Previous articles on Tech Levels:
A quick cheat sheet for Tech Levels:
Tech Level 10: Modern Day Technology
Tech Levels 11 - 15: Hard Science Fiction/Near Future Tech
Tech Levels 16 - 20: Sci-Fi/Space Opera Tech
Tech Levels 21 - 25: Ultra Tech
Tech Levels 25+: god-like Tech
This is a purely for-fun article to see where on the Tech Level scale different civilizations and organizations from various sci-fi sources fit. This is 100% purely subjective on the part of the author, and will no doubt be disputed (and probably rightly so) by others with different takes on the subject.
These assessments reflect tech commonly available to the group/society, and do not take into account exotic research or superscience prototypes that occasionally pop up in these sources. Also, some technologies that depend more on the workings of the universe turning out a certain way (such as FTL drives, time travel, psionics, and force fields, among others) than on raw technical sophistication were not used in this evaluation unless the technology was uniquely signature to that culture or unusually potent in some way.
Also, some SF sources were left out because the author has not seen enough of them to make an accurate judgment about the societies portrayed in them. These include some fan favorites such as Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and others. Others I may have just plum forgotten about. Apologies all around.
Modern Day Earth
Tech Level: 10
This is a given, and more fully explained in the articles on Tech Levels. It is included here to provide a baseline for reference.
Perhaps the most incompetent invaders in modern science fiction (they achieved a mere draw against WWII-Era Earth,) the fanatically conservative Race seemed to have technology pretty much on par with modern-day, early 21st Century Earth, with the exception of interstellar flight and suspended animation.
The spy agencies and the supervillains they often faced off against always seemed to employ technology just slightly beyond the current cutting edge of the time any particular movie was made, placing them perpetually at Level 11.
2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010(Earth)|
Tech Level: 12
The movies show Earth as a fledgling space power, with large space stations, lunar bases, AIs, and barely-developed interplanetary travel capabilities.
This anime tale of cyberpunk and psionic powers had advanced computer systems, laser rifles, orbital particle beam weapons, and very cool looking motorcycles.
Tech Level: 13
Replicants, aerodynes, and space colonies place this prototypical cyberpunk work at Level 13.
This thoughtful science fiction film was set 50 years in the future, and actually seems to have tech consistent with that. Seen on screen are: automated traffic grids, sonic weapons, dynamic computer interfaces, advanced virtual reality, suspended animation, memory reading, and more.
An anime movie about the emergence of an AI intelligence had extremely advanced robotic and cybernetic systems that seemed one level (14) ahead of the tech in the rest of its world.
Stargate (Stargate Command/Earth)
Tech Level: 13-15
Having access to a great many alien technologies, the SGC is decades ahead of the rest of the planet technologically. A lot of their more advanced tech is borrowed from other races, so the exact extent of their homegrown technology base is difficult to guess at, but is still advanced enough to produce orbital interface fighters and sophisticated space weapon systems.
With sophisticated walking war machines, heat beams, and massive launch guns, the original version of the Martians seem to fit fairly comfortably at Level 14, though some sectors of their technology (such as aviation and microbiology)seemed to lag considerably.
Though set in the mind-boggling distant year of 1999, the design and tech of the lost moonbase seem at least a good fifty or more years ahead of what’s available today, with compact laser weapons, versatile interplanetary spacecraft, and advanced and long-enduring space habitat systems.
Tech Level: 14
The children of Skynet employed highly advanced robotics, cybernetics, AIs, and nanotech ("liquid metal") machines.
Though quizzically over-reliant on gigantic walking war machines for most tactical combat, the interstellar powers of the Battletech universe do have interplanetary and interstellar travel capabilities, very advanced robotics, cybernetics, and particle beam weapons.
The Machines created many very sophisticated robots, computers, cybernetics, and virtual reality systems, but nothing that seemed to require any major theoretical breakthroughs.
The wolfling humans had the best tech 25th-Century Earth could produce, but it was always woefully inadequate next to even the cast-off junk of the Galactics.
Tech Level: 15-16
Androids, terraforming, exoskeletons, and suspended animation populated Ripley’s greatest battle with the acid-blooded, foul-tempered xenomorphs.
Technologically conservative to the point of fanaticism, the Imperium in Dune remained at the same Tech Level for thousands of years, and no significant advances are seen throughout the series, which also spans a number of millennia.
