Two words about two letters etc.

Wed Jan 8 16:48:06 PST 2003

>There are plenty of sharp Easterners around in Dragaera (Khaavren's
>librarian, the Marxist in Teckla/Phoenix) but relatively speaking
>I don't recall many Dragaerans acting intelligently - Khaavren,
>perhaps Pel, certainly Sethra in Orca.

Surly the Dragon, all of the Yendi we've met, to say nothing of Mario, whom 
even Vlad is in absolute awe of.

And how many Easterners have we met in any detail?  Vlad's father is 
certainly a fool.  Noish-pa is clearly exception, as is Cawti.  Cawti's 
revolutionary buddies are invariably going to be among the most ambitious.

I think that one thing that may skew our perspectives are the Dragaerans are 
more constrained to exhibiting innate character traits (Dzur are agressive 
and prone to anger, Yendi are deceptive, etc), but I don't think that 
translates to a lower intelligence.  I certainly don't get the impression 
that Brust wants us to conclude that they are less intelligent than 
Easterners (and he's more than welcome to contradict me).

>Vlad's success often depends
>on a combination of luck and dumb opponents.  This is presumably a result 
>of necessity in making the plot exciting and fast.

To say nothing of the fact that Vlad isn't an entirely reliable reporter.  
We know that he has a habit of assigning motives to people that aren't 
necessarily accurate (consider his misapraisal of Teldra).

>so Vlad has to remind Aliera that Pathfinder is good for looking for
>things, or teach Morrolan basic witchcraft (use your own blood) -

On the other hand, Vlad has a very difficult time with Sorcery (even the 

>We've seen the Orb as an information storage device, a truth-of-statement
>inspector, and as theoretically able to be programmed (if I understand
>Sethra's check for Orb-tampering in FHYA).  Sounds computery to me, but
>who cares.  Of more interest to me, the algorithms of Orb construction/
>programming have likely been floating around since Zerika I (Morrolan and 
>Aliera both have the necessary knowledge) which to my mind means that the 
>Dragaerans have been in the shall we say late >Enlightenment for 200k 

>From PotD, it seems that the secrets of constructing the Orb have been long 
since lost and that the Orb is, necessarily, a one-of-a-kind device that can 
not be duplicated.  If Morrolan and Aliera do, indeed, have the necessary 
knowledge to construct another Orb, it's knowledge that's only come to light 
since the Interregnum.

>I don't see the generation # as setting the time-scale.

I see quite a bit of evidence that it does.  We know from Athyra and from 
PotD that a Dragaeran under a century old is, in every respect, still a 
child, which definitely indicates a different scale for intellectual 
development.  Beyond that, though, it seems clear to me that a society of 
such long-lived people would automatically be considerably more 
conservative, in normal time scales, than a society of comparitively 
short-lived people.  Per the old maxim, science progresses at the rate that 
old scientists die off (to badly paraphrase it).

>Humans have until
>recently spent more of their time getting educated and struggling to
>become economically stable and being decrepit than being productive.
>Imagine what a clever tinkerer or engineer could do with a steady job
>and 2k years to play with magnets or teakettles.

Again, I think that there *is* a difference in the Dragaeran perspective on 
time.  When you have a long, long, long term view, you can spend a century 
worrying to death a single aspect of a problem, and there's absolutely no 
rush to get it done today, or even this decade.  Dragaerans take the 
hyper-long view because they *can* and because they see no reason to do 
otherwise.  A human engineer, by contrast, only has a handful of decades to 
make any siginificant advance.

To suggest another reason, it's a well known fact that most physicists and 
mathematicians do their best work before they hit thirty.  Even Einstein had 
his Theory of Relativity fully fleshed out before then... and didn't make 
any substantial contribution to the field afterwards (wasting most of it 
railing against QM and looking for a Grand Unified Theory that permanently 
eluded him).  True, there are exceptions, but it does seem to be a general 
rule that, in humans, truely inspired thinking is a transitory phenomenon.  
Perhaps the same is true of Dragaerans.

>And I expect the
>Greenaerians (or however that's spelled) have felt a tremendous pressure to 
>develop technology from their I'd assert Enlightenment (see above) level.

Even given your argument that the mainland Dragaerans started out at an 
enlightenment level, given the Orb, surely *that* doesn't apply to the 
Greenaerians.  I will agree that they have had pressure to adapt and 
advance, but how much pressure?  Given that they are immune to sorcerous 
interferance, it's not like they need to develop much in the way of 
counter-technologies.  Unlike islanders in our own world, technology gaps 
don't place them at a cultural disadvantage such that they can be easily 
conquered.  Given our own Island cultures are technologically 
unsophisticated, I don't see why we should expect the Greenaerians to 
necessarily be technologically sophisticated either, especially since the 
only "high tech" they have witnessed is inaccessible to them.

