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What attributes of a species (not space-faring) or culture could lead to reasons to not want or even imagine to develop near instant planetary-wide communication (Internet) technologies?

The species can know about the possibility of near instant planetary-wide communication.

Edit to clarify: For the purpose of this question "Internet" is only a way to achieve real time communication planetary-wide, for all the purposes and 99% of time Internet is "instant" and allow me to have real time planetary communication, the fact that is not yet 100% reliable is irrelevant.

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    $\begingroup$ It's going to sound like splitting hairs, but instead of asking for reasons for no internet, ask what attributes of a species or culture could lead to reasons for no internet. That should move it from Idea Generation to something a bit more objective. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Oct 1 '15 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ Telepathy would do the trick. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 1 '15 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Look at North Korea, for example. There is no guarantee the people in charge want all information available to everyone, or wouldn't suppress the technology that could achieve that. $\endgroup$ – Karen Oct 1 '15 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Serious answer: because they have seen what sites like TVTropes.org have done to the average human's productivity. $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Oct 1 '15 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ They don't like kittens, so never develop means of sharing cute kitty pictures. $\endgroup$ – Brian Drummond Oct 1 '15 at 21:30

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Depending on what exactly you're going for, I can see a couple broad possibilities:

1. They already have an organic alternative, and no desire for privacy: If they're already capable of something like telepathy, then it might not occur to them to invent actual communication technologies as their communication is already perfect.

Even if the range of the power was only a mile, they could still pass messages along at the speed of thought from person to person. If they evolved with telepathy, then they probably wouldn't have the same concept of "private thoughts" as we do.

2. They don't have enough trust: If they evolved in very small, social tribes/troops/herds/etc, and only trusted members within that very small circle (say, a dozen members or less), then they'd never feel the need to communicate with some stranger on the opposite side of the planet. They'd probably also not trust any other groups with their messages, so they wouldn't be willing to send data through routers not run by their own members, regardless.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd suppose that if they haven't enough trust above a small circle, they'd never become civilised because nobody would share their inventions with others, stifling any technological progress. But a beautiful first idea, compare Asimov's "Foundation's Edge" for a three-way conflict between a technologically advanced society vs. two telepathic societies. $\endgroup$ – Turion Oct 1 '15 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ One of Asimov's (?) short stories involved a society of bear-like people who were not naturally gregarious, i.e., they had no particular desire to communicate with one another unless there was a compelling need to do so. (To address the other obvious quibbles, they were also naturally pacifistic so had no military motivation to develop better means of communication, and much smarter individually than humans so they were nonetheless technologically advanced.) $\endgroup$ – Harry Johnston Oct 2 '15 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ One way distrust could actually encourage long-distance communication is via a motivation for espionage. You don't trust the neighboring tribe, so you send in spies, but you want the spies to be able to get their intelligence back to your tribe without having to be extracted. So mistrust of the other tribe encourages you to come up with long-distance communications. Eventually, that could lead to a network, or more likely an "arms race" of separated long distance networks. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Oct 2 '15 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ You don't need to go back to small tribes and herdsmen. We didn't have the internet on a large scale until 20 years ago: we were waaay beyond the small-tribes-and-herdsmen stage in the early 1990s but we still didn't have an internet in the sense we understand the term today. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Oct 3 '15 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox that would lead to a really interesting scenario where each separate faction has wildly divergent communications technologies/protocols. $\endgroup$ – Liesmith Oct 3 '15 at 13:50
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One thing is that a free repository of information that could be accessed by any, including non humans (such as a machine scraping the internet) could be dangerous at the hands of a strong AI. So I can see societies becoming much stricter at only allowing humans to move through the web if it was feared that a machine scraping it with a sufficiently strong model of intelligence could use that information to harm us.

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  • $\begingroup$ Certainly a point, thanks! It would make sense that a species could trade off this kind of tech for strong AIs...is certainly dumb to plug an super AI to the internet( I hope humans don't do that lol ) $\endgroup$ – Freedo Oct 1 '15 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ And you would "move through the net" with what -- your hands? The net which is hosted on what? Paper? $\endgroup$ – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 '15 at 10:38
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This is bordering on idea generation, which is discouraged here. Anyway:

  • Internet and instant communication are not the same. The look and feel of the internet depends on websites on servers which host content and millions of people with browsers on clients to read and add content. Things would look different if the message protocols were more restrictive, e.g. mail only.
  • The internet architecture allows clients and servers to hook up in an unplanned fashion. People who run TLDs are free to add domains, people who run domains are free to add servers. There could have been architectures which insist that every networked computer is registered and authentificated by a central authority. If there was such a scheme, nations would insist on running their own national nets. No more scammers from Nigeria, no more hackers from China, no more snoopers from the NSA. (Or fewer of them.)

