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This is my first post, I apologize in advance if my English is not accurate, it is not my first language.

My question is: in a world where very advanced civilizations have achieved intergalactic travel and have gradually unified in a "Federation" that comprises all the most advanced planets, how would it be possible for humans to "skip forward" and become equally advanced in a shorter period of time? Let me clarify, time itself would speed up in our region of space, thousands of years would go by on Earth, while in other regions of the universe time passes more slowly. This could happen by accident or with the intervention of one of the more advanced civilizations.

My ideas so far (that do not satisfy me completely): Earth happens to be in a very peripheral region of space, where mass is very "diluted" and hence time goes faster. The advanced civilization, meanwhile, have inhabited planets that are close together and close to several black holes, and so time is slower. (I still don't know if this could justify millions of years of difference between them and us).

Second idea: some sort of device that create space-time distortions that can make time go much faster in a certain region (this is a very far reach, and such a device should certainly be highly illegal).

Any thoughts on how to better my ideas? New ideas?

Important edit: This may be my fault, since this is my first post and i may have been too vague, but it seems that nobody got my idea. Forget the other parts of the story, they are just accessory, this is the deal: there are really no workarounds... time has to go faster in our region of space, while elsewhere is slower. Thougths?

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  • $\begingroup$ Two things: (1) Do you really mean intergalactic travel? ("Inter-" means "between", so that would be travel between galaxies.) Should that rather be intragalactic or interstellar (travel between stars within a single galaxy)? (2) You seem to assume that, in some fixed reference frame, all civilizations have a single, common origin point in time, and then progress at different rates based on local spacetime geometry. From where does this "single origin point in time" originate? Why would it happen that way? Please edit your question to clarify this. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 14 '17 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ Gravitational time dilation is a real thing, but the effects are tiny compared to what you seem to have in mind. Compare Have we attempted to experimentally confirm gravitational time dilation? on Space Exploration, for example. (Full disclosure: That is my own question.) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 14 '17 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Or alternatively use the Japanese and Chinese strategy: let Western Europe and America (i.e., the "Federation") develop science and technology slowly over several centuries, and then just assimilate it in a very short time. No mysterious time acceleration needed. If possible, have the "Federation" (why the scare quotes?) invest in education and manufacturing facilities on Earth... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 14 '17 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, I was just looking for the article linked in that first answer, you beat me to it. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 14 '17 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Yes, i said intergalactic meaning intergalactic. I don't understand what you mean by "single, common origin point in time". The fact of the matter is this: different civilizations evolved by themselves, when they became sufficiently advanced, they started joining the Federation one by one (some are older than others and became sufficiently advanced earlier). Now the Federation exists, and humans are still apes. $\endgroup$ – Davide42 Sep 14 '17 at 13:45
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Tbo, I do not get your time idea, please forgive me for offering a completely different one:

The classics of course are post-technological civilizations or technology transfer (extreme case: Uplifting), but I will just mention them. They are well established in SciFi and need no explanation. Instead I will offer a different, less overused solution (I'm not saying completely new one!):

I'm not saying that this will be the reality, I'm not saying this won't be, I'm just suggesting this as a possible solution within a story:

Have all civilizations approach a (pseudo) upper limit for knowledge and technology.

At a certain point, and intergalactic civilizations are certainly at a very advanced point, additional knowledge and research might not give them any more advantages. We have accomplished a lot in 400 years of science, after a million years more - what do a couple of years more matter?

At one point, all new theoretical models might only give us negligible improvements. All engineering progress could become too small to notice.

So giving the aliens arbitrary amounts of additional time to learn about the universe and design new spaceships and so on might not matter at a certain point. They might end up with nothing but more trash by the time humanity has reached a certain level.

I do not think I need to explain the idea in more detail (and not waste any more time answering), but if it isn't clear, please let me know in the comments. And once again, I'm not saying this absolutely will happen at one point, I'm just saying it's a reasonable way out in a story.

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Gravitational time dilation suggests itself, but the effect would only produce microscopic time differences. Earth could only be microseconds of the advanced civilizations. This concept, while part of physical reality, can be discounted.

One way of speeding up technical progress for Earth is not by accelerating time, but by accelerating neural processing. The classic example of this is Poul Anderson's Brain Wave (1954). This assumes the existence of an inhibitory field in certain regions of the galaxy. This field slows down the speed of electrons through matter and as a result the rate of neural processing (that's a crude way of putting it). Life on Earth evolved inside the field and when our planet passes out of the inhibitory field everybody, humans and animal life, become hugely more intelligent because their brain processes are now very much faster.

Brain Wave, perhaps his most famous single novel, remains very nearly his finest. Its premise is simple: for millions of years the part of the galaxy containing our solar system has been moving through a vast forcefield whose effect has been to inhibit "certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes", and thus certain neuronic functions (see Arrested Development); it is a concept Vernor Vinge would exploit and expand in his A Fire Upon the Deep (1992). When Earth escapes the inhibiting field, synapse-speed immediately increases, causing a rise in Intelligence; after the book has traced various absorbing consequences of this transformation, a transfigured humanity reaches for the stars, leaving behind (it is a conclusion evocative of Clifford D Simak at his best) former mental defectives and bright animals to inherit the planet.

Source: Poul Anderson, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Vernor Vinge in his novel A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) employed a somewhat similar concept.

Another space-operatic ingenuity is the division of the galaxy into concentric Zones of Thought with varying limitations of Physics: the Unthinking Depths of the core, where even Intelligence cannot exist, are surrounded by the Slow Zone (Earth's location; Fermi Paradox) which allows only limited AI and is generally bound by the speed restrictions of Relativity; further out in the Beyond, AIs can be superhuman and Faster Than Light travel is easy; the High Beyond merges into the unknowable Transcend (see Transcendence) where intelligence tends towards the godlike.

Source: Vernor Vinge, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Vinge's version is more structured than Anderson's. Undoubtedly Vinge would have been aware of Brain Wave's inhibitory field. His version also included results why faster-than-light travel wasn't possible in our region of the galaxy.

The device mentioned in your question might work in reverse to Anderson's inhibitory field and Vinge's Slow Zones. It might accelerate neural processing making all humans effectively super-intelligent and therefore able to advance and develop technology far faster and catch up with the advanced civilizations.

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Have you heard of the game Mass Effect?

In this game, there is a galactic government similar to what you have described. This government is composed of several races of alien unified at a grand "Citadel". These races all stumbled across the same advanced technology scattered across the galaxy by an ancient, unknown race and this is how they were able to become galactic powers.

In the universe of Mass Effect, prior to the game's story, humanity has achieved a level of technology slightly more advanced than where we are now (able to launch the first manned flight to mars for example). The Citadel has existed for at least several centuries at this point.

Upon landing on Mars (if i remember the story correctly) the astronauts from Earth discover a cache of alien technology left by an ancient race known as the Protheans (The same race/technology discovered by the other races).

Mankind was able to take this technology home, reverse-engineer it, and with that technology was able to (accidentally) make contact with the galactic government of the game. Because all of the races use the leftover Prothean tech they discovered, Mankind is roughly as advanced technologically as the rest of the alien races.

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