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I have a race of humanoids who live on two planets in a binary system. This planet is mostly a water world, with some swamps and about three Australias. The other planet is very dry. But, I have a problem. I want it to be similar to Star Wars, with high technology level but no internet or social media. But I do want them to have space stations, spaceships, things like that. One thing I thought could help would be to make it inefficient or expensive to have these kinds of things. But I don't know how to do that. Or maybe bombard the planets with some kind of light that would fry electronics?

Note - Things like it goes against their culture are off limits, because if these creatures have technology that is helpful to them they will use it.

Note - Other alien's gifting them technology is also a possibility, but that means that at some point these creatures are likely to develop an Internet, and I don't want that.

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  • $\begingroup$ Two planets of any appreciable mass at 16,550 miles from each other would almost certainly be within the Roche limit. That's closer than Earth geostationary orbit! $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 28 '16 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling From this question they have a semi-major axis of 16550 miles. If you still think something is wrong with it I will make a question about which I am sure you'd be happy to answer. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 29 '16 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Re-adding the useful information, lAN are okay, but I don't want WAN. Also, only things that are proven to exist in real life make acceptable answers. No magic anti-gravity crystals. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 29 '16 at 18:54

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Perhaps take into consideration the biological concerns of your alien species. In the Predator series it is implied the Predators have vastly superior technology to our own, but if they truly have vision that works exclusively outside the visual spectrum it might be quite difficult for them to develop display screens comparable to our own. Without television we humans may never have developed Graphical Computer Interfaces, thus social media, if it existed at all, would be very different. This also explains why the Predators value hunting as entertainment, since they do not have the luxury of being a couch potato.

It's slightly difficult as a human to imagine an array of senses beyond our own, but if an alien did not possess ears or eyes in the same way we do, their technology might develop quite differently. In particular, I would focus on defining how your species communicates with others of its kind. Things like Pheromones/Smells, Physical Contact, Taste, etc. would be hard to replicate over the internet compared to the written word or the spoken word, forcing social interaction to be face-to-face.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, that fits well with my ideas for the creatures $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ "f they truly have vision that works exclusively outside the visual spectrum it might be quite difficult for them to develop display screens comparable to our own" - why wouldn't they develop screens that work on their visual spectrum exactly? $\endgroup$ – user253751 Apr 28 '16 at 5:21
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    $\begingroup$ "f they truly have vision that works exclusively outside the visual spectrum it might be quite difficult for them to develop display screens comparable to our own" – Doesn’t have to be capable of the full visual spectrum. We had black and white without sound before color too. $\endgroup$ – Michael Apr 28 '16 at 5:27
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    $\begingroup$ Just think of the tardigrade. They require way fewer protections to go to space. Now remove the need for protection against predators / internal strife. And you could easily have a creature biologically predisposed towards space travel. $\endgroup$ – Reaces Apr 28 '16 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ @D.Spetz Perhaps the very alien form of communication these creatures would employ is itself the answer! I have no idea how pheromones and physical contact could be used to develop complex mathematics, but if they did their perspective on science might be very, very different from ours. Maybe their method of communication is so effective at math that it allowed them to develop space travel at an early stage, or maybe the use of their science for communication simply never occurred to them. That is the beauty of dealing with true "aliens" afterall, the handwaves abound! $\endgroup$ – MozerShmozer Apr 28 '16 at 14:06
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There are some good answers here, but there is a much simpler one - in the real world, humans developed the ability to travel to other planets a good thirty years before social media took off.

With 1970s technology, you can leave Earth, stay in space for a few months then land back on Earth. That's not good enough to colonize Mars due to all the tech you need once you get there, but it is enough if the other planet is habitable.

Having somewhere worthwhile to go to would quite quickly lead to mass produced spaceships, especially if the other planet turned out to be more habitable than the homeworld.

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    $\begingroup$ How is social media "the internet"? Social media is a byproduct of people's narcissism. The internet is purely a communication's network. And communicating information is crucial for any civilization which wants to get off the ground. Our moon mission shuttles had computers on board, and those computers were networked with ground control's computers (via the transmission of information using a standardized algorithm). So your entire answer is based on a poor understanding of what the "internet" is. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 28 '16 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM I was going off the mention of social media in the question. While you are technically correct, using an Apollo era computer is certainly not what the average person today would recognize as "the internet". $\endgroup$ – Quentin Clarkson Apr 29 '16 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ @QuentinClarkson - read the comments on my own answer if you're interested in my more detailed explanation. The short version is this: all the internet is is a set of protocols for communication. We use it to look at media, form social networks, etc. But the internet is a tool facilitating communication, nothing more. The moon-mission computers were networked with mission control, and transmitted data using a certain protocol. That's the exact same thing that the internet does. No difference in purely technical terms. And so you might not have social media, but you NEED the "internet". $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 29 '16 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Well, maybe we need to define what you mean by "Internet". I would say it's NOT just the particular set of protocols. If you had all the same protocols, but these were just used for small local networks within a particular company or school or government office, and it never occurred to anyone to build the giant, global, INTER-connected NET-work, I wouldn't call that "an internet". If people built such a global network using totally different protocols that worked on entirely different principles, it might still be quite reasonable to call it "the internet". ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 29 '16 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ ... Indeed, when people think of "the internet" today, they're mostly thinking of HTTP (the Web) and SMTP (e-mail). But HTTP didn't even exist when the internet was first created. It started out with FTP and News groups and Telnet and Gopher. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 29 '16 at 5:43
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One thing to consider is that we build off of the inventions and discoveries that came before us.

