Uplift (science fiction)

In science fiction, uplift is a developmental process to transform a certain species of animals into more intelligent beings by other, already-intelligent beings. This is usually accomplished by cultural, technological, or evolutional interventions like genetic engineering but any fictional or real process can be used. The earliest appearance of the concept is in H. G. Wells' 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau,[1] and more recently appears in David Brin's Uplift series and other science fiction works.[2]

History of the concept

The concept can be traced to H. G. Wells' novel The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896),[3] in which the titular scientist transforms animals into horrifying parodies of humans through surgery and psychological torment. The resulting animal-people obsessively recite the Law, a series of prohibitions against reversion to animal behaviors, with the haunting refrain of "Are we not men?" Wells' novel reflects Victorian concerns about vivisection and of the power of unrestrained scientific experimentation to do terrible harm.

Other early literary examples can be found in the following works:

David Brin has stated that his Uplift Universe was written at least in part in response to the common assumption in earlier science fiction such as Smith's work and Planet of the Apes that uplifted animals would, or even should, be treated as possessions rather than people.[4] As a result, a significant part of the conflict in the series revolves around the differing policies of Galactics and humans toward their client races. Galactic races traditionally hold their uplifted "clients" in a hundred-millennium-long indenture, during which the "patrons" have extensive rights and claims over clients' lives and labor power. In contrast, humans have given their uplifted dolphins and chimpanzees near-equal civil rights, with a few legal and economic disabilities related to their unfinished state. A key scene in Startide Rising is a discussion between a self-aware computer (the Niss) and a leading human (Gillian) about how the events during their venture (and hence the novel's plot) relate to the morality of the Galactics' system of uplift.

