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Is it ever explained why so many races evolve, technologically speaking, on a nearly parallel course in the Star Trek universe? Obviously their physical and social evolution was far from parallel but technologically nearly every space faring civilization evolved along nearly identical lines.

I know every race developed technologically at different rates, a few are thousands of years more advanced, but the similarities are undeniable. I also know that some races were gifted technology by other, more advanced civilizations and some stole tech to further the advancement of their own.

Is this just a subtle plot point within the Trek universe to avoid multiple technology theories? As such does it make it easier to say everyone above a specific technological checkpoint have similar tech?

marked as duplicate by Izkata, Jason Baker, Null, Joe L., Shevliaskovic Mar 1 '15 at 0:30

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  • As far as technology advancing along the same lines, but different rates, that's easy. You always have to reach A before B, B before C, C before D, etc. – Omegacron Feb 26 '15 at 19:34
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    @omegacron Not necessarily. If your species has natural abilities that are beyond human, such as telepathy, pyrokinesis, the ability to excrete glues or acids, the lack of need for oxygen, or any number of other abilities/traits. These could all alter or skip the technology requirements to get to interstellar travel that humans needed. – Firebat Feb 26 '15 at 19:46
  • @S.Fruggiero true, but the humanoid races seeded by the Ancients all have similar physiological requirements. Therefore they would have to develop a breathing system before spacesuits, spacesuits before building something in space, etc. etc. Generally speaking, you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run. – Omegacron Feb 26 '15 at 19:49
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    @ThePopMachine look at the edit history. I didn't – phantom42 Feb 27 '15 at 2:32
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    Something to remember is that technology differs between races: Romulans have warp capability that is fueled by singularities while others use dilithium crystals; disruptors vs. phasers; etc. While the effects are the same, the technology itself is different. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 27 '15 at 11:25
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This issue is addressed in the TNG episode 'The Chase'

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_Chase_(episode)

The fundamental premise is:

All of the main Humanoid races (Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Humans) had a common progenitor who spread them across the galaxy at roughly the same time.

This is further developed in DS9, where several times it is hinted that:

The changelings learned their shapeshifting abilities, but were previous solid.

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    Just made me realize, if everyone is seeded by a basic form, that explains how the universal translator can work on universal basic thought patterns common to all sentient life. – user16696 Feb 26 '15 at 19:57
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    @cde - And why it has problems with non-humanoid life forms. – Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 0:55
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    Yeah, many humanoid races where seeded ... billions of years ago. But they evolve and discover the same technology in a span of maybe 100 years. And that precision is not realistic. – Raidri Feb 27 '15 at 10:43
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    “several times it is hinted that the changelings learned their shapeshifting abilities, but were previous solid” — really? When was that hinted? – Paul D. Waite Feb 27 '15 at 11:42
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    @Waite One scene that comes to mind was a discussion of Changeling History with Odo and the Female Changeling during episode ? that occurred in and around Odo describing solid intimacy. I don't remember the episodes name. Another occurred when Bashir was discussing with Odo the health status of a very young but sick changeling that was found. Again, these are hints rather than explicit statements and they are scattered in the show in several places. – Lighthart Feb 27 '15 at 16:02
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There are several possibilities regarding technology.

Necessity

In most cases, the species encountered are space faring races and are encountered in space. The technology they use makes life in space possible or at least more bearable.

Examples

  • The transporter eases planetary exploration and transfer between vessels.
  • Replicators eliminate the need for large cargo areas filled with food and water.
  • Universal translators make it possible to talk to members of other species, even if they were only just encountered.
  • Holodecks/Holosuites allow for entertainment and a form of "shore leave" without leaving the ship.

Natural Progression of Technology

Many of the different technologies operate under similar principles and could be seen as "the next logical step" once the precursor technology had been perfected.

Examples

  • According to Memory Alpha, the replicator is a variant of transporter technology that simply materializes matter in a different form.
  • Holograms in all their forms (holodecks, holosuites, the EMH etc) use force field technology are a variant of the shield technology that protects the ship in battle, keeps prisoners in the brig, keeps shuttlebays compressed when the external doors are open etc.
  • Subspace technology is used to both propel the ship at warp speed and to communicate at great distance.

Observation/Trade

In some cases, we've seen that some races had technology or more advanced versions of technology before others. In those cases, the "lesser" race either acquired the technology or eventually developed it on their own.