It could simply be that your species never had its "Zuckerberg", etc. and basically "nobody ever had that idea."

Having gotten as far as they have and then bumping into these things sort of 'after the fact', people could see the pros and cons and decide that it isn't worth it for their species.

Another thing - maybe there's something special about this alien that makes it so that that technology is pointless.

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    $\begingroup$ I find the idea that "they just didn't happen to think of the internet" perfectly plausible. The Incas and the Aztecs had a high civilisation in many ways but just didn't happen to think of the wheel - except as a children's toy. When I was growing up we imagined the future (e.g. in the far- off Year 2000) would have hovercars, jetpacks, interplanetary travel, and even computers, but we didn't imagine the internet. These guys just went a little longer without thinking of it. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 27 '16 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance Exactly my point! I even considered the plausibility of a sci-fi story where aliens 'seed' other worlds and then come back millenia later to see what different tech their creations think of, since their creations would most likely think in ways completely new and different from their creators. $\endgroup$ – Ethan The Brave Apr 27 '16 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Zuckerberg is just another Bill Gates. In an environment swamped with dozens of identical products to his, he managed to find an edge which meant his company came out on top. We'd still have PCs without Gates. We'd still have social media without Zuckerberg. There are a lot of engineering innovations named after a single person or where a single person gets the credit, but when you look back at the detail they're ALWAYS one person amongst many doing similar work. So I'm not sure that argument holds. $\endgroup$ – Graham Apr 27 '16 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ The wheel example is perfect. I'll add a second example: the Romans had all the prerequisite technology to invent hot air baloons, and could have used them. If they had invented them, we would see it as inevitable. Yet it took centuries. $\endgroup$ – Emilio M Bumachar Apr 27 '16 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Or semaphore, or signal flags, or any sort of long distance coded messaging system. The Romans, like several other ancient civilisations, did make use of beacons. The Romans also made use of codes. It wouldn't have taken much to put those two ideas together and send coded messages that could convey any idea, rather than just than "help". But they never did. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 27 '16 at 21:32
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Computers, networks and the internet are based on metals and semiconductors, naturally occurring and generally abundant substances on Earth. To get into space doesn't require much in terms of computing power (http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Apollo-11-The-computers-that-put-man-on-the-moon), but it does require metal and a lot of fuel.

One approach is that your planet could have very advanced technology without computers provided you have a couple of things:

  1. A lack of naturally occurring semiconductor material, making it expensive and hard to obtain would severely limit the development of computers in general.

  2. An abundance of metals to favor the ability to create mechanical "computing" and allow for advance metal working in general.

  3. An abundance of fuel sources to favor metalworks and cheap travel, including into space.

Historically, people were able to create and use very "crude" tools for global navigation. There is no reason to assume that space navigation could not also be achieved through more "crude" or alternate tools than those available to us. In fact, our tools will probably seem very crude to our ancestors several hundred years from now. Alternate tools are certainly not unimaginable.

However, semiconductor materials are pretty common in nature (silicon is in sand and dirt on our planet). It's like trying to avoid carbon on a planet. Given the vast number of planets, it might be possible...

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  • $\begingroup$ To add: They could have senses and reflexes fast and accurate enough for space ship navigation and control. Just like we don’t need any computers to ride a downhill bike through dense forest. $\endgroup$ – Michael Apr 28 '16 at 5:30
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I want it to be similar to Star Wars, with high technology level but no internet or social media.

Assuming that your "no culture" rule really means "no suspiciously-convenient social/religious mores", then:

  • Technically difficult: Communication between individuals uses extremely precise chemicals, smells, direct-neural connections, psi, etc. that cannot be readily detected/encoded/reproduced until slightly later in their tech-progression.
  • Too individualistic: Solitary species that only grudgingly comes together to accomplish things, and they see our-style of "social media" as helping enemies spy on them.
  • Fighting their biology: Even visualizing competitors (for mates, territory, etc.) shuts down some higher-brain functions--they can't help it. Therefore a huge part of their technology involves hiding the existence of others, allowing them to cooperate through an un-threatening genderless artificial middleman. (Can help explain inconsistent tech-levels.)
  • Built-in: They can easily communicate at extreme distances with organic lasers, radio, psi, etc. Their network they are socially-interested in is almost always in reach.
  • Hive mind: They--er, it--doesn't see the point, it just builds specialized routes to help bridge long-distances between worker-bodies.
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Your requirements limit the possible answers to the point of near impossibility. Being able to travel in outer space is basically one of the biggest achievements you can have, and being able to communicate via a well established network of communications is one of the many building blocks necessary to get there.

