DAVID BRIN's worlds of UPLIFT

David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.


Will humans raise other species to sapience? Explore the novels — and science — behind UPLIFT.

David Brin's Uplift novels

This Hugo and Nebula award-winning series by David Brin, one of the most inspiring recent works of science fiction, includes these novels:

  • Sundiver
  • Startide Rising
  • The Uplift War
  • Brightness Reef
  • Infinity's Shore
  • Heaven's Reach
  • stories happening in the Uplift universe

    Complete access to my novels, story collections and published short stories, and to my nonfiction books, articles and essays.

  • Existence (an Uplift "prequel")
  • "Gorilla My Dreams" ($0.99 on Smashwords)
  • "Aficionado" (read it for free here)
  • "Temptation" (Chapter 1 online)
  • Contacting Aliens (an artist's look at the Uplift aliens)
  • the science that uplifts us all

    David Brin often writes about uplift (as science and science fiction) on his Contrary Brin blog. He also estaablished these pages dedicated to curating uplift-related information.

  • Scoop.it!: David Brin's Uplift Universe
  • Pinterest: Space: Where Are We Headed?
  • Pinterest: SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
  • Scoop.it!: Science and Space: Exploring New Frontiers
  • Scoop.it!: SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

  • what is UPLIFT?

    what if we could uplift?

    David Brin's Uplift series portrays humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous universe... and how we may cope by adding diversity to our civilization — by bringing "wise partners," other sentient beings, with us on this journey.

    Artificial intelligence is one way that we envision these "wise partners." But in this science fiction series diversity is achieved by boosting the intelligence of some of our fellow creatures on Planet Earth. Think of it: Dolphins and apes — especially! — seem trapped under a "glass ceiling" that limits their ability to speak, to argue, to create, to use tools, to invent and take part in Terran culture. But what if we, the first species on Earth to cross the wide gulf of sapience, were to turn around and offer the hand of "uplift" to them? To pass on the gift (that sometimes threatens to be a curse) of a fully empowered mind?

    what if we are supposed to uplift?

    And then, what if we find out that's the normal thing to do? What if others have been performing "uplift" for a very long time, out there amid the myriad stars?

    Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began to genetically alter lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. No species has ever reached the stars without the guidance of a patron — except humankind. Humans, by their own initiative, achieved star-faring status and uplifted their own clans — chimpanzees and dolphins. But it's a dangerous universe, and established alien clans don't look favorably upon upstart Earthlings, who claim to have started on their own.

    wouldn't we also uplift... ourselves?

    These best-selling space epics interweave multiple viewpoints, both human and alien, with complex story lines and solid science. Among the most popular features of these series are the non-human characters, especially the neo-dolphins and neo-chimps, whose thoughts, reactions and psychological stresses are expressed in ways that readers find transfixing and moving. Both strange and strangely familiar... awkward, beautiful and fun.

    As David Brin comments, "Each story in the Uplift Universe deals with some issue of good and evil — or the murky realm between." Science Fiction critic John Clute writes that Brin "takes on the galaxy with all the exuberance of an E.E. Smith reborn. There is a ladder to the stars in these books, and humanity (with our new partners) claws upward into pole position in the Five Galaxies."


    becoming UPLIFTED

    news and information related to the novels or the science behind uplift

    BBC Futures article

    can science uplift other species?

    It's one thing to portray this endeavor in fiction: the prospects, dangers and hopes for increasing animal — and possibly human — intelligence. But could it happen in real life? And if so, what are the ethical, biological, and political drawbacks? If both right and left oppose it, out of reflex, how could such a program ever start? And would the goal — an Earth civilization filled with diverse and beautifully different minds — be worth the pain of getting there? Preliminary questions are asked in Existence

    And over at BBC Future Brin joins a groups of others do answer the question, "... as we expand our understanding of how the brain works, and use animal experiments to learn more about the genes involved in intelligence, will we reach a point where we can pull other species onto our intellectual plane?"

    DAVID BRIN and dolphin

    should science uplift other species?

    Also, in a recent issue of Scientific American, David was asked to speculate about whether science will be able to uplift non-humans. But we've always done this — for example, when we bring a new generation of barbarians, er, children, into the world. Our recent fixation on the notion of diversity as a general good has led to countless subdivisions of interest groups, subcultures and passionate hobby-obsessions, even Klingon-speakers. How better to improve our overall wisdom than by increasing the range of minds who are engaged in our great conversation?

    detail from Earth

    how close is science to uplifting?