Examples

  • On Enterprise, Tucker said he would like to get a look inside the nacelles of a Vulcan ship because it had a higher maximum speed than Enterprise did. The Vulcan captain refused but humanity eventually "caught up" to Vulcan propulsion technology.
  • In the episode Dead Stop, the Enterprise crew observed and used replicator technology on the repair station. That may have prompted the eventual research and development of the technology by humans/Starfleet.
  • The Klingons acquired holographic technology from the Xyrillians in exchange for not killing them.
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    Good answer. I would add, by way of example, that cultures the world over were pretty far apart 1000, 500 or even just 100 years ago. But today, anyone with the economic means can go buy an iPhone 6. Cultures in contact do not stay that far apart for very long, especially once there is relatively cheap transport, travel and telecommunications. – ThePopMachine Feb 27 '15 at 15:36
  • I don't have any canon for this, but isn't there also the possibility that the Ancient Humanoids kept things fairly even between civilizations by secretly meddling? Or does canon say they were long gone? – dmm Feb 27 '15 at 18:44
  • @dmm TNG canon says long dead. – user16696 Feb 28 '15 at 5:09
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The vast majority of the humanoid life we've encounter in Startrek are the results of genetic seeding of planets by an ancient race millions of years ago.

Believing that the life span of a single species was finite, the ancient humanoids seeded the primordial environments of many planets with a DNA code that would direct the evolution of life on that planet towards a form similar to their own. At least Earth, Indri VIII, Loren III, Ruah IV, and Vilmor II were directly seeded by the ancient race. Other species that likely originated from seeded primordial seas included Klingons, Romulans/Vulcans, and Cardassians.

this race is referred to as the ancient humanoids on memory alpha Ancient Humanoids The majority of this is gone over in the TNG episode 'The Chase'

  • this wouldn't explain the Rome world, or the Indians in another show, or how Miri's planet was a duplicate of Earth. – Oldcat Feb 26 '15 at 19:42
  • @old cat that's a way different question than physical or technological evolution. – user16696 Feb 26 '15 at 19:47
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    @Oldcat en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Preservers are the race that did that, moved species and social groups off planets and relocated them. – Himarm Feb 26 '15 at 19:55
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I think you can't explain this fully in-universe. Intelligent lifeforms evolve over billions of years. To coincidently match each others evolution and technology level by no more then maybe a hundred years is practically impossible (keep in mind we are talking about hundreds of species shown in all of Star Trek series and movies), even if they were all seeded at the same time.

The only reasonable explanation is out-of-universe: Different species have similar technological levels because the interactions (especially conflicts) between them are in most instances only interesting to the viewers if all parties have similar technology. Otherwise problems and conflicts would be resolved in very little time (and very little plot).

This phenomenon can also be seen in a lot of other works of fiction, for example comic book heros which have the vastly different powers but almost the same power level when fighting each other (Superman vs. Batman).

  • @It's not true that you can't explain it in universe. See geewhiz's answer and my comment there. – ThePopMachine Feb 27 '15 at 15:32
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    @ThePopMachine That answer only works if there is already a similar technological level (regarding trading or observation). Star Trek shows some first contact scenarios where the technology is already similar. And yes, the level between regions on earth has become more similar. But that came mostly from colonisation, the more advanced nations gave the less advanced the technology. – Raidri Feb 27 '15 at 15:42
  • What you say only applies to giant leaps. Individuals advancements immediately propagate world wide now. And historically. Do you think the printing press and the telescope propagated around Europe due to colonization? No. Free exchange of ideas means free exchange of technologies. It's pretty much impossible to keep all but the most military of secrets secret for long, and even then, they don't last 100 years. – ThePopMachine Feb 27 '15 at 15:52
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    The propagation in Europe happened when cultural and technological levels where already similar. Just like it is now worldwide. Rather look at the first contact between europeans and native americans. Native american where some hundred years behind in technology after "only" a few thousand years of human evolution. Now think what the difference should be between species you evolved on different planets over billions of years. – Raidri Feb 27 '15 at 16:30
  • It could be that technology has reached a plateau state in which it has gone as far as it can without additional fundamental breakthroughs. – Emsley Wyatt May 15 '18 at 3:42
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I suppose we can surmise that certain technologies are universal for intelligent species. For example, harnessing fire, developing mathematics, fossil fuels, heavier than air flight, radio waves, splitting the atom, the sound barrier, and space exploration. The list goes on and on. It's fair to say that within the confines of the Star Trek universe, specific technological achievements are truly universal.

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