Why You Need The "Internet"

I'll explain this in detail because some people seem to simply not get it.

A lot of people on this thread seem to be confusing the "internet" with our use of the internet. All the internet is is a set of communication protocols which allow computers to talk to one another. That's it. Whether two computers connect only to one another, or 2 billion servers connect to form the World Wide Web it's still the same concept.

When computers were first invented they were massive things with a single input terminal. They existed only within universities, and military compounds. These various computer centers wanted to communicate with one another. Calling one another and telling the person at the other end what to type into their terminal was not a secure, or particularly great approach, so they developed a way for the computers to communicate directly. Welcome to ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network - a military project), aka the forefather of the "internet".

Eventually, due to advances in technology, and the efforts of companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Apple computers became available to the average person. Having these many computers be able to communicate with one another was useful, so the networking concepts were applied, and the "internet" was born.

People saw the potential which the internet possessed, and moved beyond simple email to start creating websites, etc. Our own psychology and needs shaped the purpose of the World Wide Web into what it is today. Our vanity and narcissism spawned social media, etc.

However, websites, social media, and the like are not what the internet is. They are merely the human interface to it. The content we created because that's what pleases us. No, the internet is the underlying communication protocols which send the information I've just typed to the SE servers, and then to each and every one of your screens.

The reason why any civilization which wants to reach the stars needs an "internet" is because they need a way for all that technology to communicate! Your ship must send data to the ground control center. It must receive information in turn. Ships must also be able to communicate, and transmit information on a level other than the crew radio-messaging each other. And since you want all the different ships to "understand" one another you must develop a standardized way in which they should do so. A set of protocols. That is the internet!

The race in question might not develop social media, or websites because they lack a fundamental interest in such things. Or perhaps they simply lack the imagination. Who cares?

PS: in Star Wars, when Solo and Luke are saving princess Leya R2D2 accesses the Death Star's network and finds out which cell she's being held in. Star Wars totally has networks (aka an "internet").

No "Internet"

Aka no computers communicating with one another. Aka stone age. Ok, we can make it work!

The only real option at this point is that your people find the ships on the planet somewhere, and use them without knowing how they actually work.

For example, maybe a mighty race maintained a base on that planet (a giant underground vault containing ships, and even set up a space station in orbit). These were left there in case of emergency, but then that race died, moved on to a parallel universe, or simply forgot about this neck of the universe, and left their technology behind.

After centuries of scratching a living in the dirt your hunter-gatherers stumble into the vault, and the governing AI decides to cooperate with them for some reason (maybe it needs some favors that only these primitive people can provide, or maybe it simply becomes their God and orders them around). It however doesn't give them access to its communication's network (the "internet"), so they are not even aware such a thing exists, or what its potential might be.

They now have the use of the base, orbital station, and ships without understanding the technology. The maintenance is done by the automated systems, and by robots controlled by the AI.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is a similar plot in Dragonriders of Pern series. Human settlers of Pern forget how to use advanced technology, and the spaceships, fully functional, are left in the wilderness for centuries. $\endgroup$ – user20248 Apr 27 '16 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ That's a nice logical solution. I really like it. $\endgroup$ – Citizen Apr 28 '16 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Being able to travel in outer space is basically one of the biggest achievements you can have!" - Yes, and we did so without the Internet and Social media ;) Those came 40 years later. $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Apr 28 '16 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome - 1) The beginning of what would become "the internet" were already in place as military networks. The purpose of the internet is not to give us social media, it's to allow information to be passed along quickly (social media was a side effect). With easier communication comes easier technological advancement. 2) There's a big difference between our moon landings and the level of space exploration which the OP is requesting (Star Wars style). How are you going to build FTL ships when you aren't even capable of sending an e-mail? Arguably you need the Internet 5.0 $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 28 '16 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM First, the first manned space mission was in 1961, with the moon landing in July 1969. ARPANET went online October 1969 - while computer networks existed, the internet did not. You are arguing the original question meant any kind of computerized network, but further answers to questions by the poster indicate this is not the case. Finally, nothing would preclude a civilization from making a rocket that contains analog measuring instruments, monitored by people, with communications done through standard radio transmissions between people. $\endgroup$ – Emerson Apr 29 '16 at 7:00
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Economics and Priorities

Consider that we did go to the moon well before we had social media and what might be considered the modern internet. So basic space flight is certainly possible.

Now imagine instead of a lifeless moon, we had an entire second planet to explore and colonize. Our priorities in the 70s and 80s would certainly have been different. Governments and businesses would be investing in space travel and technologies related to colonization, and not personal computers and the internet.

Eventually I believe they would have an internet of some kind. After all, they'll want to communicate across distances. And space travel is a lot easier with better computers. So the two will eventually come together. It just may be 50 years later than when it developed for us... because we weren't distracted with colonizing another planet.

And then when they do have their own internet, they can post questions on it wondering if it was possible for a world to have a super advanced world-wide computer network, but never develop basic interplanetary space flight.

