2009-11-21

Small Group Progress in Trek

Observe the thesis put forth by Trek in "North Star"[ENT3], "The Paradise Syndrome"[TOS3], "Up the Long Ladder"[TNG2], "The Masterpiece Society"[TNG5], and elsewhere, which is that it is not especially likely that small transplanted groups of humans cut off from the primary civilization will develop any further technologically, and may not go anywhere especially far culturally.   The Wild West remained the Wild West.  The American Indians remained American Indians.  Irish peasant folk remained Irish peasant folk.  And genetically engineered twits remained genetically engineered twits.

The only culture that featured societal evolution was the clone group from "Ladder", but beyond mere adaptation to a new reproductive method they didn't seem terribly different culturally than what we might expect from a transplanted group of Americans from 2123 . . . they are rather similar to the "Masterpiece Society" folks in style and twittery.

I don't necessarily agree with Trek's thesis on the matter, mind you . . . but Trek's been pretty consistent on the point.

There are a handful of regressions, however, in addition to the lack of progressions.   For instance, we have the folks from "Terra Nova"[ENT1], but that's a special case since basically all the adults died.  And there's a possible tenuous connection via Turkana IV, a Federation colony that devolved into crap after cutting themselves off from Federation contact.   There's also the Mintakans, a "proto-Vulcan" group of humanoids at a Bronze Age level, though their true origin is never precisely given.

I think small groups in a new environment will do more than just stagnate, and regression is not their only other option.   Yes, there is no great manufacturing base to work from, and it's going to be a small group advancing instead of an entire planet's worth of people, but the concept of no progress whatsoever seems incredibly strange, especially when (as in the case of less technologically advanced cultures) they've seen what's possible.  Also odd is that the Mariposan clones and Moab residents, despite advanced computing, never managed to get much further.  But in the first case, we could chalk it up to a lack of imagination when it's the same five people over and over again.

The above having been said, there are issues to advancement for any group.   More primitive groups could theoretically advance more easily, what with their technology not being as complex, but at the same time there is less opportunity for advancement given that more primitive groups must expend a higher percentage of their efforts merely on feeding and sheltering themselves.   More advanced groups require advancements by those with greater specialization and more computational capability, which small groups might have difficulty supporting and creating.

However, a total lack of change or advancement seems most peculiar.

3 comments:

  1. You ignore Romulans, which started as a small Vulcan group, and the civilisation in a water world (30 Days, Voyager). But logically, a small group would invariably regress, unable to keep the complex knowledge, and the only way to prevent such a regress is to cling to previous life, which in turn forestalls future progress. Why the groups don't progress when they grow bigger (and they do), is absolutely strange.

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  2. The Romulans still had all their toys and were apparently a rather large group, given the seeming large population and other colonies dropped off along the way.

    As far as regression, I just don't see it as required. Sure, a small group of modern Americans forced to build a new society and industrial base in an area of plentiful food and raw materials might regress to early 20th Century technologies simply because completely modern knowledge and engineering is often so ridiculously specialized now. But in an average group of even a few hundred you're bound to have a few people who can cobble together a rudimentary electric system, for instance, or a motor and wing. (Hell, Daniels cobbled together a trans-temporal communicator.)

    At the very least, we would expect upon finding these people in 200 years that they would have unique solutions to the problems they faced, rather than simply having rebuilt a microcosm of modern society complete with '57 Chevy taxis and whatnot.

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  3. In "Space Seed" we had a distinct possibilty of advancement among a small population-- but retconners stepped in and had their next-door planet conveniently explode.

    As for advancement, history doesn't show any real evidence of rapid advancement among isolated populations-- especially primitive ones.

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