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On its mission to explore new worlds and seek out new civilisations, the spaceship 'Exciting Undertaking' came across a planet of seemingly unadvanced aliens. Following their First Direction (forbidding interactions with pre-wrap-capable aliens and totally not modelled after anyone else's rules of interspecies interaction), they spied on them from orbit and then left.

Little did they know that the species below were actually a race of highly advanced space wizards (people with enough technology that they may as well have been magical) who had abandoned any technology that couldn't be understood with a rudimentary understanding of mechanics (for undisclosed reasons totally not related to accidentally ending the universe once or twice).

The question is how the space wizards (who were clearly intelligent and curious enough to have become space wizards in the first place) managed to suppress their populace from trying to advance beyond renaissance levels of technology over immense timescales (the kind of timescales where facts become ancient history, ancient history becomes myth, and myths fade into obscurity).

Bonus points if your method of suppression also gives the space wizards a way to migrate to another planet when their current home nears it's natural end; without them becoming curious about how it was achieved.

Edit to constrain the questions more: The space wizards were a Kardashev type III civilisation with high levels of control and information processing, leading to them having the ability to cause any physical phenomenon that isn't physically impossible. While very powerful they can't necessarily guarantee that their technology is infallible, and long term systems could break down if not suitably maintained.

Now they have no technology that can't be understood (or at least copied) by looking at it and studying it with macroscopic tools, so no microprocessors, complex balanced chemical reactions or electrical devices. If it requires more than a few minutes of explanation it's a no-go. Forging and simple mechanical devices such as bellows, water wheels and gearing are OK, but further scientific and technological endeavour must be discouraged to reduce the chance of totally awesome potentially devastating repercussions.

If you're wondering about methods by which the answers to this question will be weighed against each other:

Likelihood of failure: How likely the space wizards are to throw off the shackles and go forth to once again almost blow up everything.

Longevity: How long this suppression is likely to remain in place before suffering catastrophic system failure.

Ease of implementation: How much effort the original space wizards would have to put in in order to put this system in place.

Rule of Coolness: More of a jokey (hugely subjective) category, but we all know that cool things work better in space.

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    $\begingroup$ Did you really mean pre-wrap-capable? I visualize some kind of FTL enabling pita bread powered by... humus? $\endgroup$ – intrepidhero Feb 7 '17 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ Joe please provide some constraints. As it stands I don't see anything that would make any one question better than another. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 7 '17 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @James A well-formatted question is better than an ill-formatted one... Did you mean 'answer'? :) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Feb 7 '17 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre ... /shame. Yes, yes I did. I meant please provide constraints as ANSWERS aren't going to be comparable as currently written. Thanks frost $\endgroup$ – James Feb 7 '17 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @intrepidhero: Yes, yes I did. You're thinking of an entirely different franchise. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 7 '17 at 22:11

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How they managed to suppress their populace from trying to advance beyond renaissance levels of technology

Of course, to do that you need technology. Technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable by magic.

Technology requires energy, so one way of doing this could be to monitor the energy density over the whole planet; whenever it exceeds some fixed point, siphon it off somehow, or call in a KEW strike from orbit. The first is better, otherwise some smart guy will develop the Tech Bomb - instead of mixing nitric acid and glycerine, you pour alcohol inside a piston. This creates an internal combustion engine, and next thing you know, eveything all around has been blown to smithereens. If instead the piston went pffffft!, this ought to deflate the inquisitive spirit of most wannabe alchemists.

For our next hurdle, we also need to cheat. Teleportation. Except that you have it all the time, and don't think anything special about it. It's the way of life. You enter a door, you are in the room beyond; you enter a Portal, you're somewhere else that's much like where you started. Mountains, grass, rivers. Sometimes colder, sometimes warmer. So after several years of cold winters, more and more people build their homes half a mile eastwards, across a Portal. They don't know and they don't care that the new place is actually three thousand miles south of the first - to them, it's half a mile. Comes handy because the weather is different, and you can escape a storm by crossing a portal. Wise farmers will keep fields on both sides, and this might even become a proverb.

And when the Sun begins to cool, they'll seek warmer and warmer portals - and what do you know, one of them not only has different weather, the Sun seems slightly different too. And the sky at night. No big deal, huh?

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I can imagine three approaches to this.

1. The secret cabal suppresses technological development

In this scenario a secret group of ruling elite still have access to technology-indistinguishable-from-magic. They use it to monitor the developers of technology and anytime someone starts to investigate an undesirable tech, they use mind control/teleportation/break physics to mess up the experiments/experimenters.

2. The environment has been tampered with

When the non-wizards from space realized technology was bad they set about permanently modifying their planet(s) to avoid future technological development and then destroyed all records and examples of said technology. They eliminated fossil fuels, dispersed major ore deposits, and introduced air born bacteria that attacks all forms of paper. Suddenly science and technology are so difficult that advances have a hard time surviving long enough to be capitalized on.