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  • $\begingroup$ That last part is nail on the head. If there ARE any alien races out there, they would invent things totally intuitive to themselves and their world and wonder how people like us missed something so obvious when we have incredibly advanced technology like the printing press. $\endgroup$ – Devsman Apr 28 '16 at 13:42
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IMHO, if they have space flight but not social media, it's because they just don't want it.

Then you can suppress the primary reason for social media : wanting to interact. As humans, we are really gregarious people (even when introverted), but it may not be the case for this race.

There are many possible explanations to the situation, but here is one of them :
When a human meet another human, he enters unconsciously a 'social mode'. It may not be the case for that species, prefering to stay in their inner world, than to interact. They would be uneasy with their social mode.
So they may be highly introverted by nature, and still have a high level of technology because they live for hundreds of years, allowing them to considerably advance their technology, then pass it down to their descendants when they die.
(Interesting fact, introverted people tend to be more focused on one task at a time, according to Jung and other people's researches)

And, if their space flight force is advanced enough to go from one planet to the other in a few minutes, why create social media ? They are close enough. At most, they would create some basic communication systems.

Also, it seems like, when you live for a longer time, you don't feel the need to meet people and to do things at the same pace as you do when you live a short life.

This way they would have great technology, but no social media or the like.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you know many introverts? Introverts love the internet. They don't have to deal with people but still get the benefits. Invert your suggestion and maybe it works. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Apr 27 '16 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, you're right, and I even knew it... I forgot... I added concurrential, because even introverts blogging or creating things on the internet want to share something. $\endgroup$ – user20258 Apr 27 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ I can't invert it either, social media contains too many extroverts... Me, for exemple :p $\endgroup$ – user20258 Apr 27 '16 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ can you link me to a definition of concurrential that makes it apply to this situation? $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Apr 27 '16 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps not introverted exactly - but just not evolved from a social animal (think polar bear) so there's no drive to contact other people except for the most essential of communication or breeding. $\endgroup$ – Rob Church Apr 28 '16 at 9:09
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Depending on how much of history you have developed for your world, they could have potentially had much of that technology and lost it in an apocalyptic level event. (The setting in the Partials series is like that - a worldwide plague that nearly decimated the human race resulted in a loss of the power grid, usable cars [no one was making the fuel], the internet, anyone who understood how filesystems in computers worked, etc.) This could potentially fit with your two planets idea - the race left one planet and brought only the most necessary technology with them, lived with what they had/improved it, and then returned to repopulate the other planet after the disaster had passed.

Echoing many some answers, they also could have never invented the technology you don't want them to have. Maybe they had the ability, but life is hard enough for most of the population that frivolous technology was never widely adapted. (Would the residents of Tatoonie have had time to use the internet? Or would their time have been better spent harvesting moisture for survival? Also refer to the Firefly universe - Outer Rim settlers have very limited resources and struggle to survive, even though the Central Planets where they came from are rich and full of technology.)

There is also the possibility that the geography of the planets prevented them from creating certain things. For example, people generally connect to the internet in two different ways: wired or wireless. In our human history, wired communications came first. Swamps and deserts could make it very difficult to place enough wires to connect the planet on the same network. (Each town could have a mini network if that fits with your world, but how would they standardize it across the entire planet? Let alone two planets? It would be a very time intensive process.) A similar argument would work for wireless - how can you build a wireless tower if there is no stable foundation? Limited availability of necessary resources for building technologies could inhibit the invention of other technologies. If the race's focus on wireless communications was for long range communication, then they would drive their resources into that instead of short range communications.

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It's quite easy to have extremely advanced space travel and yet not have the Internet or social media. The two have nothing to do with each other, other than they were both created by the Cold War. In fact, as Quentin Clarkson answered, space travel was invented first!

The Internet as we know it now with its Facebooks and Youtubes and Googles came from a quite specific sequence of situations, without which we probably wouldn't even imagine them.

First of all, the cold war lead the US military to develop a communications network which was the framework for the Internet, then the notion of using this network for educational institutes to share knowledge, then the popularity of the World Wide Web, multimedia and general entertainment (especially illegal downloads, porn, network gaming) lead to the widespread use of the Internet and fueled a large industry in telecommunications research and development and the invention and popularisation of smart phones.

Take any of that away and you don't have what we know today as the Internet, and if it even exists it's certainly not within the hands of the general public (so Social Networking means going to the pub and talking to people).

This has absolutely nothing to do with Space Travel other than that was also motivated by the Cold War. Perhaps the crews of spaceships would benefit from a high-performance communications network, but it would have no reason to spread beyond that.

Just as a side note, if their planet's gravity is lower than ours, then space travel becomes a lot easier...

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It is hard to consider computers at all if you can't eventually put them in a network, and evolve into something resembling a global network.

To go to space without this, I see 2 options:

The world is controlled by a dictatorship

And basically no one has computers except government agencies. But they'll have networks eventually, and use it to share cute cats images.

No-computer space flight

They have another way of flying to space.