Very few aspects of this version made much sense, plot wise or technologically. Still, advanced robotic systems, “heat” beams, and some odd form of teleportation places them at about Level 16.
Tech Level: 16
Borrowed alien tech and the genius of Reed Richards has transformed the FF’s headquarters of the Baxter Building in downtown Manhattan into a scifi-tech wonderland. He uses this not only to fight the occasional supervillain but to conduct superscience experiments into many exotic fields.
Tech Level: 16-17
The star system the series takes place in was settled by a joint American/Chinese alliance, after abandoning an overpopulated Earth. Though their interstellar travel capabilities seem limited to generation ships, they do posses sophisticated interplanetary capabilities, 'gravity' drives, advanced genetic engineering, and were engaged in terraforming at least over a dozen terrestrial worlds and moons simultaneously.
In perpetual battle with two very alien races on the edge of the galaxy, humanity’s major governments depend on technologies such as powered battle armors, advanced robotics, cloaking, guass guns, and sophisticated micronukes.
Asimov’s greatest work focused on the fall of an ancient galaxy-wide empire and a radical mathematician’s vision for saving humanity. Both the Galactic Empire (Level 17) and the Foundation (Level 18 by the end of the series) are the archetypal space opera civilizations. Though written originally in the 1940s, it was updated a number of times by its author, and includes advanced AI robots, cybernetics, terraforming, and world-cities.
Babylon 5 ("Young" Interstellar Races)
Tech Level: 17-18
Earth was at the low end of this range, the Minbari at the high, but all seemed to share the same broad spectrum of technologies typical to space opera civilizations.
The Gua’uld have been established as technological scavengers; they rarely come up with concepts and technologies on their own, but instead steal them from other races. Even so, they established a stable (if oppressive) society at about Level 18 that lasted for many thousands of years.
Tech Level: 18
The worlds of Traveller’s interstellar societies have a huge range of tech levels, and gave rise to some unique tech like meson guns and nuclear dampers, but their most advanced common level coincides with 18 on this scale.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (Unnamed Interstellar Culture)
Tech Level: 18
Klaatu and Gort seemed to have come from what would today be considered a fairly typical space opera civilization technologically, with sophisticated AIs and robots, disintegrators, anti-gravity, uber-metals, and a sustainable field-effect similar to EMP that can cover an entire planet.
The Martians of the 1953 film version were considerably more sophisticated and inimical than their Victorian-Era or Spielberg-spawned cousins, with heat beams, disintegrators, anti-gravity, and nigh-impenetrable force fields. Like the versions in the original novel, however, certain sections of the technology (such as aviation and microbiology) were woefully lagging.
These would-be exterminators of humanity created a megastructure interstellar generation ship and had technologies such as sophisticated anti-gravity, bio-mechanical armors, plasma weapons, and nigh-impenetrable force fields. Their computer systems, however, seemed to lag considerably behind this, at Level 10.
Tech Level: 18-19
The Empire in general seemed to be Level 18, while the Old Republic was one level higher. Some fans speculate that Palpatine may have deliberately let the common technology base slide so he could hold onto the best tech for himself and ensure his enduring rule.
After several centuries of peaceful trading for higher technologies from both the Puppeteers and Outsiders, the races of Known Space made great leaps in their understanding of the universe. Advanced fusion drives, reactionless thrusters, teleportation, disintegrator weapons, monomolecular wire, and more are at their disposal when Louis Wu and his companions set out to explore the Ringworld.
Tech Level: 20
The human civilizations of the Hyperion novels were greatly influenced in one way ro another by the AIs of the Technocore. The Technocore manipulated the World Web with "gifts" such as the Farcaster system that humanity had no hope of understanding at the time. Even so, on its own, humanity was able to create a sophisticated civilization that employed livings starships, organic dyson spheres, terraforming, world-cities, and gravity-defying carpets.
The dominant race of the Pegasus galaxy, they possess teleportation, very advanced biotech, and other technology stolen from their enemies, the Ancients. They were able to defeat the more advanced Ancients through sheer numbers.
With megastructures, terraforming, AIs, advanced robotics, advanced bioengineering, star-destroying nova bombs, and singularity cannons, the universe of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda seems to hover around Level 21. Though the original Commonwealth was supposedly more advanced, the interstellar societies of the series' era were easily able to replicate its technology.