Uplifting in science fiction

Timeline of works

Year Series Creator Media type Notes
1896 The Island of Doctor Moreau H. G. Wells Novel The concept can be traced to H. G. Wells' novel The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896),[3] in which the eponymous scientist transforms animals into horrifying parodies of humans through surgery and psychological torment. The resulting animal-people obsessively recite the Law, a series of prohibitions against reversion to animal behaviors, with the haunting refrain of "Are we not men?" Wells' novel reflects Victorian concerns about vivisection and of the power of unrestrained scientific experimentation to do terrible harm.
1938 "Johnny Black" stories L. Sprague de Camp Short stories Other early literary examples can be found in L. Sprague de Camp's "Johnny Black" stories (beginning with "The Command") about a black bear raised to human-level intelligence, published in Astounding Science-Fiction from 1938-1940.
1944 Sirius Olaf Stapledon Novel Olaf Stapledon's Sirius explores a dog with human intelligence.
1947 Jerry Was a Man Robert A. Heinlein Short story The story is about an attempt by a genetically modified chimpanzee to achieve human rights. The main theme of the story is civil liberties, in this case extended towards a group of genetically enhanced chimpanzees to allow them equal rights under the law.
1959 Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes Short story Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means. The story is told by a series of progress reports written by Charlie Gordon, the first human test subject for the surgery. The technique is at first successful but then reverts in both patients.
1963 Planet of the Apes Pierre Boulle Novel The 1963 science fiction novel by French author Pierre Boulle was adapted into the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, launching the Planet of the Apes media franchise.[5] The series also explores the opposite of uplift, the reduction of the human species to a regressed, atavistic, savage-like animal state.
1966 Thor Stan Lee & Jack Kirby Comic book Marvel comics villain the High Evolutionary is attended by a group of evolved animals known alternately as the New Men and the Knights of Wundagore.
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke Novel 2001: A Space Odyssey implies at least cultural uplift if not outright biological uplift of humanity by the monoliths. The novel's sequels imply that life forms indigenous to Europa are later uplifted by the same alien technological artifacts.[6]
1977 Traveller (role-playing game) Game Designers' Workshop RPG The Ancients, the precursor alien civilization of the Traveller universe, abducted Earth wolves 300,000 years ago and genetically altered them into the Vargr race.
1979 Instrumentality of Mankind Cordwainer Smith Novel series In Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind series, "underpeople" are created from animals through unexplained technological means explicitly to be servants of humanity, and were often treated as less than slaves by the society that used them, until the laws were reformed in the story "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" (1962). However, Smith's characterizations of individual underpeople are frequently quite sympathetic, and one of his most memorable characters is C'Mell, the cat-woman who appears in "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" and in Norstrilia (1975).
1980 Uplift Universe David Brin Novel series The Uplift Universe is a fictional universe created by science fiction writer David Brin. A central feature in this universe is the process of biological uplift.
1987 Watchers Dean Koontz Novel Dean Koontz's 1987 novel Watchers deals with genetic engineering that uplifts a Golden Retriever named "Einstein" to near-human intelligence for the purpose of espionage. In a separate experiment, a hominid creature with near-human intelligence and crude language ability is also engineered, destined for potential use as a guard or attack creature.
1989 Rama II Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee Novel In Clarke's and Lee's 2nd instalment of the Rama book series there are two uplifted species. One are dolphins which were trained to perform complex mathematical and visual exercises with some results comparable to humans (citation needed). The other are Simians - genetically alters chimpanzees that have been bred and trained to perform menial tasks on spaceships (such as cleaning and cooking), they have also had their aggressive behavioural characteristics removed as well as their sex drive. (cit. needed)
1993 Moreau series S. Andrew Swann Novel series In the Moreau series by S. Andrew Swann, genetically engineered human-animal hybrids have been developed as soldiers and are now incorporated as second-class citizens in human society.
1993 seaQuest DSV Rockne S. O'Bannon TV series Darwin is an intelligent dolphin from the TV series SeaQuest, who is able to communicate to the crew of an advanced, futuristic submarine, the seaQuest DSV 4600, through the assistance of a translation device known as the vo-corder.
1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rick Berman & Michael Piller TV series In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Founders, a shapeshifting species that founded the Dominion, genetically engineered the formerly primitive Vorta into an intelligent species who then served as Dominion administrators and politicians.
1997 GURPS Steve Jackson Games RPG In the role playing games GURPS Uplift (based on Brin's works), GURPS Transhuman Space and GURPS Bio-Tech, uplift is a major theme. The same goes for Eclipse Phase and the Orion's Arm universe (not an RPG by itself).
2000 Orion's Arm Bernd Helfert, Donna Malcolm Hirsekorn, M. Alan Kazlev & Anders Sandberg Online sci-fi project The Orion's Arm universe delves quite a bit into uplift.
2000 Schlock Mercenary Howard Tayler Webcomic In the space opera webcomic Schlock Mercenary, humans have uplifted elephants, gorillas and polar bears who appear to enjoy equal social status to other species.
2005 Doraemon Fujiko Fujio Manga series The progression or regression gun is one of Doraemon's gadgets of the 22nd century. It can evolve or devolve the subject. Doraemon and the gang ended up accidentally creating a civilization of humanoid cats and dogs in the past, who left the earth in search of a new planet before the ice age, allowing the rise of humans.
2006 Eureka Andrew Cosby & Jaime Paglia TV series Season One of the TV series Eureka includes a genetically modified dog named "Lojack" who is said to have an IQ of 130.
2007 Assassin's Creed Various Computer game In the Assassin's Creed universe, the "First Civilization" uplifted humans (such as the original Adam and Eve) and continued to interfere with human culture, technology, and historical events, even a hundred thousand years after their extinction.
2007 Mass Effect BioWare Computer game In the Mass Effect universe, numerous "client species" were uplifted by Citadel species. The Drell were uplifted by the Hanar; the Elcor and Vorcha were uplifted by the Asari; the Krogan were uplifted by the Salarians. On Earth, it was quite common for humans to uplift native animal species and even have custom-built lifeforms. "Uplifting" was eventually outlawed over the ethical and environmental questions raised by such acts.
2007 Race for the Galaxy Thomas Lehmann Board game Uplift is a major theme. Some cards have "UPLIFT" highlighted in the title and can help score points and achieve goals. Designer Tom Lehmann attributes the inspiration for uplift to David Brin's Uplift series.[7]
2008 Spore Maxis Computer game In a similar manner to 2001: A Space Odyssey, players in the game Spore can use monoliths to uplift species for fun or for other purposes.
2009 Eclipse Phase Posthuman Studios RPG Eclipse Phase delves quite a bit into uplift.
2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes Film Will Rodman, a scientist at the San Francisco biotech company Gen-Sys, is testing the viral-based drug ALZ-112 on chimpanzees to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. ALZ-112 is given to a chimp named Bright Eyes, greatly increasing her intelligence. Ape Caesar inherits his mother's intelligence and is raised by Will. Later Caesar releases gas with drug and allows it to enhance the intelligence of the other apes. The apes flee the facility, release the remaining chimps from Gen-Sys, and free more apes from the San Francisco Zoo. A battle ensues as the ape army fights their way past a police blockade on the Golden Gate Bridge to escape into the redwood forest.
2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown Firaxis Games Strategy game In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the Ethereals have been uplifting all of the alien species the player encounters during the invasion of Earth, yet none have anywhere near the potential that the human species does of being truly uplifted. By allowing humanity to copy alien technology a few steps at a time, the Ethereals determined that humanity would be the one species they could adequately prepare for "what lies ahead".
2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Film Ten years after the pandemic of the deadly ALZ-113 virus, or Simian Flu, the worldwide human population has been drastically reduced, with only a few genetically immune to the virus. Apes with genetically enhanced intelligence, caused by the same virus, have started to build a civilization of their own.
2015 StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Blizzard Entertainment Computer game In the Legacy of the Void expansion to StarCraft II, it is revealed that the Xel'Naga are an advanced alien race who proliferate by uplifting the Zerg and the Protoss which each possess either "purity of essence" and "purity of form".
2015 Children of Time Adrian Tchaikovsky Book Genetic uplift of arthropods, in particular spiders, is a central part of the novel.
2015 Barsk: The Elephants Graveyard Lawrence M. Schoen Book In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings.
2016 Stellaris Paradox Interactive Computer game In Stellaris, players can find planets inhabited by certain lifeforms that, given millions of years, will become sapient. Players can use genetic modification to accelerate the process and uplift and integrate these lifeforms into their empires.