  • Space-flying animals,
  • Telekinetic power to control the engines (with a natural understanding of rocketry that does not require computers for modeling space trajectories)
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There are quite a lot of ways that this can be done. Many have been mentioned in other answers, but I'll try to list them (more or less) comprehensively with examples where I can find them (some of which may have advanced technology but use a means of achieving space flight where they didn't really need it). I also think there are at least some new ideas in my answer.

Non-FTL Communication is a challenge

This is a thing that I think would be very strongly present if we now started to travel the stars. Not being able to stay in contact with "the internet" as we move away from earth means when in space, there won't be an internet as you're currently used to. When creating a small outpost somewhere, the lack of infrastructure (satellites and cables) would probably be a big hurdle as well.

If instead, these aliens just managed space travel before internet these hurdles may prevent it from becoming such a huge hit in the first place.

A prime example of this in fiction would be Andromeda, which has the two rules that (1) there is no FTL other than FTL travel and (2) FTL travel can't be done by computers. This leads to a place where in order to communicate you will generally need a ship with a pilot, meaning you get messengers instead of networks.

Computers were banned

Dune has a rich history where in the wake of a war against androids computers were banned. The result is a low-tech space-faring community.

The technology was lost

Some galactic event caused the space-faring communities to lose their knowledge of the old technology, but because space travel was extremely important to many people, it survived the purge.

The technology was given (or traded for)

In Babylon 5, the humans acquired their space technology from a race known as the Centauri. With this show having been made before the internet was at its current levels, it wasn't really a big thing in this show either. However, you are completely free to choose when this happens and thus what level of technology the species has when it gets to travel in space.

The technology was found

In Spore much of the progress you make in order to travel through the galaxy comes from a wreckage you find on a nearby planet. Mass Effect has a backstory of the humans finding technology on Mars that allowed some space travel and then using that technology to find a space relay. In Stargate a whole lot of species are planet-hopping through gates left by a species that is now extinct. Basically, this approach is used quite a lot.

Space Travel was a priority

Perhaps the planet was becoming uninhabitable. Perhaps looking at a nearby inhabited planet (and perhaps even communicating, since radio messages would be relatively easy, if unpractical compared to current instant communication) made people long for space travel. Perhaps a biological need makes subjugating new species a must for the species. One way or another, the advancements towards space travel can be greatly accelerated if there is more interest in it.

Space Travel was easy

If your species lives on a planet that removes some of the barriers to space travel (like for example a lower mass and thus less gravity) or the species itself removes some of the barriers (like being more tolerant of radiation and/or extreme temperatures) this could mean that space travel simply happens before computers get to their high point.

Space Travel was an accident

Star Trek has an eccentric scientist inventing the warp drive mostly on his own. It wouldn't be much of a stretch that such a person was way ahead of his time. He may also have created something he didn't truly completely understand. That way, you can introduce space travel in a society that's considerably less advanced than our own.

Computers are hard

For some reason (perhaps the scarcity of certain resources) developing good computers was a lot harder than it was on earth. This meant that the species was able to reach space before being able to make computers into what they are today on earth.

Computers were never a priority

Perhaps the species wasn't inclined to making computers (or just social media) because they didn't have the same obsession with communication as humans do or because other things (religion?) simply clashed with it. While they didn't develop computers, space ships didn't have the same problems, so they ended up in space without having computers (at the level that we do).

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like this answer, and it is very inclusive. +1 $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer - love the Sci-Fi references for each option. You can add another reason + reference: Different paths: Space travel requires good understanding of Physics, specifically motion and gravity, as well as several feats of constructions and chemistry. But, while it does require calculations, it doesn't necessarily require electricity or universal computers, let alone machine-to-machine communication (they may communicate with flags, lights or radio waves, but in a manner requiring sentient beings on both sides) so, no internet :). See "The Road not Taken" by Harry Turtledove. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN May 29 '16 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Link to Wikipedia's entry for "The Road not Taken" by Harry Turtledove: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_%28short_story%29. Great short story featuring star-faring aliens with otherwise dark-ages technology levels. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN May 29 '16 at 18:38
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One way to limit technology is to rely on biology. Horse breeding is something humans figured out long before they had a concept of genetics. So your primary-race doesn't need a concept of electromagnetism to figure out that plants turn light from the sun into breathable oxygen. So this tinkering with genetics can give you ships use water as rocket fuel and very efficient engines without your race having advanced understanding of the underlying principle. photosynthese I believe is a complicated very efficient cyclic system with if I remember correctly more than twenty different steps. So yeah writing up a plant like rocket engine that is as efficient as modern ion engines but lots more thrust isn't a hard stretch of imagination because nature is damn efficient in what it does. Navigation in space will require some other solution because that requires pretty darn accurate measurements. A rendezvous in space is one of the hardest thing to do because of huge speeds that spaceships are flying about. (or in this case plants and creatures) But a natural evolved ecosystem of creatures that migrate from one planet to the other as part of its cycle would be a nice story. Remember birds, fish and instincts can return to there birth place using magnetic ley lines in the earth surfaces sometimes across generations.

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Your planets are both more in the size range of say, Mars, than Earth.
As a result, escape velocity is weaker, so that space travel isn't nearly so difficult to achieve.
However without the extra core mass, the natural electromagnetic field isn't strong enough to properly shield electronic devices from your primary's radiation. That leads to computers being extremely expensive and rare - prohibitively so for anyone who isn't a major research university or strongly supported by the government(s) - or to the extent that mechanical calculators are the only thing that work reliably enough to be built in large numbers.
Additional effects on the biology of your species due to the higher flux of radiation would also be worthwhile exploring. Perhaps they don't all live long enough to be social enough that social media gain sufficient membership; there could be sociocultural artefacts that result in strongly antagonistic relationships being predominant - the collective development of space travel and other technologies would be a paradox of their individual desire for glory and power and one-upping everybody else, or the need to have an enemy balanced by their intellectual knowledge that fighting each other leads to even their own decline, so they find that enemy somewhere else and have to actually get there.

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Harry Turtledove wrote a short story "The Road Not Taken" in which space flight is based on a gravity drive that is absurdly simple but doesn't fit with the rest of physics.

If we say instead of in the 1400s tech level we discover such a gravity drive or a kraken drive or some other such thing in the 1900s, computers would still rise, but the signaling problem would bootstrap us beyond the world too fast and the internet would never rise.

The forces that created the internet in our history would never be, and the forces of high speed universal interlink could not be resolved if we're off the planet before developing independent electric circuits and off the solar system before digital computers.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 More specifically as to why, when the Roxolani aliens discovered the gravity drive in their Age of Sail it was both very useful and at odds with their fledgling notion of science, so they abandoned further scientific pursuits in favor of interstellar travel. IIRC they were actually one of the later races to discover it, having already developed gunpowder, making them effective conquerors and foreshadowing the end of the story. $\endgroup$ – Travis Christian Apr 29 '16 at 14:07
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Maybe they would never have a need for Internet / social media if they had a mesh telepathic network across the planet, where each humanoid is a node. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_networking Is this a homework question? If so, your teacher is hilarious.

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Living computers

The challenge in your question is that space travel requires the same things as an internet from its computers: High-speed long-range communications, processing high volumes of (sensor) data and wide compatibility.

If your people design and build such computers for their space ships, it will occur to them to create a wide network and start sharing more and more information.

So what if these functions specifically were provided by a completely different device or even living being? Perhaps every navigation computer houses an "Antares Star Crystal" that not only is able to communicate with every other ship so equipped, but also navigates by controlling the ship's drive if it's exposed to the exact light spectrum of a specific nearby star for long distance travel, or a 3D map for close range maneuvering.

Your people may or may not be aware that the crystals are sentient, but they provide such a vital service that they are used universally, even if they hijack the ship and return to Antares when not taken back there and exchanged for a different crystal within 3.14 years of being "installed".

These Crystals simply don't perform networked communications as far as anyone is aware and they're highly tamper-proof (see hijacked ship above), so nobody in their right minds tries to build an internet using them.

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They have a fascist society where the government directs all scientific progress.

Give your race an authoritarian dictatorship for a government analogous to the fascist states of the 1930's. In order to stay in power, such a government has to posses a certain "wow factor"--they rely on powerful imagery and appeals to emotion to subvert the population's desire for freedom and autonomy (assuming your species posses these desires). Propaganda is the most obvious way of accomplishing this, but propaganda is not limited to posters and radio broadcasts--technology can also have a nationalist spin. During World War 2, Nazi Germany poured ridiculous amount of resources into ambitious weapons programs as part of their propaganda program. The point of this research was not to solve a practical problem (and often was a rather strategically poor allocation of resources), but to inspire the populace by impressing them with their nation's perceived technological superiority (and presumably the mental and disciplinary superiority that implies).

Consider our own history of space travel: the first ever rocket to reach space was based on a Nazi missile (the V2), and much (if not all) of our early progress in space exploration was motivated by the cold-war competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Indeed, ever since the US beat the USSR in the race to the moon, NASA's funding has fallen dramatically as the nationalist appeal of space travel has diminished.

So your species' government invests huge resources in space travel because it convinces the population that the government:

  • Can do amazing things.
  • Can do things the people could never hope to do without the government.
  • Possesses incredible, terrifying power.

But of course, this doesn't afford the government a perfect monopoly on space flight. I imagine all ships would have the government logo etched onto every surface, and the technical details of some components would remain highly-guarded secrets. But anyone with an engineering hobby would be able to scour junkyards for usable parts (very Star Wars), and anyone willing to give a speech about how they would only use their ship for patriotic purposes could probably negotiate a gift from Supreme Ruler xCh'Alxch. Or maybe if you run enough missions for the government you get to keep your ship if you're injured and forced to retire from active duty.

Or of course you could steal one, but you didn't hear that from me.


Now, consider the internet. It's probably the single best platform ever conceived of for anti-establishment discourse and organization. While they're not fascist per se, consider how some modern countries view the internet. Your government wants to remain the sole source of power in its domain. The rights to free assembly and free speech are out the window. The government is more important than your friends or family: why would the rulers permit the creation of a social media system that will only encourage citizens to forget this? The relationship between capitalism and fascism is complicated but fascists typically despise anything that is not nationalist, and this includes materialism and consumerism. So your people don't have the commodities typically associated with a technological society simply because they would distract them from their patriotism, and it increases their reliance on the government. Extrapolate this principle far enough, and the common people can have as low a standard of technology as you want.

