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My story happens in the near future on the research station located on Callisto, Jupiter's second largest moon. The mission has just started when the crew discovers an abandoned alien station. Whoever made it is dead or gone long time ago.

There's not much useful things left but the scientists manage to get an understanding of alien's synthetic biology.

How to prevent the sudden influx of alien scientific and technological knowledge from instantly advancing humanity's technology thus propelling my story setting from its near future into far future? I want people to learn some useful things, but not so much that they would instantly become too advanced.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your links are missing. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 25 '16 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ You might get some inspiration from some of the answers to this question. In particular, needed infrastructure, cultural resistence, and resource locations. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 25 '16 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Can you explain how the synthetic biology and your problem relate, or what else can be learned that causes your problem. The understanding of a biology (whether it's synthetic or not seems irrelevant) by itself doesn't seem important, because it may be completely different from earthly biology and the amount we gain in practical terms from knowing it could be a lot or a little. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 26 '16 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ They learn all the race knew on SB or just the fundamentals? I mean, granting the people an entire advanced culture's tech. in all its facets cannot hello but lap forward, but granting them the next step or two would simply trigger research and advancement. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Oct 31 '16 at 20:17
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Plenty of options for us to play with here.

Perhaps the aliens' methods of bioengineering require elaborate infrastructure to be employed. Sure, now we know how to build synthetic DNA, but it requires quantum supercomputers that we don't know how to build to get the most out of it.

Perhaps it needs a compound that's extremely difficult for us to produce. Knowing that you need metallic hydrogen to modify an existing species into a new form isn't much help if you don't have any metallic hydrogen lying around the place.

The aliens database isn't fully decoded and/or was corrupted by long storage. Parts of the data are readable and can be acted upon, but it'll take a lot more work to dig out the rest. We may know how to build an oven, but we've only got two recipes to cook in it.

The knowledge could be suppressed by dark and shadowy entities. A corporation that funded the expedition to Callisto could claim copyright over all the knowledge in the database, and only release the information in a steady trickle that suits their bottom line.

Just a few thoughts. Make of them what you will.

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    $\begingroup$ Quantum computing and Synthetic DNA are different fields of study. We already know how to artificially modify DNA. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRISPR#Cas9 $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 25 '16 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ Of course they are. The point is that the alien's methods of producing synthetic life could rely upon infrastructure we don't have. $\endgroup$ – Werrf Oct 26 '16 at 1:48
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Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats. - Howard H. Aiken

I wouldn't worry about immediate leap since the reality doesn't work that way. To use Geoffrey Moore technology adoption cycle there's several types of customers: The market

  • Techies - want to try new things, few & they don't have much money
  • Visionaries -Specific visions about future and budget to bring it to life
  • Pragmatists - Don't care about technology just want their problems solved
  • Conservatives - Buy whatever pragmatists are buying but after it proves itself
  • Laggards - resist technology

So maybe your scientists deciphered a way to make biological computer, since it's a new technology which barely works, and current computers are superior to it nobody but few techies plays with it. After some time a visionary thinks about use for it, maybe helping people with spinal cord to walk again using modified version of your computer and starts a project/company to achieve it. Afterward some pragmatists discovers that it has a problem that only your bio computer could solve it and then mainstream adoption starts. It might take decade(s) until we start using biological rifles Check oversimplified cycle explained at Eric Sink article act your age

And if you wan't some technology to be in very limited use just make it stuck in the chasm, there are plenty of those in the real world.

Image credit

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The simplest, albeit cliche, way to approach this is simple:

Some sort of conflict happens on the space station, whether due to synthetically engineered creatures roaming the station, the accidental creation of them by the crew, or something else - and either the knowledge or the station is destroyed, meaning we get ideas but do not have the means to replicate their technology exactly.

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    $\begingroup$ Now "we get ideas but do not have the means to replicate their technology exactly" is a good concept which answers the question. The rest is cliche. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 26 '16 at 3:59
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I don't believe you would really have to do anything. Imagine sending a book on modern computer engineering back in time a hundred years. I would guess they would be able to develop semiconductors sooner and maybe, just maybe, iterate a bit faster than Moore's law, but you wouldn't see the internet appear mere years after the knowledge in that book was disseminated. You always need infrastructure. You need the tools to make better tools to make still better tools.

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  • $\begingroup$ A good analogy, but you don't need transistors to make computers. See George Dyson's TURING'S CATHEDRAL about the development of the first 'modern' computer using vacuum tubes. Transistors and integrated circuitry are only an easier * more effective implementation. In 1916 the world was on the verge of electrification, given future knowledge of computers, they could have moved forward earlier. Computers, perhaps yes, at least, crude ones, but certainly not an internet $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 26 '16 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't mean to suggest that computers only exist after the invention of transistors. Vacuum tubes were already in use a hundred years ago. Modern computers have over a billion transistors, however. My point was that accelerating civilization from 100 years ago to our current level of computing technology, using a reference of modern knowledge, would still take not just many years, but many decades, or perhaps even close to the same amount of time. Advanced technology is advanced because it's so interdependent on many other technologies. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Lujan Oct 26 '16 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ We're definitely in agreement there. Transistors have accelerated computer technology to an incredible extent. A 1916 with full future knowledge of computers would have a long take-off time; much slower compared to the post-WW2 world. Certainly decades, not years. Your example was a good one. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 27 '16 at 3:23

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