Related terms and ideas

  • Accelerated (Evolution): In the graphic novel Grease Monkey, Tim Eldred uses the term "Accelerated" to describe gorillas uplifted in this fashion.
  • Cultural Uplift: Cultural uplift is distinguished from biological uplift in that it does not physically alter the organism. A real cultural uplift experiment started with bonobos in 2005 in the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, USA.[8]
  • Forced Evolution: In her Canopus in Argos series, Doris Lessing uses the term forced evolution to encompass the conscious influencing of both biology and culture.
  • Progressor (Evolution): Boris and Arkady Strugatsky coined the term "Progressor" for those who carry out this sort of work. Sergey Lukyanenko also used it in two of his novels.
  • Provolution: Orion's Arm uses the term provolution (proactive or progressive evolution) to describe the act of accelerating evolution: a species which has had its evolution accelerated is called a provolve.
  • Raelian Uplift: Several UFO cults including Raelianism believe that humanity was biologically uplifted in the past or will be uplifted in the future. The Urantia Book claims Adam and Eve were beings whose job it was to biologically uplift humanity.

See also


  1. ^ Booker, Keith M. (2014). Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction in Literature. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 311.
  2. ^ David Langford, "Uplift", The Greenwood encyclopedia of science fiction and fantasy, 2
  3. ^ a b FROM THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU TO LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS: UPLIFTED ANIMALS, WISH FULFILLMENT, AND ORIGINAL SIN at web.syr.edu Archived January 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ David Brin at www.scifi.com
  5. ^ David L. Ulin (July 14, 2014). "The transformation of 'Planet of the Apes,' from book to movie legend". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  6. ^ Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society at fanac.org
  7. ^ Lehmann, Tom. "Designer Diary: Race for the Galaxy". Retrieved 5 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Interactive Lexigrams - Bonobo Hope Sanctuary". Iowaprimatelearning.org. Retrieved 2018-06-04.