    The novel Earth is known for its many predictions that were realized. Did the Uplift novels predict the latest scientific innovation? "For the very first time, scientists have demonstrated that a brain implant can improve thinking ability in primates." Of course, this begins the debate over the wisdom of pursuing the science: "The question now is: Should we go around enhancing the brains of other living creatures? Do we have the right? Would we live to regret it?"

    Island of Dr Moreau original cover detail

    other models for Uplift

    The idea of augmenting the intelligence of humans and other species is a favorite among science fiction writers and filmmakers. Here are just a few examples:

  • Mass Effect TrilogyMass Effect Trilogy (game)
  • Race For The GalaxyRace for the Galaxy (game)
  • Brain WaveBrain Wave, by Poul Anderson
  • Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle
  • Planet Of The Apes (1968)Planet of the Apes film, starring Charlton Heston
  • WatchersWatchers, by Dean Koontz
  • NorstriliaNorstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith
  • SiriusSirius (Odd John and Sirius combo), by Olaf Stapledon
  • Moreau OmnibusMoreau Omnibus, by S. Andrew Swann
  • The Island of Doctor MoreauThe Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells
  • Dolphin Island cover detail

    famous fictional dolphins...

    Uplift isn't the only place where fictional dolphins swim. These clever underwater companions navigate film and television and books.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Dolphin IslandDolphin Island, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Johnny MnemonicJohnny Mnemonic, by William Gibson
  • The Music of DolphinsThe Music of Dolphins, by Karen Hesse
  • A Ring of Endless Night (part of the The Austin Family ChroniclesThe Austin Family Chronicles collection), by Madeleine L'Engle
  • The Dolphins of PernThe Dolphins of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • SuperluminalSuperluminal (audio), by Vonda McIntyre
  • The ScarThe Scar, by China Miéville
  • Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
  • Star Songs of an Old Primate original cover detail

    ... popular primates too

    Orangs, chimps, and apes are a favorite foil for fiction. Though Brin wrote elsewhere about one giant, lovelorn ape, writers tend to prefer primates as tricksters. See these examples from fiction and screen.

  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A NovelWe Are All Completely Besider Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
  • LucyLucy, by Laurence Gonzales
  • The Woman and the ApeThe Woman and the Ape, by Peter Hoeg
  • Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté GaldikasPrimates, by Jim Ottaviani
  • IshmaelIshmael, by Daniel Quinn
  • Curious George Four Board Book SetCurious George, by H. A. Rey
  • Star Songs of an Old PrimateStar Songs of an Old Primate, by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • Brin speaking about the Great Delusion

    uplifting video talks

    In this YouTube video David Brin talks about why his Uplift novels seem to differ from his more realistic near-future novels. Then in his Trekspertise interview Brin discusses what makes Science Fiction different from other fiction. Or watch this video where he talks about how humans 'uplift' to civilization.

    Want to see other bright minds talk about how science and science fiction contribute to uplift? Watch scholar, writer, and researcher (on propaganda, public diplomacy, the Middle East and science fiction) Etienne Augé talk about why our world needs more science fiction. And Dr. Laura Wiebe looks at how fictional futures can re-imagine real ones.

    MTV stopped by WorldCon 2012 and asked David Brin a few questions about Uplift. Watch the interview here.

    blastr ranking

    an uplifted Game of Thrones?

    blastr magazine compiled a list of 12 sci-fi epic adventure series to rival the George R. R. Martin/HBO series Game of Thrones — and Uplift made the list! blastr called the Uplift series "one of the most fascinating pieces of sci-fi worldbuilding you'll ever pick up."

    blastr's list was generated from a reddit thread, so feel free to upvote Uplift.

    giant pacific octopus

    why David Brin loves radical transparency — and uplift

    In this interview with Wired Magazine David Brin touches on a great many topics, including why it might be a good idea to uplift our more intelligent sea creatures: "...the evolution of creatures like us, with hands and fire and all that sort of thing, may be rare in the galaxy. In which case, when we do build starships and head out there, perhaps we’ll find lots and lots of life worlds, but they’re all like Polynesia. We’ll find lots and lots of intelligent lifeforms out there, but they’re all dolphins, whales, squid, who could never build their own starships."


    blogging uplift

    Brin continues the discussion of the science & science fiction of uplift on his Contrary Brin blog

    read Intelligence, Uplift, and Our Place in a Big Cosmos

    how close are we to uplift?

    The science may be getting close. In "Intelligence, Uplift, and Our Place in a Big Cosmos" Brin looks at the current state of research dedicated boosting brain power.

    And in "Are animals intelligent ... enough?" Brin discusses the scientific discussion on whether (and which) animals are ready for uplift.

    read Will We Uplift Other Species to Sapience?

    what are the ethics of scientific uplift?

