Two words about two letters etc.

Michael Barr barr at barrs.org
Thu Jan 9 11:21:04 PST 2003

Actually, let me observe that both India and China had well-developed
civilizations for a couple of millenia and China's at least was
accompanied by a lot of warfare, but neither one went particularly
technological.  India, in particular, had well-developed mathematics
(including inventing so-called arabic numberals) and China had explosives
that they didn't use as weapons.  The reasons are no doubt many and
varied, but do not include lack of either time or intelligence.  Chinese
mathematicians developed calendrical computations highly, but only the
emperor could proclaim a calendar, so it was all kept secret and each crew
was eliminated when a new emperor came.  And the whole idea of the
experimental method, so crucial to technology, escaped the Greeks and rose
only ever so slowly in Europe.  Had conditions been even slightly
different, it might not have happened.  

On Thu, 9 Jan 2003, Andrew Lias wrote:

> >From: Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU>
> >The Gods have decided they need help combatting the Jenoine, who are
> >restive lately?  Maybe the J are the (physical) Cycle's way of forcing
> >the Gods to allow the Dragaerans to develop after a Great Cycle?
> Truth to tell, I like this theory.
> >My point (or assertion since we know squat about magic) was that humans
> >function, therefore technology does - I can much more easily imagine
> >changes in physics that would allow cars and computers but not cats than 
> >vice versa.  A protein or a synapse is a lot more sensitive to such changes 
> >than a piston or a semiconductor.
> Actually, I find that a compelling argument.  I still think that the best 
> answer to the question of why physical technology isn't common in the Empire 
> is the matter of engineering pragmatics.  I would not be surprised to find 
> that a lot of Dragaeran scholars have studied, for instance, 
> electro-magnetism in detail but that the subject is one of purely acedemic 
> interest because, outside of the odd hobbiest, Dragaeran engineers simply 
> don't see the point of designing electrical devices that would merely (and, 
> more often than not, poorly) duplicate what you can already accomplish with 
> sorcery.
> I suppose that there might also be political and social factors involved, as 
> well.  Technology tends to democratize things.  In earlier times, the 
> ability to easily travel long distances was a priviledge of the nobility 
> since horses were extremely valuable and required a fair amount of upkeep.  
> It wasn't until the development of trains and, later, automobils, that the 
> lower classes were able to afford the sort of mobility that the upper 
> classes were likely to take for granted.
> In Dragaera, the last thing that the other houses would want to do would be 
> to make new technologies which would primary be of benefit to Tekla.  Since 
> all of the R&D is likely to be done by non-Tekla, even if some bright fellow 
> invents a better non-sorcerous mousetrap, he very well might only share it 
> as a point of theoretical interest with his collegues while purposely not 
> persuing any serious development of the technology.  I can also imagin the 
> Empire, itself, stepping in when someone does try to introduce disruptive 
> technologies.
> The one technology that strikes me as problematic to these theories is that 
> of gunpowder.  Gunpower is so obviously and manifestly useful to the 
> military that I have trouble believing that it could be supressed.. the 
> Dragon's, if no one else, would not relinquish the technology lightly.  I 
> think that there is another solution to that problem though, that I would 
> propose.  We know, from Issola, that the Dragons have been engaged in 
> sorcerous arms races for a good long time and that the nature of battle 
> shifts back and forth, sometimes being dominated by sorcery and sometimes 
> being dominated by arms.  I can imagin that there *was* an era where 
> firearms where introduced into the field and, perhaps, even dominated the 
> field until such time as some sorcerer developed a set of spells that 
> negated their utility, after which they became merely another footnote in 
> the long history of the Empire.
> >Vernor Vinge fans will ask, Is the Empire heading for a sorcerous
> >Singularity?  (I.e., will there be general Orb-building then Orb-building 
> >Orbs or Orb-assisted Elder Sorcery learning and boom everyone's godlike?)
> That might happen if Orb construction wasn't severely circumscribed to the 
> point where it appears that no additional Orbs can be made.
> On the other hand, perhaps the Jeonine disaster could be viewed as a prior 
> Singularity, of a sort.  After all, it did end up with the production of 
> quite a few god-like individuals (well, gods in fact).
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