3. Cyclical disasters

Some kind of world wide inundation, firestorm, or epidemic occurs on a roughly 1000-4000 year period. The world's population is so decimated by each disaster that it sends them back to the stone age. Brutal, but effective.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like number 2. If you make the planet's mantle poor in iron and drastically reduce the ores for other metals, you make it virtually impossible to advance past the bronze age. You'd also have to ensure that the planet doesn't form new ores through volcanism. Accumulating enough metals to develop civilization would then be a near-impossible task. $\endgroup$ – Ebonair Jan 3 '18 at 17:07
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Religion

If you can somehow create a book which tells the story of a deity which is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-loving, and document the ways in which said deity has been involved with the history of the species, it is possible that they may worship said deity. In this religion, electricity is a power only to be used by the deity themself. Anyone found to be using electricity will be smited from the heavens! Of course, the space wizards who are particularly high up and know of this plan will take the role of the deity, brutally murdering any and all users of their powers of electricity. This way, the race will remain in a state where they cannot use any technology other than steam power, and every once in a while the deity will perform a 'miracle' and an ark will appear to take the people to the holy lands. Once at the holy lands, myths of the previous world will fade into memory, and most will argue that it never happened, since an ark such as that has never been seen in living memory! Perhaps a small sect will break off and say that in fact they have not reached the holy lands yet, and in fact the book tells us of the future, not the past. Rinse and repeat.

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(A) "Kardashev type III civilisation with high levels of control and information processing, leading to them having the ability to cause any physical phenomenon that isn't physically impossible" will simply use mind control to suppress any unwanted technological development.

Admittedly the OP hasn't explained how or where the space wizards have concealed their Kardashev type III technology. Possibly, this gives the OP and the apparently incompetent sensor operators the spaceship Exciting Undertaking a way out, the space wizards are capable of high-level concealment or what constitutes Kardashev type III technology is utterly unrecognizable to mere primitive space crews. The local population would be mind blocked from recognizing it anyway.

Now to analyse the OP's answer criteria

Likelihood of failure: How likely the space wizards are to throw off the shackles and go forth to once again almost blow up everything.

There is one problem here. A contradiction between the space wizards being struck at Renaissance level technology and maintaining the populace in retro-technological subjugation. This once the system was set up it was left running on auto-pilot.

if there are some space wizards who know what is really going the temptation to go full-blown Kardashev type III civilisation will be overwhelming. It could happen at any time especially when a bunch of nosey parkers, for example, in the spaceship Exciting Undertaking turns up.

Longevity: How long this suppression is likely to remain in place before suffering catastrophic system failure.

As long as some random or unexpected event doesn't tip the balance. Anywhere between five minutes and five billion years. It is to be expected that normal astronomical events going red giant, nova or white dwarf can be fixed by a Kardashev type III civilisation.

Ease of implementation: How much effort the original space wizards would have to put in in order to put this system in place.

Presumably this was a former colony planet of a Kardashev type III civilisation and they subtly processed colonists as they arrived. The result would be a full blown Renaissance civilization with a bunch of space wizards pulling the strings. Unless the space wizards want ed to go Renaissance level too.

Rule of Coolness: More of a jokey (hugely subjective) category, but we all know that cool things work better in space.

Cool enough, but not too chilly. Does seem strangely like a typical of those guys and gals who used to go boldly where no person had boldly gone before in their split infinitive hyperdrive.

Answer: Simple, straight forward mind control. Why bother with anything complicated? They're Kardashev type III technology level space wizards, so what could be easier?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Thank you to the late Peter Dickinson for inspiration for this answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ I remember a trilogy of books that started with a very similar premise. A peaceful world kept in check by a mind controlling satellite that blocked all desires for technological advancement... Might have to ask SI.SE... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 8 '17 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Rodents! Someone's stolen my idea before I thought of it. There goes my literary career. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 8 '17 at 11:23
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I'm going to answer your question with a question: Why do people develop technology?

Generally speaking I would say, they do it to make their lives easier, to accomplish a needed or desired task with less work. (Another possibility is general curiosity but this could be handled in many ways)

If your renaissance level tech world has nano-super-tech-magic to effectively meet the peoples needs or any possible desires, I would say there is going to be very little motivation to develop "lesser" technologies.

Who needs a steam engine train when magic wagons or teleportation can move goods cheaply and efficiently. Who needs a computer or internet, when the magic mirror oracle can answer any question and farcasters can let you talk to distant peoples. Who needs big hospitals when the local wizard's potions can cure all diseases and mend all wounds. Who would want to live in a crowded megacity, when small hamlets or the occasional small city make for much nicer places to live.

As for the curious people, these sound like great people to make into future space wizards, allowing them to research and play with technology in their nicely controlled simulations or pocket dimensions where it doesn't bother any of the neighbors.

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Why would an advanced civilization suppress the very technology that made them advanced? The very drive to advance insures that such a civilization won't stop. In your theoretical world, a leader might order such a restriction, but the technologists will figure a way around that. They always do.

