Two words about two letters etc.

Wed Jan 8 11:12:14 PST 2003

>From: Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU>
> > Near-human?  Ha!  I'd love to see Sethra's reply to that!
>She might admit that the only Easterner she knows (ever knew?) is clearly 
>smarter than her (v. Orca) and her friends (v. Issola etc).

Well, I *certainly* think she's intelligent enough to know that you can't 
generalize from a sample of one. ;-)

Seriously, compare the technological sophistication of Dragaerans and 
Easterners.  The Dragaeran culture is clearly more sophisticated than the 
Easterner culture.  Does this mean that Dragaerans are *more* intelligent?  
I think not.  But, by the same token, I don't see any good evidence that 
they are, on the average, less intelligent than your average human (and Vlad 
is decidedly NOT an average person).

> > Actually, I would contend that the Dragaerans not only have technology, 
> > a rather high technology, it's just that their technology is based for 
> > on Sorcery than on mechanical devices.  Certainly their science (e.g., 
> > knowledge of genetics) is comparably advanced to our own.
>I don't see Aliera being that much beyond Mendel in genetics - e.g.,
>Dragaerans aren't anywhere near being able to change their bodies from
>one house to another or we would have heard all about it in Jhereg and

I don't see our current level of genetics allowing us to do anything 
comparable either.  Right now we have very rudimentary genetic engineering 
and the ability to sequence genes (although sequencing large numbers of 
genes remains challenging, which is why DNA fingerprinting only looks at a 
relatively small sub-set of one's genes).  Certainly the Dragaeran's can 
sequence genes, which puts them quite far ahead of Mendel, whose knowledge 
was primarily theoretical.

> > by the same token, we don't have
> > anything like their teleportation technology or the ability to > put 
>large permanent structures in the air (e.g., Castle Black).
>The Orb of course is a computer/router/...

I don't agree with that.  From my reading, there isn't any indication that 
the orb is able to perform anything beyond fairly basic computations (e.g., 
it acts as a clock).  Brust has made no mention of Dragaeran accountants 
using the Orb to do their calculations.

I don't think that the Orb is obviously analogous to anything in our world, 
although one could certainly try to hammer it into one pidgeon hole or 

>Zerika I managed to create
>such a complex object from scratch but her empire was relying on exploding 
>sticks millennia later - this puzzles me.

We have hints that the gods helped her out (just as we have hints that they 
upgraded it to Orb 2.0 when it was in the PotD).  Also, Dragaeran culture 
follows a much slower pace than human culture.  200,000 years of Dragaeran 
civilization is roughly equivilent to 2,000 years of human civ.  Considering 
that they went from nothing to what I would call a 20th century level of 
relative sophistication (plus certain things, minus others), I would say 
that they've done very well.

Now, the real question, in my mind, is why the Easterners have been stuck at 
a fairly primitive level for that amount of time.  What's been keeping 
*them* in stasis?

>Plane travel is pretty close to teleportation - consider its effect on
>human digestion...

I think that's a stretch.  Teleportation is instantaneous, far more flexible 
than air travel (you don't need a landing strip or any sort of service 
infrastructure) and it doesn't, in point of fact, cause digestive issues to 
the species that designed it... only to wimpy Easterners.

>If I was an architect I'd argue that
>steel/elevators/skyscraper design technology is equivalent (in effect if 
>not quite in aesthetics) to the magic behind (below) Castle Black - 
>including its unfortunate vulnerabilities.

Again, I think that's a stretch.  By the same token, however, Dragaeran's 
don't have skyscrapers, which may indicate certain limits to their own 
technologies (or may simply indicate aesthetic preferences).  Be that as it 
may, the ability to float exceedingly large masses through the air is a case 
where Dragaeran technology outstrips our own.  I have no doubt that 
suspending castles in the air is only one point of use for the technology.

>Anyway, it's hard for me to understand the lack of guns, electricity,
>what have you in the pre-modern era - esp. given that the empire trades
>with an island where sorcery doesn't work.

Dragaeran technology is sorcery focused.  Given that trade *does* take 
place, I don't see any reason why they would want to sink an enormous 
investment into reinventing the wheel by developing an entirely different 
technology from scratch.

Now, we might well wonder why the islanders (AFB and can't remember the 
proper spelling of the damned place) haven't developed their own mundane 
technologies.  I can only assume that, lacking the big advantage of 
something equivilent to the Orb, their technologies have been developing at 
an ordinary rate, proportionate to their lifespans, which would put them 
somewhere about 3,000 BCE, by my estimates.

Again, I think that the real mystery is the situation with the Easterners.  
They are basically unmodified human stock.  In 50,000 years we went from 
paleolithic hunter/gatherers to the Space Age. In more than four times that 
duration, the Easterners are still living in castles and fighting with 
swords.  This suggests to me that the hypothesis that the universe is 
fundamentally different is plausible.  Perhaps our sort of technology 
*can't* exist on Dragaera, which means that the Easterner's have had to make 
due with their own magical development which, lacking the Orb, doesn't have 
nearly the pragmatic utility that Dragaeran sorcery has.  However, this 
leads to another question: why haven't any humans developed skill in the 
practice of Elder Sorcery?  Is there a genetic limitation in play?

>- Philip

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