memory; there is no smallpox apocalypse in this timeline.
  • The indigenous have not acquired transportation technology from the colonists.
  • There is no agenda to propagate the technology by either the colonists or the east coast tribes beyond what the latter would be naturally incentivized to do by e.g. trade profits.
  • There is a small but steady flow of trade between only a few east coast tribes and the few separatist (or slightly rebellious) colonies. Generally, there is little interaction between the two groups.
  • While the tribes have possession of technical knowledge and devices, please assume that this has not significantly altered their way of life; for the majority of my timeline, this is true due to a number of conspiring circumstances.
  • The colonists possess infinite energy, "anti-gravity" devices, and advanced robotics (think frostpunk), but beyond that are no more advanced than we are.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You might look at the spread of a couple of actual technologies, horsemanship and firearms. The Plains cultures readily adopted the horse, and became equal to the Europeans, if not superior, in its use. But horses make more horses. They also readily adopted firearms, but were AFAIK entirely dependent on trade to acquire them and their ammunition. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 6, 2021 at 18:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Willk To the indigenous, it is the 16th Century - history beyond that requires inference given the interference by colonists in real life. To Europe, it is the 21st C., and the colonists live to a standard commensurate with the 20th C. By the way, what edits did you make to the question? I couldn't spot the difference. EDIT: I misspelt precede, didn't I? Good catch. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2021 at 18:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ BTW, the question in the title is trivial -- the technical knowledge etc. will spread at the speed of plot. Obviously. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't mean the colonists. I mean the "tribes along the east coast of North America have acquired technical knowledge (scientific corpus, building methods)". I doesn't matter from where they acquired it. If they truly are in possesion of a modern-ish scientific corpus, then: (1) they number in the millions, or else they don't really have a scientific corpus; (2) they needed centuries to master the scientific corpus and the technology; and (3) their presence would change history beyond all recognition. (Millions because there are only so many people who have the capacity to learn and use.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 6, 2021 at 22:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually the first major checkpoint are the Appalachian mountains. Those present a serious trade barrier. That is why the east coast tribes were significantly different from the Ohio culture. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Oct 7, 2021 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


Well, how fast did technology spread? The Clovis Point in particular, swept over the continent which confused archeologists for a long time since it changed their stuff but did not actually replace the people living there.

I've not seen any actual numbers for how fast this was, only the implication that it was instant in archeological terms. So, faster than cities grow and change. The tech lasted about 600 years, so the initial spread must have been much shorter than that; like within one or two generations.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Impressive. If I'm reading pidba.utk.edu/maps.htm right, they even made it into Mesoamerica. This is definitely worth looking into, although it's so early in history that it may not be not be applicable to the situation of the 15th century with its large, organized and sometimes sedentary cultures. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2021 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ In 15th century, you had people travelling rapidly across the continent. It's the idea that spreads, not the people. How long did it take modern people to switch to smart phones? The question is, why would the villagers not adopt the new tech, and would that hold-out last more than a generation? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Oct 7, 2021 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Technology that requires significant resources won't spread rapidly. This invasion team is likely to lose a lot of technology that needs a huge supply chain. Technology that can be built out of local materials is an idea that can spread rapidly. Technology that can't spread rapidly is tech that requires major changes to lifestyle. Thus, growing corn took a while to spread from Mexico to the Ohio valley and likely required population replacement. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Oct 7, 2021 at 16:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .