Ok, so I saw this question, and I thought that it was an interesting idea to explore. But then I thought, the opposite would be equally interesting!

So I came up with a scenario that I couldn't properly justify, and once that was pointed out to me, I came up with a second scenario: Say that hundreds or thousands of years in the future, humanity is has discovered an alien race of similar intelligence, psychology, and biology to humans. They just happen to be, technologically, around 500 BC human equivalent.

This is the 5th such species that humans have come across.

Now, I can't properly calculate the odds of this, but I'd guess it'd be like winning a lottery jackpot, the prize of which was a ticket to another lottery, then winning the jackpot in that one. Repeat as many times as you like. To quote Han Solo, don't tell me the odds.

Now, finding a new intelligent species is always exciting. It's just kind of a bummer when they're not spacefaring. So the first four times that humans came across this sort of species, they did the whole shebang. They landed huge ships onto the planet of the species, built factories, taught the natives how to operate and build our advanced technology, thought them the principles that it operated on. Then we turned our backs for just one second, and when we looked back, we see that they have basically exterminated themselves in a nuclear war over who gets to be the next emperor or something, due to a fatal case of Low Culture, High Tech.

Maybe that's not the best idea, so this fifth time, they decided to try something different. They decide to send down small "chariot" ships, crewed by one or two "angel" emissaries. These guys use are to introduce ideas to the population (using universal translators) that will bring these aliens to their moon, that conveniently has the same mass, size, and distance from their conveniently Earth-identical planet as our own, as quickly as possible. At that point, centuries later, humans will make first contact.

So what I'm asking is, what set of ideas could be introduced to a population to help speed their technological/scientific/mathematic advancement?

The ideas don't even have to be commandments, though I'd prefer for them to be in the form of a religion. Say, for example, that the biggest god in their polytheistic religion is a god of discovery, and it punishes people for stagnation or "not discovering fast enough" with natural disasters or famine or something.

  • $\begingroup$ You're saying that they're declining to 500 BC levels, but what level are they starting off at in the first place? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ "If it's important, assume that the civilization had a high enough knowledge to establish scientific bases throughout the solar system. These bases either died out after supplies stopped shipping or evacuated to come back to the now pre-industrial earth." @AndreiROM , it was right under the bonded text, though I will add in that it was within hundreds of years of the present $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ I can assume a great many things, but you need to tell us exactly what sort of technology and artifacts they are leaving behind. I'd also like to point out that if their civilization has reached that level the only way to knock them back that hard is basically an extinction level event the very few survivors of which take centuries to build back up their numbers, with no access to technology (which is almost impossible, as for a society that advanced technology would be omnipresent). In other words you also need to tell us why they can't use their tech. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. I'll go with a completely different scenario that you'd need the same solution for. Check back in about 10 minutes. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ Take present day humanity as an example. We could experience a war which kills 99% of humanity, and wipes out all the major city centers, yet we would still have enough books, and technological artifacts left lying around to build basic electrical generators, firearms, concrete structures, etc. Sure, no one would be building satellites for a while, but we would still have vehicles, etc. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 1:35

3 Answers 3

  1. You should pursue efforts that leave your children a better world than you found it.
  2. You should value education, understanding, and record keeping.
  3. You should balance theory and practicality in your teaching
  4. You should seek more efficient and effective ways to do tasks
  5. You should explore your world and seek to understand it
  6. You should build upon what has been discovered, but question what has been decided.
  7. You should be mindful stewards of your resources
  8. You should keep knowledge public, easy to access, and as intuitive as possible to understand without sacrificing accuracy.
  9. You should place value in a variety of fields of study
  10. You should collaborate in your efforts, and combine paths of learning.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Most of these are best case scenario situations. For example, build a barbaric type of world which values knowledge, and you will end up with rulers financing their own research centers, keeping all the info locked up tight, and trying to capture enemy researchers, or simply destroy their research in order to stay ahead of the curve and be seen as the most advanced and worthy in the eyes of God. I think that first you have to build up morality, and curiosity, and only then introduce the more scientific approach to research. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Yeah, I didn't touch upon morality, although somebody who locked away themselves with their research isn't doing too hot on 8. and 10. And if they're willing to ignore random commandments to suit them, the commandments, contextually, don't hold much power or purpose. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Jul 11, 2016 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ Awesome answer, the points got me thinking $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast That would destroy education and documentation (#2), and be wasteful of a number of resources (#7), and would be a sad attempt at #10. Unless, that is, the other nation was actively harming advancement and nuclear war was the most efficient and effective (#4) way of going about resolving this. I'm not going to claim they're bulletproof, but they at least need to be taken as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Jul 11, 2016 at 14:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wish I could choose all of these, but I had to pick one! $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2016 at 17:03

You're saying that this species is basically humanity in 500 BC, so I'll just base all my assumptions on that.

What you're looking at is some fairly widespread civilizations, and quite a bit of culture (Roman Empire, Greek City States, Egyptian Empire, Persian Empire, Chinese Empire, etc.), as well as knowledge of philosophy, appreciation of arts, interest in new technologies (the Romans were incredibly innovative, for example), and ... quite a thirst for blood.

The Basics

You see, the most prominent features of that time which stand in the way of advancement are a complete disregard for the value of human life, and a very us vs. them mentality.

If you plan to turn these people into explorers who reach the stars you first need to unify them. They need to share this goal, and they need to build up fast. If you don't approach things correctly, however, you can still end up with disastrous consequences, however, so a tricky balance must be struck (for example they "build up fast" by enslaving and working to death tens of thousands of people).

Thus, it seems to me that your religion must first teach that all men are created equal, and that freedom is an unalienable right.

However, equality and freedom don't necessarily equal advancement and scientific pursuit, and you will have to make a hard decision in one important aspect.

Just How Fast is Fast?

You'll need to decide if you're setting up a militant, or peaceful religion.

Religious change is tumultuous to say the least. With intensive intervention from you (aka many prophets, and long term displays of power, and constant guidance) you can achieve quite a bit while preaching peace.

However, if you plan to leave these people on their own then they will have to spread your good word quite aggressively if you're looking to make fast progress, or at the very least defend themselves when others don't take kindly to their views.

Education Requires Structure

Now you've got a growing group of followers. That's great, but older societies are also heavily structured, with nobles being quite well traveled and educated, while the poor know absolutely nothing other than to speak their own language.

Of course, this was not true of all cultures, and you need to take a page from their history in order to advance scientific knowledge.

You must encourage education, and thus the creation of a caste whose job is to further humanity's knowledge, while training their descendants, and storing that information as safely as possible.

Now I have some bad news for you: you can't possibly educate everyone. The realities of the ancient world are that you need a lot of peasants working very hard to feed both your armies, and your scientists, both of whom don't have time to grow their own food. And an educated peasant won't want to keep digging up dirt and taking care of animals year and year - he'll want more from life.

And thus, a hard decision is going to have to be made. I think you must choose to set up a caste of Scientists (your priesthood, as it were), to safeguard knowledge, and strive for further understanding of the world.

For some people life won't change at all: they were digging in the dirt before, and they'll do more of the same now. But for humanity as a whole, things will improve at an accelerated pace.

Final Suggestion

This is what I think you should do in order to really advance the scientific community, while pushing for aggressive change:

Your disciples must form a militant religion of sorts, who are lead by scientists as their priests. This society must have several different levels: researchers, archivists, librarians, soldiers, engineers, healers, farmers as well as regular laborers.

These people must have a strong structure to work within, as well as strict rules, and a strong military to protect them.

For example, the farmers must work the fields and feed everyone else. The laborers help the farmers build their houses, build roads which are vital to the Empire, civic structures, etc. All this so that goods travel efficiently to where they are needed (to a research center, for example).

The military polices the Empire, and makes sure that other powers don't invade, or raid your territory. Order is very important within the borders of the empire. If an important shipment of rare metals is sent out but never reaches its intended destination - or worse, the researcher accompanying it is killed - a lot of progress can be lost.

Furthermore, the military must capture assets which are necessary for scientific advancement. Say researchers are experimenting with basic electricity, and need a steady supply of copper. A nearby tribal society is sitting on a lot of it, but they're very aggressive about foreigners, and won't let you mine it. Well then, let's teach these folks all about science and progress - in the form of advanced weapons, armor, and tactics.

Your society must also educate those who will carry the torch for future generations. All children should be tested, and those found to hold great intellectual potential should be recruited into the ranks of the scientific community. Others should be given the opportunity to join the military, farmers, etc. as they wish, except perhaps if more recruits are needed in a certain field. This means that great apprenticeship programs must be run across the entire Empire. Standardization of practices is incredibly important as far as this goes. The Romans did it well. For example, a Centurion trained in the North, or one who spent his entire career in Egypt would both share the same skills, knowledge of tactics, speak the Roman language, etc. They would be interchangeable to a large degree (not accounting for personal competency, intelligence, etc.)

Lastly, I suggest that your prophets leave behind some disciples to guide the chose Empire/people to their destiny, along with some ideas and knowledge to give them an edge over everyone else. As I mention before, some basic knowledge of electricity can be very valuable (this might require some improvements in metallurgy in order to make copper wire). After all, communication is key in an advanced civilization, and electricity is the precursor to advanced communications.

I'm going to leave it at this, although I can go into more detail if you have any more questions.

  • $\begingroup$ Very well thought out answer, I loved it. You even pointed out that the race is probably not united in a single civilization at that point, something I forgot to mention. I also liked that you didn't give a philosophy yourself, only guidelines from which to build one. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Desolationgame - more to come! $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ I've also thought about peace and unification bringing about more rapid scientific development, but isn't it (sadly) true that war is one of the most effective catalysts for technological development? Or is that the case only after a certain point in development (20th century level)? $\endgroup$
    – Ovi
    Jul 11, 2016 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Ovi - war has always driven innovation. Always. That's not to say that peace can't be a driving force for innovation, but it needs to be done within a certain context. For example, peace and welbeing can also lead to stagnation of the worst kind. Society needs to promote a certain kind of competition, or face certain challenges for real progress to take place. For example, a desperate desire to reach the Moon, or defend yourself from a powerful foe. That's when the politicians will release an bundance of funds and resources to researchers. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jul 11, 2016 at 13:05

First Commandment: Enlarge your knowledge.

Second commandment: Question your knowledge.

Third commandment: Test your knowledge.

Fourth commandment: Use your knowledge to improve your life and the life of others.

Fifth commandment: Write down your knowledge.

Sixth commandment: Teach your knowledge.

Seventh commandment: Preserve the knowledge of others.

Eighth commandment: Do whatever is in your power to enable others to follow the commandments.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 8th commandment will end up bring read as 'Wage holy war on those who don't follow the Commandments.' $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 18:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Bellerephon: Well, bringing peace was not in the requirement list, was it? :-) $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Jul 11, 2016 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ While I'm in agreement with Bellerephon, morality was not at all in the agreements (as you sort of said), so it doesn't need to be considered, unless it works towards the end goals. And you left him with two commandments short, so he can direct it to morality with those if he sees fit. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Jul 11, 2016 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Nex Terren I would suggest avoiding war since the last few planets destroyed themselves. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2016 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerephon So which is better, 98% of the population ignoring swift progress (assuming these commandments are the way to accomplish swift progress), or the population cut by WWII's mortality rate every 20 years, 3.3%? If war (even at WWII levels of cost) brings the populace in line, it might be more effective to the end goal than peace. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Jul 11, 2016 at 19:02

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