    But if the science and the species are ready, will we be allowed to uplift openly — publicly — or will the technology be driven underground? As Brin notes, "There are — at present — rules against doing such insertion experiments on higher creatures like apes. But when the prospect looms closer, can you doubt trials will begin?"

    read Amazing and Sometimes Deadly Animals

    what if we uplift a super-predator?

    Still more to think about: In "Amazing — and sometimes deadly — animals," Brin cautions we may not want to uplift another species that murders, noting "...among mammals in general just 0.3 percent of deaths are murders. For the common ancestor of primates, the rate is 2.3 percent. With 2 percent as a human baseline, we come across as both uncommonly peaceful for primates and uncommonly violent for mammals."


    uplifted clans

    eccos of adventures past

    David Brin wrote the storyline, scenario and opening sequence to the famous Dreamcast game (now ported to Playstation 2!)... Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Futureecco the dolphin. The scenario is special for its emphasis on an interesting science fictional back story. But the real excitement lies in Appaloosa Inc.'s vivid new 3-D worlds and rendering-on-the-fly technology. The underwater worlds of Ecco are truly wonderful to behold, and the game playing is outtasight. The wonderful old Dreamcast game has been re-issued as a downloadable for the Nintendo Wii. For a great (and impartial) review of Ecco the Dolphin, see the GameSpot review.

    GURPS Uplift

    This is the role-playing game based on David Brin's award-winning "Uplift" series! GURPS Uplift includes complete descriptions of the important alien races, maps and descriptions of the Terragens planets, and rules for creating — and Uplifting — new species. It is intended for use with the GURPS Basic Set, GURPS Compendium I, and GURPS Space. Also:

  • Stefan Jones's GURPS Uplift game book
  • Tales of the 5 Galaxies (GURPS Uplift character creation)
  • Language in Uplift (GURPS Uplift's language discussion)
  • GURPS Uplift miniatures
  • Stefan Jones's Roleplayer newsletter
  • tv tropes

    The website TV Tropes compiled a series of Uplift-inspired tropes, including: Alien Invasion, Assimilation Plot, Banana Peel, Batman Gambit, Bizarre Alien Biology, Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, Evil Matriarch, Kill it With Water....

    Other tv trope pages:

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  • for Kiln People
  • for Existence
  • swag for the client species

    Need a gift for your nerdy sci-fi friends? Underbrain Industries offers T-shirts, mugs and caps with logos from the Uplift Universe -- like symbols of the Five Galaxies, dolphins & chimps posing for the Uplift Center, and the Terragens Marines patch. And the Eye-Q symbol for the Quantum Eye oracle computer in Existence! Got civilization? This will ensure that you do.


    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author

    novels

    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More


    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More


    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More


    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist

    scientist

    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More


    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More


    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More


    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More


    other points of departure

    visit other pages on this website

    pages about BRIN's science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's special-order books for sale
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • BRIN's nonfiction explorations

  • THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY
  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

    Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN

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    references and recommendations

    See more references and recommendations for Brin's public speaking and consulting and his novels and books.

    Alex Good, TheStar.com

    "The fiction of David Brin is informed by a central recurring theme as well, in his case the operation of various kinds of evolution: organic and synthetic, directed and undirected, fast and slow. This interest in dynamic change feeds into his vision of SF as an essentially optimistic form: not because he believes in 'progress' but because he believes in the ability of humankind to improve its condition."

    praise for Kiln People

    "Brin deftly explores the issues of identity, privacy and work in a world where everyone is supported with a living wage and has ready access to duplication technology. The book features the author's usual style, with a lighter touch and punnish humor abounding amid the hard SF speculation. The duplication of the 'ditective' makes for a challenging twist on the standard private eye narrative, allowing Morris to simultaneously lead the reader through three separate (and interacting) plot lines."
    — Publisher's Weekly

    Temple Grandin

    Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

    "Existence is a book that makes you think deeply about both the future and life's most important issues. I found it fascinating and I could not put it down."

    J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley

    "If enough people read Brin's book [The Transparent Society], or are brushed by the currents of thought in represents, then it may turn into a self-negating prophecy: a warning of dystopia that by virtue of the horror it paints helps avoid that horror. That was the function of George Orwell's 1984. That is an honorable role for anyone's book."

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    advice for the client species

    "Science Fiction contemplates the possibility of successfully defying Fate."
    David Brin

    "To meddle in the makeup of other species, in an attempt to 'uplift' their intelligence, might be the most ethically fraught and worrisome decision humanity could make. But to refuse the chance might be the most damnably selfish one. It would say: 'we stumbled into this gift and now we refuse to share.'"
    David Brin

    DAVID BRIN quote