Alternatively, you can have a world where there is an internet and social media, but it's so obnoxiously regulated and filled with fascist propaganda that no one uses it the way we do.

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Opportunity, Risk, Profit, Cost

You're looking for things that would boost one technology over another. Certainly we developed spaceflight before the internet and social media but could we have developed efficient spaceflight before the internet and why would that happen?

Opportunity

Everyone on the original home world (you haven't specified which this is) would have grown up looking up at the sky at another world. Not just a dry barren planet like our moon, but a world with trees and plants and seas. Something that would have drawn them up and away from their known world to this wonderful new unexplored world full of adventures (and profit).

Risk

Theirs is a world at war. The internet is a known concept but nobody would risk attaching their system to the outside world as it would be attacked. Even basic dumb communications terminals are attacked. Telephones, where they must be installed, are in isolated soundproof chambers so there's no risk of it being used to overhear conversations. Loose lips sink ships. Point to point lines and messengers are the messaging systems of choice and even then no confidential information is transmitted. There's no way they'd move into our casually open, share everything mentality that social media requires.

Profit and Cost

One world is dry, the other wet. This means there's always money to be made moving water. But water is heavy and inefficient to move from place to place. To make money moving water you need to massively improve your ability to lift out of a gravity well. This led on to a gravitic drive (if you like) that also allowed cheap interstellar travel.

Back to that war

The factions have fought themselves to a standstill, resources are limited but then they looked upwards. There's another world there, full of resources if only they could get their hands on them. So begins the space race, not just about getting there, but getting established and moving bulk back and forth. It's a habitable world, just saying "we got here first" isn't good enough, it's about taking control and exploiting that control to best effect.


Whether you follow up from these options or others, the primary triggers will always be social and psychological.

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They could be located very near a strong source of naturally-occurring EM waves, such as the Centaurus A 'radio galaxy'. The radio waves are created by synchrotron radiation- relativistic electrons moving through magnetic fields. In the case of Centaurus A, the center of the galaxy contains a supermassive black hole of 55E6 solar masses that ejects a jet that is responsible for the radio emissions.

Any kind of electronic device thus does not work very well unless it's incredibly well shielded, meaning that such devices are more like laboratory physics experiments than handheld devices.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, but could you elaborate a little more on what would cause these EMPs? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 12:40
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The singularity happened, and most of society fell into it.

The people in this world live in the wake of the singularity. They don't understand their technology: for any X, the most efficient X is a repurposed post-singularity device that you figure out how it works via experimentation.

They don't understand how almost anything they use work. They have devices that produce ship plating and struts and engines, but they don't understand how those devices work.

Communications technology is dangerous because of the remnants of the singularity. The singularity lives in information, and hijacks any communication channel. It also produces entertainment for the plebes left behind (as a kind of reflex). That entertainment is very good; too good. People who let themselves fall into it become addicted. It is also educational; it teaches you things. Things that convince you that uploading and joining the singularity is your best option.

People who use communication technology leave; as a matter of selection pressure, that is equivalent to dying.

So you can set up communication links, but doing so requires you to basically kill someone over time, or use increadibly restricted bandwidth. Even then the communications are unreliable, as the singuarities reflex processes "improve" the data being transmitted to be "more useful".

Things aren't all bad. The singularity has built more than one beanstalk per planet, and the cornicopias that produce particular goods allow a relatively low-tech society to have access to blasters and spaceships and force shields. (The cornicopias don't produce "blasters" and "engines" and "force shields", but rather things that do strange things with physics that post-singularity folk have figured out how to craft into them.) And singuarity-process defence systems prevent planets and beanstalks from being destroyed by said ships with ridiculous reliability.

Understand that the singularity you interact with is the rough equivalent of the immune system of a human being is to an amoeba. It isn't the real singularity, just some leftover processes and systems from an earlier phase. It has rules about not directly controlling human brain information processing, but all other processing is fair game as far as it is concerned.

Cornicopias need not be simple objects that mass produce matter or process it. They could be ecosystems of strange creatures whose output is miraculous; like pseudo-organic beatles that burrow through quartz and excrete crystals that when processed in certain ways let you project a force shield, yet who reliably die in captivity.

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I would say priorities.

Perhaps a previous world of theirs went under some kind of slow-acting catastrophic event, which caused them to have to spend more time learning how to travel between worlds. You don't have the time to sit about dreaming up any other types of technology when your world is ending.

Since their colonization of these two worlds, they have needed to set up trade routes between them (perhaps the water world provides water to the dry plant in exchange for minerals?), causing them again to put most of their efforts into what they do best:

Utilising their knowledge of space travel to get stuff done.

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Any communications technology like the internet only works because people want to use this way of interaction. Your species might be able to create something like the internet, email, etc. but have a very strong dislike to this kind of communication at all. This would work best in a society of strict social conventions.