Assume a more paranoid cold war, and that no open architecture gets started. If all you have is mail protocols, something like dial-up with a 56k modem is enough. The home computer dials up to one mail server at some institution (big company, university, government) and those are on an orderly network. Somewhere some harried admins have a map with all the servers in the world, and try to manage the message flow.

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  • $\begingroup$ If being able to talk in real time and transmit HD video to someone at other side of the planet, and being able to instantly connect and use information stored anywhere in the planet is not "instant planetary communication" then what is? For all the purposes and 99% of time Internet is instant planetary communication. The fact that is not yet 100% reliable is irrelevant. But still I'm most interested on why they would not want to able to do this things. Not how $\endgroup$ – Freedo Oct 1 '15 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ The original poster wrote "instant planetary communication(internet)" and I pointed out that the two are not the same. As to why, we wouldn't have developed realtime HD video via streaming protocols if there hadn't been an internet as we know it. (Or perhaps there would be HD video between a couple of military command posts, on dedicated lines.) There wouldn't have been internet without the http protocols. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 1 '15 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I think i was a little misleading, the internet is only a way to achieve "instant planetary communication" but it does not matter how they do it. I'm interest on why they wouldn't want to do it. Even knowing it is possible. $\endgroup$ – Freedo Oct 1 '15 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ "The look and feel of the internet depends on websites on servers which host content" It's a bit of a nitpick, I know, but you're confusing the internet (which is a collection of technologies to allow devices to communicate on a wide-area network) with the World Wide Web which is just a subset of the internet protocols based around Hypertext. A mail-only internet would still be an internet. $\endgroup$ – Steve Bird Oct 1 '15 at 7:30
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What attributes of a species or culture could lead to reasons to not want or even imagine to develop near instant planetary-wide communication?

You are assuming that a species is social in the way we are as humans. That's a pretty hefty assumption. We've become social creatures because it gives us a huge evolutionary advantage as a species. Cooperation is perhaps the most important part of our survival, but that's not true of a lot of life on earth. Think of all the solitary hunters. Or things without brains.

Possible attributes of a culture (this implies the species is social) wouldn't want planet-wide communication:

  • They have a different social structure where delegation of tasks is de-emphasized, such as a hunter-gatherer society. This means that the need to communicate to anyone beyond walking distance is almost non-existent. They have no need for it, so they never come up with the idea.
  • They live in an Eden-like environment and no longer need to rely on communication for survival. This change could be very gradual.
  • A past planet-wide catastrophe related to this kind of communication or its implementation makes the concept taboo.
  • It is a culture of bacteria in a lab.
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The obvious answer was that the microchip was never invented... But let's say they had computers but still no Internet.

They didn't have a cold war

The dawn of the Internet was in the 1960s. The idea was to have a network of computers communicating with each other and withstand attack from their enemies. If one line of communication was bombed then many others could still be used. Without this threat, and an interest in Information Technology by the U.S. government/military, there would be no Internet. And I specify the U.S. because other countries didn't develop similar technologies (so it's quite easy to see why it wouldn't necessarily happen)

Now of course, what brought the Internet to the civilians was the ability for educational institutes to share data between each other, but I can't really see them having developed the infrastructure required to facilitate the Internet without the groundwork first being laid by the military.

I disagree with the posts about people's fear of loss of privacy, etc. The benefits of the Internet outweigh that fear, especially during the 1980s when transmitting data back and forth was not too much different from speaking to them on the telephone in terms of privacy loss. In a parallel, no one complains by the loss of privacy generated by fax machines...

And unless you were living in a repressed society where such research was expressly forbidden, there would still be the interest amongst the people actually developing it (as opposed to people who feared it) that it would still get developed.

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I think the key reason would have to be social. They didn't develop the internet for all the reasons that people take 'time out' now.