More likely, they'd be using tech that was beyond the ability of the visitors to understand. Might not even be visible to a lesser civilization.

They've come up with personal warp devices, that they can teleport themselves anywhere without needing something crude, like a space ship.

Or, their tech has evolved to the point where they can live in harmony with the host planet.

So this wouldn't be a matter of no technology, more such an advanced tech that it doesn't interfere with their surroundings.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your place is not to question the motives of the space wizards. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 3 '18 at 23:28
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The space wizards are not consider humans but either gods or some kind of human/spirit hybred. It is there belief that ordinary human can not understand much less recreate the technology. So there might be curious but since they have no hope that they will ever understand so they do not see the point of trying. To maintain the allusion all the technology of the space wizards are sent to there genetic code, using it without the proper genetic code will result in it exploding and harming the user so even if your average peasant decides to let his curiosity get the better of him at examines the space wizards tec a little too closely, then he will die and the story will become a cautionary tale to convince the others the danger of been too curious.

This method will by law of natural selection decrease the amount of curious people.

And when it becomes time to change planets, surely the powerful space wizards our capable of men in black level mass mind wipe. So every time that move to another planet the wipe there minds and teach them from scratch. this will further hinder and technological development.

1.Likelihood of failure: very likely unless the original wizards who came up with this method are immortal, then I give it a generation maybe two.

  1. Longevity: Forever as long as they do not encounter another space faring civilization.

  2. Ease of implementation: A lot at first but after a thousand years or so the hole system become self sustaining.

4.Rule of Coolness: i created it so yes it is very cool

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They genetically engineered their species that individuals do not understand physics involving more than 3 dimensions. Furthermore, they all have ADD (which is not a disorder, in this case, it is a way of life).

When they need to solve a complicated technical problem, they join their minds into a hive mind, which is easily capable of solving any problem in any dimensions and can instruct its members to fabricate the parts they need to put it together, and completely destroy everything after the problem is solved. Not that they need to, as once the hive is disconnected, individual members will be incapable of a) understanding how to use the fabricated device and what it even does, b) simultaneously (down to the microsecond) pressing that many buttons.

If just one member of the hive has a moral problem with the solution, this will propagate through the nodes and instead of solving the problem, the hive will be occupied with working out the morality of whatever they are trying to do, and as the species consists of highly opinionated members, this could take many years - potentially longer than the problem exists. (They do still eat and sleep and maintain the resources needed for their society to continue existing while they are doing this.)

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Mind control. If you have effective mind control of some type, otherwise absurd situations suddenly become possible, and once you have a situation set up, it becomes self-sustaining.

So, they decide they need to go to Renaissance-level tech and not advance any more, but they need the advanced tech to ensure they stay at the low level. Everyone gets mind-wiped and without the curiosity or desire to technologically advance except for some caretakers of the minor amount of advanced tech necessary who are themselves mind-woogied so they don't exploit the situation. You could have a situation where there's a revolving set of caretakers who are selected, given the mental upgrade to be able to maintain the tech that keeps the mind-control working, and when they're done their "shift" they're manipulated into forgetting all about it, or it's altered into a vague religious-like experience, and their disappearance from their home towns chalked up to a religious pilgrimage or whatever.

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I would go with destroying all sources of stored energy. Burn oil and coal in the ground, dissipate uranium in the sea. Make iron sources few and far between.

The main difference between early-industrial and renaissance technologies is usage of fossil energy. No fossil energy, no industry.

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The question is how the space wizards managed to suppress their populace from trying to advance beyond renaissance levels of technology over immense timescales

Traditional government stuff, such as making and enforcing laws to perpetuate the monopoly, killing and imprisoning dissenters, and giving people something enjoyable to focus their attention on. There's plenty of examples on this very planet of people successfully suppressing innovation.

Population control. Most innovations take single people making incremental advances, and if there's only 10,000 people on the planet for 10,000 years, it's extremely unlikely random innovators will slip under the radar. Kill those who do.

Language and cultural obfuscation and diversification. In order for large groups of people to get to together and create innovations, they need to have a set of shared assumptions and language. If you force all your tribes to be so distinct they can't communicate, and they aren't trading or otherwise interacting with each other, they will never work together to accomplish technological innovation. Just purge the ones who do.

Bonus points if your method of suppression also gives the space wizards a way to migrate to another planet when their current home nears it's natural end; without them becoming curious about how it was achieved.

During the migration process, tell everyone not to look up. Immediately murder anyone who does.

Also, people don't need to have things hidden from them to not care about it. Billions of people every day use things like bar scanners and cars, but they have no idea how they work. Suppressing the witnessing of technology isn't necessary to suppress technological advancement. An extremely tiny number of those billions of people using cars and bar scanners are ever going to take an interest in either cars or bar scanners, and an even smaller number of those people would have the chops to innovate either of those technologies.

Through most of history, the percentage of real innovators who have pushed technology forward is incredibly tiny. And the smaller the population, the easier it is to suppress ideas.

There's plenty of traditional population control methods could keep people in a type of state.

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