I'd like to imagine them technologically very advanced and at the same time having a very strong attitude on how proper interactions have to be: If you can, you talk in person. If you can't, you send someone. If it has to be, send a letter but always with due respect to certain manners. Physical letters are preferred, and if really necessary digital letters transferred via physical storage are acceptable. Books are ok, even electronic ones or databases. But any transfer of knowledge is another matter of communication and has to follow rigid social conventions. Around these organizations could form, maybe like medieval guilds who hold control over the distribution of data.

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Their homeworld was hit by an asteroid that greatly increased its rate of spin which gives the planet an elliptical shape. Moving towards the equator is like climbing a mountain range and even if the peaks of this equatorial mountain range only reach the upper atmosphere that would still make it a lot easier to launch things into space.

Maybe there's some sort of plant or animal that naturally produces the chemical components for highly energetic fuel, like how we used to make gunpowder from various kinds of faecal matter and urea. I can easily imagine some sort of create (like the bombardier beetle) evolving to produce a chemical bomb inside itself so predators gain nothing from attacking them.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's not how an equatorial bulge works; you don't "climb up" it. But the spinning of a planet does reduce gravity at the equator and does make it easier to get to space from the equator than from the poles; even on Earth we like to not be too far from the equator when making a space launch. And a higher rate of spin would make the effect more pronounced. $\endgroup$ – David K Apr 28 '16 at 18:49
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My first thought is that the civilzation that has spaceflight but not a lot of other "more common" (to use) technology could be because that civilization does not have a greedy set of motives in life. A lot of the technology that we have exists because people developed that technology for money/status (some form of personal gain).

If said civilization had lifeforms that did not really care to be better than others the same way than humans do, its likely that entire fields of technology would never have been developed. I imagine a peaceful socialist society, containing a basic income, where citizens are content with living an "average" life and exploring the cosmos.

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Larry Niven's got this covered in Ringworld: A superconductor-eating virus.

After inventing high temperature superconductors (or your favorite omni-useful invention), they get used in EVERYTHING: Particularly in computers and networking and communication. Once this technology has bedded down in society for a few hundred years, everything absolutely depends on it. Then along comes some mechanism like a virus, that eats the superconductor. They spread like wildfire, and overnight, everything stops working, except for a few isolated technologies that didn't use superconductors. Maybe the spacecraft is structurally intact, and the drive still works, but all the computers and the like are dead, and after a couple more generations, nobody has any clue how to fix 'em.

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You don't necessarily need to fry all electronics, just make long-distance communication much more difficult and expensive.

Suppose your binary system is bathed in radio-frequency "noise" so severe that it would jam just about any attempt to send a radio signal. It's so bad that you can't even use a telephone system with a wire between two adjacent rooms unless the wire is very heavily shielded.

The development of any sophisticated electronics would be severely held back by this natural phenomenon, allowing other technology (such as rocketry) a long time to develop before computing could catch up. And when computing is finally developed, it remains a highly localized thing for far longer than it did on Earth, because the infrastructure that would be required to support the networking we enjoy in many places on Earth today would be orders of magnitude more expensive to build than ours was.

Spaceships might then become a practical reality before even the telephone does, let alone the kind of global internet we enjoy.

As a reader, I think I could swallow the notion that a civilization in such circumstances might even get around to building fairly sophisticated robots before they decided that there was an easier way to communicate over long distances than than either personal travel or couriers.

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See: Warhammer 40k, Dune Battlestar Galactica

In BSG - computers are not typically connected to each other, due to fear of viruses. For example, none of the computers on the Battlestar itself are networked.

In 40k, the Imperium of Man fought a battle long ago against some sort of AI race, and now computers, much less networks, are exceedingly rare. Ships the size of cities are flown with the human brain, and a little magic.

In Dune, the Butlerian Jihad (which occured before the books) involved a war against machines/A.I.

Whilst in all 3 cases, the race HAD developed the technologies required, they no longer had (ready) access to them. Mostly, this fear of technology took on religious overtones.

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They could understand chemical reactions and thrust as well as hull pressure and life support. Understanding these things will allow space travel within the same star system. Telescopes help, and do not require electronics.

Electricity and radio may be something they haven't thought of yet. Look how long the Chinese have been using rockets, and how young our internet still is? even radio is still new to us compared to the rocket.

The exact opposite situation occurred on Stargate SG-1 with the Asgard. Season4 Episode1: Small Victories. http://www.hulu.com/watch/76401

In their fight against the replicator-bugs. Asgard Energy weapons are absorbed by the bugs, making them stronger. Human projectile weapons destroy them.

@13min The Asgard Thor: "You have shown their weakness may be found through A LESS SOPHISTICATED APPROACH, we are no longer capable us such thinking."

Dr Jackson: "You're actually saying you need someone DUMBER than you are?"

@23min: Thor: "The Asgard would never invent a weapon that propels small weights of iron and carbon alloys.. by igniting a powder of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur... we cannot think like you. "

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protected by Community Apr 28 '16 at 1:49

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