>I suspect the Empire's stability also makes it more likely that
>progress would be faster than human-normal but here we get into Guns,
>Germs, and Steel territory.  The East being undeveloped as a consequence of 
>regular invasions seems sensible to me - and maybe the Gods help out.

I still think that it's implausible that they East would remain this 
undeveloped for 200 THOUSAND years.  We know that Dragaerans haven't been 
continually invading them each and every generation.  Regular invasions, on 
a Dragaeran timescale, can easily leave gaps of anywhere from two to five 
hundred years.  For that matter, I would opine that not all reigns are prone 
to staging invasions.  Can you imagine the Empire in the cycle of the Tekla 
doing so?  I can't.  If so, that's several thousand years, right there.  
More than enough time for entire human civilizations to rise and fall!

Divine interference is a possibility, of course, but I don't see any 
indication that the gods are specifically opposed to Easterners.  Verra, 
after all, was worshipped in both realms.  Likewise, it would seem that the 
Easterners have at least one divine entity (Bolcsesag [sp?]) who is actively 
on their side.

>Re the "physics is different here", I just want to point out that Vlad
>is human and functions like a human here which implies the same >physics.

It implies a sufficient sub-set of physics to allow for biological 
functioning.  Of course, one could also argue that some functions may be 
addressed by alternate laws.  Before you argue, I'll admit that that is 
verging on special pleading, but I will note that humans, in this world, 
exhibit clear psychic abilities, which indicates that Vlad (among others) 
doesn't function *exactly* like a human here.

I think a more plausible argument, however, is to note that even if exactly 
the same laws apply, it is indisputable that *additional* laws apply and 
that these additional laws can, at the minimum, interfer with the normal 
operation of the standard set of laws (i.e., magic).  This interference is 
normally active (e.g., when a wizard is casting a spell), but I don't think 
that it's unreasonable to assume that there may be passive interferences 
that subtly change things.  Perhaps gunpowder doesn't explode and perhaps, 
indeed, the laws of aerodynamics and ballistics *are* subtly, but 
sufficiently, different from our own.  Indeed, I would hazard to guess that 
jhereg wouldn't be very aerodynamic in our own world given the surface to 
mass ratio that's been described.

>We know Aliera knows what a nerve is - presumably she's interested in
>how they work, and would find it hard not to know about basic E&M; surely 
>some Dragon was interested in projectiles and found out about gravity, 
>coriolis forces, etc.;

I don't doubt that but, again, what would they do with that.  Would someone 
who learned about electricity bother considering it anything more than a 
novel curiosity when the culture already has solved the issues of 
transportation, lighting, and refridgeration?  Would a Dragon interested in 
projectiles apply that knowledge to magically enhanced javelins or to 
rocketry?  Would anyone bother inventing air travel when one can simply fly 
or, even better, just teleport to their destination?

Most of our scientific progress, thoughout the bulk of time, has been 
motivated by pragmatic concerns -- how to make better weapons, how to deal 
with life's problems, etc.  The Dragaeran's mastery of sorcery gives them 
perfectly good solutions to the vast majority of those concerns.  I would 
suggest that technology only develops in those areas where the immediate 
payoff for a technological solution outweighs the same payoff that you would 
find through a sorcerous solution.  I would further suggest that you aren't 
going to find many situations where that obtains.  See Vinge's _The Witling_ 
for an example of a hypothesized society where simple prevalence of 
teleportation stifles technological development.

>Morrolan knows plenty about air pressure.  I don't
>see how engineering/physics/chemistry aren't more advanced.

I don't see any indication that Dragaeran engineering, physics and chemistry 
isn't advanced... only that they don't employ the same sort of technologies 
that we do.  As I noted, before, I think that Dragaeran technology *is* 
approximately equivilent to that a 20th century society, only that the 
emphasis is on sorcery and not mechanics.  I can easily imagin that the 
availability of sorcery would distort the technological development of a 
culture.  I certainly would dispute that Dragaerans are, in any sense, 
primitive, especially since their technologies are, in many (but not all!) 
cases, *more* advanced than the equivilent technologies we have in our 

>Re magic vs technology, one gets into "Is Wonder Woman faster than the
>Bionic Woman" questions

My only point is that their use of sorcery is *effectively* similar, in 
level, to the technologies employed in the 20th century.  There are things 
that we can do with our technology that the Dragaerans would envy, just as 
there are things they can do with theirs that we would envy but that, 
overall, they are roughly similar in effect.  One of the things that I love 
about these books is that Brust broke the mold by *not* describing a culture 
that was magically sophisticated and yet, inexplicably, primitive (nor by 
simply doing a one-to-one mapping of magic to technology ala _The Toxic 
Spell Dump_).

And I still think the big puzzle is why Easterners *are* still backwards as 
hell.  I don't think that invasions suffice as an explaination.  I will 
accept that divine interference as a possibility, but I think that there has 
to be more to it than that.

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