  • People ignoring each other and instead looking at phones.
  • The comments on YouTube/popular news sites.
  • Facebook/Twitter being overwhelming sources of pointless noise.
  • Personal privacy - Plenty of people don't "do" the internet because they don't want to share anything.
  • Surveillance fears - with ubiquitous comes unrivalled intelligence gathering capability. Some countries have enacted really harsh laws due to a 'bad experience' (e.g. Germany) which if enough did, might be sufficient to cripple a nascent internet.
  • Hounding/abusing people (see: Gamergate) - enough incidences might get people to wonder if it's actually worth it.

I don't actually think it would take too much to 'tip the balance'. All it requires is a bit more privacy consciousness, a little more 'real world > virtual world' and a bit less narcissism to reduce the acceptability of selfies/status updates, etc.

Now, we've gone too far down the road, and 'everyone' can see the value delivered by the internet. But there's still people who don't really "do" it, because they don't like it, fear it, or usage will put them at risk.

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What I thought when seeing the question is the "High Castle" alternate reality were Germany and Japan prevailed in the second world war. I wouldn't think they would embrace the internet the way we know it today.

They might very well develop the technology and use it on a limited basis for some military and business things, but for the average person the internet would be a mystery.

Any planet that developed a society that leaned toward totalitarian would keep something like the Internet we know very limited. Wide spread open communication and totalitarian societies do not get along well. Ironically they would miss that great spying on the public tool that our current governments have taken full advantage of. (For our safety of course)

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Internet as it formed at the brink of millenium is a fluke. I remember reading a tongue-in-cheek conspiracy article which argued that even if in the field of mathematic research we had two incompatible standards (Mathematica and Matlab at that time), it's improbable that a single earth-encompassing standard for communications would emerge.

The zeitgeist, by the way, (surveillance, national three-strikes like laws, etc) is for the Internet to be torn onto semi-walled national webs, so value it while it lasts. Not that the most internet users will notice, as the internet for them means their social network site of choice.

That aside, there are several variants you may want to consider.

Imagine an internet without anonymity at all. You go in under your realname, you need to have your local authorities agreement to create a website (like what you need when you're opening a real-life establishment). Imagine South Korea's internet, just slightly exaggerated. This will make a drastically different web from what we know.

For the cheap way out you might describe some oppressive government. However, realname policy worked quite fine in FidoNet, without any government oversight. Your aliens may hyperreact (from our point of view) to any slights (it's in their culture), so to curb any violence the disclosure of personally identifiable info is mandated by benevolent authorities or cultural consensus.

Sure, this approach may not sit well with someone, but the practice of selling phones locked in for SIMs of a particular cellular operator also seems outlandish to plenty of non-US people.

You may have the world-wide network operating on different principles. Imagine a world-wide network based on FTN technology. In fact, just dig into 90s, you'll see it. You have the throughput way lower, with all the synchs and mail-exchange times, your mail may take three hours to get to the other side of the planet, but it worked and it will work.

You may have different, hardly compatible networks developed in different state-like entities. France had its own quite robust network Minitel in 80s (though in the beginning of 90s it was outdated by internet). You just need a strong not-invented-here bias for independent networks to survive.

The internet won't be the way we perceive it now if only a limited number of people could access it (think Eternal September):

  • If you're cheap, again, you may go for an oppressive government repressing freedom-loving rubber-mask humans.
  • For a moderate variant let's imagine that access terminals just cost too much (think of ARPANet).
  • For a truly alien variant your extraterresterials may be just not that socializing. Imagine a civilization of city-states where people are just as interested in talking with other states as you are interested in delving into a zoning debate in some Indonesian province. Sure, you can, but what for? So, only a small share of population will use such a network, scientists, diplomats, xenophiliacs, this sort of people. They will shape their web in a very alien way.
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Religious prohibitions against information sharing or just plain anti-science would be two of many reasons to not develop an Internet-like.

In human history, religion and superstition were huge stumbling blocks that stood in the way of human progress for hundreds of years (and depending on who you talk to, still does today).

