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AntiqueArabesque

cosmere
Technological Development and The Cosmere

Question

My apologies if this has been asked and answered before, but how is there such a drastic difference on how fast technology advances on different shardworlds? Scadrial, for example, has seen leaps and bounds in technology since the fall of the final empire- whereas Roshar is roughly medieval in both its technology and social structure?

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Scadrial was getting into the steam age when Rashek came to power and selectively supressed technologies that presented a threat to his plans while supporting others that aided them. Since then the planet has advanced rapidly because Harmony is taking an active interest in making it happen. The planet was also historically very easily accessible to worldhoppers and it still is in Era 2, being one of the safest planets to visit as well as being easy to access. So, easier diffusion of ideas and increased knowledge (if mostly behind the scenes) that there are other worlds out there, which helps explain why they're progressing rapidly and the way they are. And because the magic systems all involve metals, the planet has always had a good understanding of metallurgy so it's not too surprising that it took off as soon as there wasn't a force actively opposing further research.

Roshar's development has been hampered by periodic Desolations that have been so bad that the Heralds prepared speeches assume that they might not even have rediscovered bronze between cycles. Odium may have standing orders to attack the various means by which knowledge is preserved and transmitted, based on Dalinar's one vision where it's mentioned that Yelig-nar killed all Nohadon's scribes. The planet has developed a great deal more since the last Desolation due to the unusual circumstances and they'll probably make a lot of progress once they start studying Surgebinding and how it relates to Fabrial science in detail, assuming they get the opportunity to do so.

We know from WoB that Taldain developed a high level of technology but it's currently interdicted by its resident Shard and we don't know how it's developed since White Sand. AonDor on Sel can do some pretty sophisticated things but the geographic limitations are liable to be a challenge in terms of advancing the technological level of the planet generally. Nalthis is also liable to develop in interesting technology that makes use of Awakening, but the planet's still just a few centuries past a devastating war that seriously hurt the general level of knowledge vis a vis said magic system. And Arcanum Unbounded lets us know that Silverlight is extremely advanced, being a place where knowledge from all over the Cosmere can be shared.

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In the case of Scadrial at least, we know that Harmony has done some nudging to help things along. He has dropped hints about the sorts of things that are possible. As for Roshar, I don't think I have an answer for you other than to note that some of the things they do with fabrials are weirdly advanced. My best guess is that fabrial science is a big distraction from things like physics and chemistry.

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28 minutes ago, Asrael said:

In the case of Scadrial at least, we know that Harmony has done some nudging to help things along. He has dropped hints about the sorts of things that are possible. As for Roshar, I don't think I have an answer for you other than to note that some of the things they do with fabrials are weirdly advanced. My best guess is that fabrial science is a big distraction from things like physics and chemistry.

Also, I forget where I read it, but Scadrial was a bit more advanced prior to TLR taking over, he halted the progress of a lot of things.

for Roshar, they were basically a Bronze age civilization at the end of the last desolation (the Heralds mention teaching them to cast bronze).  bronze age to medieval in the space of 4000 years is honestly pretty accurate to our own timeline, maybe even faster.  compared to Scadrial's medieval to industrial in about 300 years, with some nudging from Harmony, that is still not too far off from reality  a bit faster, but we didn't have that same advantage..

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I think it's a number of different factors. Regarding scadrial, i agree that their advances have been nudged along by Harmony since the end of the final empire. Roshar's seeming lack of progress is actually easily explained despite how ancient it is. 

The desolations. 

This isnt just some natural disaster or great war that ends and humans pick up the pieces. Their whole society collapses. Economics, government, kingdoms, everything. The population is decimated quite literally and the only thing that matters is survival. So they lose knowledge of trade crafts, sciences, and a myriad of other skills because the only survivors have to start from 0 and rebuild EVERYTHING. 

 

As far as the other shardworlds seeming to lack technological sophistication, it's surely just the current time period where these events took place. We've seen a wider chunk of scadrial's timeline so far, and as we start seeing more sequels and continuations of cosmere stories we'll be seeing the transition from high fantasy to the more steampunk, to the space opera. (I believe those are actually terms sanderson used) 

 

I suppose that it's also possible that over-reliance on magical solutions could stunt scientific and technological growth on a shard world. 

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Yes, magical research probably distracts from scientific research, especially in places like Sel (Elantris), where magic is used a lot (also goes for Nalthis, Roshar). Places like Threnody, where the shades kill anyone who light fires (necessary for steam engines), have active resistance to scientific research (also goes for Taldain). Honestly, I'd say that the cosmere is not going to progress scientifically, because magic research will distract them. Scadrial has Harmony actively working to encourage it.

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2 hours ago, SilverTiger said:

Yes, magical research probably distracts from scientific research, especially in places like Sel (Elantris), where magic is used a lot (also goes for Nalthis, Roshar). Places like Threnody, where the shades kill anyone who light fires (necessary for steam engines), have active resistance to scientific research (also goes for Taldain). Honestly, I'd say that the cosmere is not going to progress scientifically, because magic research will distract them. Scadrial has Harmony actively working to encourage it.