External links

Animal cognition

Animal cognition describes the mental capacities of non-human animals and the study of those capacities. The field developed from comparative psychology, including the study of animal conditioning and learning. It has also been strongly influenced by research in ethology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology, and hence the alternative name cognitive ethology is sometimes used. Many behaviors associated with the term animal intelligence are also subsumed within animal cognition.Researchers have examined animal cognition in mammals (especially primates, cetaceans, elephants, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, cattle, raccoons and rodents), birds (including parrots, fowl, corvids and pigeons), reptiles (lizards and snakes), fish and invertebrates (including cephalopods, spiders and insects).

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a 2014 American science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. It stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. It is the sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which began 20th Century Fox's reboot of the original Planet of the Apes series. Dawn is set ten years after the events of Rise, and follows a group of people in San Francisco who struggle to stay alive in the aftermath of a plague that is wiping out humanity, while Caesar tries to maintain dominance over his community of intelligent apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released in the United States on July 11, 2014 and was met with highly positive reviews, with critics praising its visual effects, story, direction, acting, musical score, action sequences and emotional depth. It was also a box office success, grossing over $710 million worldwide, and making it the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2014. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for eight Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director for Reeves, and Best Supporting Actor for Serkis.A third installment, titled War for the Planet of the Apes, was released on July 14, 2017.

Elder race

An elder race in science fiction, fantasy, or horror fiction is a fictional alien race that preceded humanity. Occasionally they are a more advanced version of humanity instead of aliens (e.g., the Stargate Ancients). Elder races generally have abilities and technologies (or magics, in some cases) that generally far surpass that of humanity. In works of science fiction, their technologies are often so advanced as to seem magical or even godlike both to the human protagonists and to the present-day reader.

In some works, the elder race has long since departed the scene, leaving nothing but artifacts and other evidence of their activities. In others, the elder race remains in existence, but is in decline or has deliberately withdrawn to the periphery in order to avoid interfering with the development of humanity and any other younger races. A few elder races are portrayed as still being very much active in the story-current scene, and members of them may function as advisers or as antagonists.

Some elder races are portrayed as wise benefactors, bringing culture and knowledge to humanity and other younger races. Other elder races are callous exploiters, and regard younger races as so much raw material to be used and even used up. A few are portrayed ambiguously, with their well-intended actions having unexpected consequences. For instance, a client race may use their new-found technology for self-destruction, or a policy of non-interference may turn out to be a way of abdicating responsibility for using one's power wisely (power corrupts the best of intentions).

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a 2011 American science fiction film directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, and Andy Serkis. Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, it is 20th Century Fox's reboot of the Planet of the Apes series, intended to act as an origin story for a new series of films. Its premise is similar to the fourth film in the original series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), but it is not a direct remake of that film. In the film, a substance designed to help the brain repair itself gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee named Caesar, who leads an ape uprising.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released on August 5, 2011, to critical and commercial success. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for five Saturn Awards including Best Director for Wyatt and Best Writing for Jaffa and Silver, winning Best Science Fiction Film, Best Supporting Actor for Serkis and Best Special Effects. Serkis's performance as Caesar was widely acclaimed, earning him many nominations from associations which do not usually recognize performance capture as traditional acting.

A sequel to the film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was released on July 11, 2014 and a third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, was released on July 14, 2017.

Talking animals in fiction

Talking animals are a common theme in mythology and folk tales, as well as children's literature. Fictional talking animals often are anthropomorphic, possessing human-like qualities but appearing as a creature. The usage of talking animals enable storytellers to combine the basic characteristics of the animal with human behavior, to apply metaphor, and to entertain children.

There are a number of alleged real-life talking animals.

Zoo (TV series)

Zoo is an American drama television series based on the 2012 novel of the same name by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, the former also serving as an executive producer for the series, which stars James Wolk, Kristen Connolly, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arnezeder and Billy Burke as a group of varied professionals who investigates the mysterious pandemic of violent animal attacks upon humans all over the world.

Zoo premiered on June 30, 2015, on CBS. CBS renewed the series for a third season in August 2016, which aired between June 29 and September 21, 2017. On October 23, 2017, CBS announced that the series was canceled after three seasons.

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