Star Trek (Federation, Klingon Empire, and Contemporaries)
Tech Level: 21-22
By far the most advanced of the classic space-opera civilizations, with ubiquitous teleportation, matter conversion, matter replication, antimatter power, holodecks, disintegrator weapons, advanced quantum manipulation, and wholesale sculpting of space/time.
The various races that dominated the Five Galaxies, known to humans collectively as the Galactics, actually seemed to have a fairly wide range of technology, dependent on what a particular clan could afford. However, even their worst cast-off junk was still considered vastly better than almost any technology Earth could make on its own.
Wily cowards, the Puppeteers used their vast interstellar trade empire to manipulate and guide other races in Known Space for their own ends. Capable of casual teleportation, monomolecular starship hulls, and mobile megastructures (a five-planet rosette.)
Tech Level: 22
The "Greys" of Roswell legend, these helpful visitors from another galaxy possess teleportation, intergalactic travel, matter replication, and advanced quantum manipulation. Their civilization was almost destroyed by machine lifeforms and they are now rebuilding.
More than a million years old, these elder races fought an ancient war by proxy using younger civilizations. Were eventually defeated by being given a stern talking-to.
Known Space (The Ringworld Engineers/The Pak)
Tech Level: 23
The superhuman, super intelligent predecessors of humanity created the largest artifact in Known Space, an artificial environment that wraps around its star and has a surface area equal to three million Earths. Combined with ultra-strength materials such as scrith and a meteor-defense laser that could melt planets, the Pak achieved truly impressive heights before they died out.
As advanced as the mainstream interstellar societies in the Star Trek galaxy seem to be, it turns out that they are at the low end of the technological food chain there. The Borg, the Organians, the Excalbians, Species 8472, and many more have demonstrated technical sophistication far outstripping the Federation’s.
Very mysterious helium-II lifeforms, they wander the galaxy at sublight speeds selling advanced technology to various races. They sold humanity the hyperdrive and reactionless drive, and have built a number of various mysterious artifacts. Their exact Level is hard to pin down definitely, but even the Puppeteers acknowledge this race’s technical superiority.
Forbidden Planet (The Krell)
Tech Level: 24
A race of supremely advanced intellectuals, they built a machine of nigh-infinite power designed to literally eliminate the need for all other machines. It had only one flaw…
This offshoot of humanity (or perhaps humanity is an offshoot of them) established a highly advanced civilization in the Pegasus galaxy before being driven out by the Wraith. Capable of harnessing zero-point energy, intergalactic travel, and wholesale manipulation of space/time, their most significant contribution was the creation and establishment of the Stargate networks in both the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies. They currently survive as ‘ascended’ beings of pure energy and god-like powers.
The Technocore is a group of highly sophisticated but disembodied AIs that have a manipulative, parasitic relationship with humanity throughout the Hyperion novels. The Core created the stargate-like Farcaster network, was able to mimic the Shrike’s anti-entropic time manipulation, manufactured the brain-frying Deathwands, and created symbiotic cruciforms that could regenerate a human fully from any injury.
Enigmatic cosmic engineers, their monoliths acted as combination stargates, vessels, AIs, and other miraculous machines we can only guess at. They are apparently actively engaged in seeding the universe with life, and can transform entire solar systems to meet their needs.
Tech Level: 25
Both the Time Lords and the Daleks had a complete mastery of space and time, had very advanced forms of quantum and energy manipulation, created objects folded up into higher dimensions, and much more. The Doctor’s TARDIS, which is supposed to be a run-down lemon of a Time Lord ship, is still substantially more versatile than any vessel of any civilization from any previous tech level.
A number of SF groups exist beyond Level 25, and are usually assigned near-god-like powers. Here’s a list of examples:
Guardians of the Universe (DC Comics)
The Shrike (Hyerion novels)
Ultimate Intelligence (Hyperion novels)
Some groups and societies do not fit neatly onto this scale for one reason or another. Some examples:
The Zerg (purely biological; no tech)
The Protoss (tech is psionic-based)
Girl Genius (all advanced tech is superscience prototypes)
Treasure Planet (fantasy tech)
Futurama (has any tech the plot/joke requires)