Non-Invested technological progress will probably fall by the wayside on many Shardworlds, true.  However, that does not mean that scientific progress will stagnate overall.  Outside of edge cases like Threnody (where the environment actively punishes mechanical development and provides no alternative) or, say, the Final Empire (Where certain technologies were suppressed as potential threats to TLR's rule), it will simply develop along Invested lines instead.  

Edited by Landis963
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Different kinds of Fabrials can be used to instantly communicate, create pumps, heat a room, or take away pain. Soulcasters can turn one substance into another, stormlight can be used as an easy light source, and oathgates can instantly transport you somewhere. Many of these magical devices or substances really dampen the incentive to research new technology. Why would you invent a lightbulb or a telephone if you can just use stormlight or a spanreed?

I would say that Roshar is already pretty advanced. New and interesting fabrials are always being invented. There are also the periodical desolations.....which is probably not good for a society's chances of developing advanced technology. 

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50 minutes ago, Bean Delphiki said:

Different kinds of Fabrials can be used to instantly communicate, create pumps, heat a room, or take away pain. Soulcasters can turn one substance into another, stormlight can be used as an easy light source, and oathgates can instantly transport you somewhere. Many of these magical devices or substances really dampen the incentive to research new technology. Why would you invent a lightbulb or a telephone if you can just use stormlight or a spanreed?

I would say that Roshar is already pretty advanced. New and interesting fabrials are always being invented. There are also the periodical desolations.....which is probably not good for a society's chances of developing advanced technology. 

this is a good point actually.  technologically, a spanreed is roughly equivalent to a telephone, at least an early telephone, where you had an actual switch operator involved.  and some of the fabrials we have seen are similar to space heaters and pumps; that's technology, just magic technology.  Elantris, pre-reod anyway, is similar  .

Also highstorms have got to wreak havoc on infrastructure.  I doubt anywhere on in mid to eastern Roshar could support things like telephone poles or electric wires (can't bury wires if there is no soil).  I'm honestly not sure they could handle paved roads or raliroads either.

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34 minutes ago, Dunkum said:

this is a good point actually.  technologically, a spanreed is roughly equivalent to a telephone, at least an early telephone, where you had an actual switch operator involved.  and some of the fabrials we have seen are similar to space heaters and pumps; that's technology, just magic technology.  Elantris, pre-reod anyway, is similar  .

Also highstorms have got to wreak havoc on infrastructure.  I doubt anywhere on in mid to eastern Roshar could support things like telephone poles or electric wires (can't bury wires if there is no soil).  I'm honestly not sure they could handle paved roads or raliroads either.

Underground railroads might work... all those Shardblades have to be good for something, right?

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1 hour ago, Dunkum said:

this is a good point actually.  technologically, a spanreed is roughly equivalent to a telephone, at least an early telephone, where you had an actual switch operator involved.  and some of the fabrials we have seen are similar to space heaters and pumps; that's technology, just magic technology.

Brandon mentioned in response to a question that you could make conjoiner fabrials that function as telephones, though it's not something currently within their ability to construct. And yeah, 'magic science' on a Shardworld may displace parts of what we'd consider science but it still follows the same general principles of experimentation and replication and depending on the magic in question, can produce things that we on earth would develop from purely mechanical means.

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On 10/13/2017 at 6:45 PM, AntiqueArabesque said:

My apologies if this has been asked and answered before, but how is there such a drastic difference on how fast technology advances on different shardworlds? Scadrial, for example, has seen leaps and bounds in technology since the fall of the final empire- whereas Roshar is roughly medieval in both its technology and social structure?

Another thing to consider is the time-factor with regards to "Eras".

  • Roshar started by rebuilding from almost nothing, practically sent back to the stone age. Getting from Stone Age to Medieval Era in under 5,000 years is pretty reasonable, considering human history on Earth.
    • On Earth, archeologists classify a three-part system: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, with the Iron Age leading into the Middle Ages. The Stone Age ends(and Bronze Age starts) around 3,300 BC, and the Middle Ages start around 700 AD. That's 4,000 years. Roshar started at some period within the Stone Age, so if you tack on an extra thousand years... Roshar's tech development seems normal to me.
  • The Final Empire era was created from a world that almost had the steam engine. TLR kept things pretty stagnant in the meanwhile. Scadrial started at a pre-industrial era and has advanced a lot in 300 years. The Industrial Revolution on Earth started somewhere between 1,760 and 1,840 AD, or roughly 200 years ago. Consider how far we have advanced in those 200 years and I'd say Scadrial is actually falling behind(Something Harmony also believes).
  • Sel(to round out this example) is a world where the Shards aren't involved at all. Barring a major change to that statement, Sel should advance on a similar time-table to Earth, only with magical advancements instead of, or augmenting, mechanical advancements.

And on the subject of magitech replacing science-tech, have these two threads

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