There's a very long history of primitive cultures not wanting to have their photos taken (even the modern American Amish don't like their pictures taken). The Amish believe that pictures are "graven images" and prohibited by the Second Commandment. Other cultures believe that their virtue or souls are stolen when pictures are taken of them. So while a global information sharing apparatus doesn't necessarily mean that pictures of people will be shared, it's not a far stretch that some overly superstitious religious leader will condemn information sharing by this method in the strongest possible way. (Perhaps he is afraid of being exposed as a fraud, or is just afraid of change, or is worried that young people will do evil things if not watched very closely, or he's "thinking of the children".)

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  • $\begingroup$ The Butlerian Jihad of Frank Herbert's Dune comes to mind. $\endgroup$ – Paul Chernoch Oct 1 '15 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulChernoch that is an excellent example. $\endgroup$ – Green Oct 1 '15 at 18:00
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Inspired by colmde's answer ...

Or, they did have a cold war. Which then turned hot. They've rebuilt civilisation amidst the wreckage. They have legends / poorly documented history containing two or three grains of truth and one grain of "Terminator" movie. These suggest that if computers are allowed to form networks, they will turn on their owners. The evidence is all around them, in the form of green glass lakes and residual radiation and fiber-optic cables everywhere that wasn't melted.

If you want a back-story, this happened when their technology had advanced to where I expect ours will be ~2050-2100. All-out cyber-war by then will be as much a threat to civilisation as nukes are today, and the one might easily lead to the other.

Alternatively, something not unlike Cylons are known to have existed. They were defeated, at great cost. No way is anyone going to risk re-creating them. (The back-history of "Dune" is not dissimilar. Or - shudder - the Blight in Vinge's "A Fire upon the Deep", lurking in latent form in every archive).

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Suppose they come from a society that constantly resorts to war (much like ours does.) Rather than attempting to establish a world government with all of it's internal conflicts, the cultural paradigm is that prosperity is achieved through a balancing of power between insular factions. (this concept is thoroughly explored in the "Naruto" franchise.)

Space exploration opens up new possibilities. You could colonise a large asteroid, attach thrusters, and sail away at close to the speed of light, and never face the threat of war with your own species again. It is a concept that has captured their imaginations. Instant communication defeats the intention of insulation. You would want colonists to be free of all political friction originating from the home world.

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Maybe they don't have anything to share? Why would any animal on our planet want communication like that? It requires a desire for social networking or shared information or some kind of business. Not much else going on in our internet. A more darwinistic approach to live might be "don't depend, stay invariant, don't share, manage alone".

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Paranoia over space aliens learning all their secrets and invading.

Extreme sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation. (Cell phones cause instant cancer.)

Shortages of key raw materials.

Alien sabotage.

Genius, love of learning and extreme NIH (not invented here). Everyone lives for centuries. If they read the latest mathematical or scientific theories, then it is like getting the answer to the daily crossword - it ruins all the fun. Everyone wants to be their own Newton - Gauss - Einstein - Watson - Crick - Von Braun.

Everyone can run as fast as the Flash and talk as fast as an auction dickerer. It is so much better to talk to a person face-to-face anyway.

Highly litigious people. The smallest bit of inaccuracy is punishable by {insert really bad outcome here}.

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That your Aliens would use some form of communication is given, provided they aren't some symbiotic planet spanning organism, plasma or fungus. Yet even if those non-indivual Planetary organisms were to be populated by symbiotic parasites in order to maintain them, there would still be a form of communication between parasite and the host and between the parasites the self, the Planetary organism communicating the with itself, being a unity.

How does this relate to the reasons for no Internet? By showing that if those Aliens were not to choose redundant decentralised network protocols to exchange their messages, the different factions would still exchange information, perhaps on a less open, less decentralised, and even low-level of technology. Post offices come to mind, messengers like mail-birds, and from smoke signs with little information to something more informative like a laser coded message aimed at the addresses receiver and waiting for his laser responder for reply.

If the technology suffices to transmit the amount of Information your Aliens send around, then what comes around to them will be more of the same. New technologies might even be uncovered but deemed unnecessary as their advantages (for science?) would not justify the investments needed to convert to this level of technology over remaining at the old, time-proven standard.

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How about this: They simply don't like internet. You would think why. Because they are different and they do not have to be like us.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not an answer, as it is not backed by any explanation. Sure, they might not like internet, but why? $\endgroup$ – Quiquȅ Mar 20 '16 at 16:32

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