Karger

Renaissance not Industrialization: the Immediate Technological Future of Roshar

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Congratulations on reading this after that title.  However I wanted to talk about what was in there.  Recently I have encountered a long standing disagreement between different members of the shard(including myself) about what Roshar's immediate future is going to be like assuming they survive the current desolation.  I just wanted to put forward my view for discussion for those who are interested. 

Skip if you find the math of economics and production boring.

Roshar is different from earth in a lot of ways but in terms of technology they use fabrials in place of nearly anything that is earth equivalent.  There are two interesting thing about fabrials that are of importance to this discussion.  The first which I discuss here is that they require gemstones.   From Kaladin's bridge four run we know that a well paid freeman doing manual labor in an "urban" environment earns two clear marks a day plus minimum room and board.  A mark is the second smallest Rosharan denomination worth five chips which are each worth a piece of street candy.  The smallest and probably least expensive fabrail we have seen is the spanreed.  Spanreeds are extremely simple and useful so their production has most likely been streamlined and a great deal of study has been put into making them as inexpensive as possible.  The description indicates that they require a pair of rubies of at least a broam each (really one ruby split) to manufacture.  For reference that is equal to 400 chips(probably more due to the fact that the gem was more valuable before splitting).  If you take that and add a 100% for manufacture and transporting costs you end up with 800 chips or three months pay just to get the cheapest widely available fabrial.  It gets worse.  Most Rosharans have no capital and are not real wage earners.  Assuming Roshar follows earth patterns in this respect at least 75% of the population should be working in these food production with very limited expendable income.  Of the remaining 25% (described here https://medium.com/@zavidovych/what-we-can-learn-by-looking-at-prices-and-wages-in-medieval-england-8dc207cfd20a) odds are a good that most of them were working bridgeman wages and would want to save disposable income for expenses or insurance.  The fifth who are better off or 5% of the population will probably be making around three times that so it will still take them a month's earnings to acquire a single spanreed pair.

Bottom line. 

The gemstones that are required https://coppermind.net/wiki/Spheres are generally too expensive for a good 95% of Rosharans to afford and most of the remaining five percent are going to have to save for long periods of time to own items that will increasingly become necessary for their business and trade.  This brings us to the second fabrial oddity.

Only a few people are required to make any given fabrial and making a complex one seems fairly easy.  Acquiring and cutting the necessary gemstone is really the only difficult part.  Both the spren and the stormlight can be had for free as far as we know and the metal parts don't seem any like a challenge for a competent blacksmith.  This means wide scale cooperation is not required for building one.  Most fabrials also last a fairly long time so for those with money, including the Alethi nobility, fabrail conveniences will be widespread.  It is more then possible for an Alethi highprince to enjoy a standard of living and have the conveniences associated with an earth household of the 1960s.  Lower level nobles will enjoy some of these benefits as well.  In cities some fabrails may also be used in public works assuming intelligently minded civic planers.  However the high costs and the reality of economic unfairness and inequality that exists on Roshar indicates that baring some radical change in another generation hearthstone will look exactly as it does now.   The individuals who live there will have the same or a similar standard of living and preforming the same kind of subsistence farming. 

Sad as it may seem well the common man may know about fabrials odds are that despite them existing he will own none.  At the same time the wealthy will enjoy a high standard of living and a large number of modern conveniences at comparatively little cost.

 

I welcome all comments criticisms and analysis.

Edited by Karger
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These are all good points. I think the only way around these problems is a pretty serious cultural revolution, part of which involves moving away from gemstone currency.

For thousands of years, Stormlight has been used as a light source, a battery for fabrials and Shardplate which only the wealthy really possess, and a decoration. This made it semi-precious. But now, Stormlight can be used to heal deadly wounds, to repair destroyed structures, to teleport armies and trade goods, to radically accelerate the growth of crops, to make soldiers fly, and so on. It's absolutely the most essential resource in the world, and the world is having an emergency. We're also seeing Elsecallers and Lightweavers appear, which means that the inefficient and debilitating Soulcasting fabrials might not be nearly as needed in the future. 

I think, taken all together, it makes sense for Roshar to begin transitioning to a symbolic currency, like our essentially worthless coins and cloth paper. They still need to manage their economy, but civilization is collapsing and Stormlight is the difference between cities standing and falling. Every gemstone is a weapon, a first aid kit, an escape plan. The wise thing to do is stop using them to buy chouta.

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Well, I mean, realistically, this is an unreasonably rosy picture of what Roshar's immediate future will look like, given how bad past desolations have been and how totally ill-prepared they were for this one. But that's kind of orthogonal to your point. 

So let's move forward with the assuming that they not only survive the war, but somehow avoid taking any significant economic or infrastructural damage. Well, @earthexile is right that they're probably about to start valuing gems more for their utility than as symbolic currency, so the current value of a ruby might not end up holding forever. And once the idea of Rubies having a set intrinsic value dies... well, then the actual cost of a Spanreed depends on a bunch factors we don't know- it would on how costly it is to actually mine/excavate/collect rubies. Though I've always gotten the impression that Gemstones are more common on Roshar than they are on Earth, so they'd almost certainly be quite a bit cheaper than a real world ruby.

But also, the state of the world you describe is fundamentally a transitionary one- a transitionary state that might last decades or longer, true, but a transitionary one none the less. Because the Fabrials they're making aren't going anywhere. The top of Rosharan social order isn't gonna just hoard them all forever; eventually they're gonna start selling off redundant ones. 

Although at that point, the question of what kind of spren goes into a Spanreed rears its ugly head. It feels possible that that might end up being a limiting factor in how many spanreeds can be produced. 

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43 minutes ago, Karger said:

Assuming Roshar follows earth patterns in this respect at least 75% of the population should be working in these food production with very limited expendable income.

In Alethkar at least, Soulcasters decrease the necessary food production, so those numbers would be at least a little different.

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OP, I think you are wrong about a couple of your key points. Firstly, the common people already can get fabrials - Lirin has one. In one of the Kaladin flashbacks, he mentioned that they have a fabrial clock. Now, this might be explained away by the fact that Hesina was born to rich parents, so they could have given it to her, but it still is something to consider. Spanreeds are not the cheapest fabrial. 

My other point is this: fabrials are a very new technology. They are only around 70 years old, from what I remember. Because of all the new fabrial discoveries that are being made, as well as the fabrial arms race we can expect in RoW, the price of their creation should drop dramatically.

In my opinion, the biggest limiting factor here is the fact the gemstones are their currency. I agree with the other commenters that once they move on to a symbolic currency, we can expect to see a major boom in fabrial accessibility.

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1 hour ago, Nameless said:

In Alethkar at least, Soulcasters decrease the necessary food production, so those numbers would be at least a little different.

A bit maybe.  Certain urban populations do substitute with soulcasters but that seems to be more of a temporary fix in response to crisis.  Soulcasting requires gemstones of great value and I do not think tax revenue systems are sophisticated enough to continuously buy them.

30 minutes ago, Gderu said:

Firstly, the common people already can get fabrials - Lirin has one. In one of the Kaladin flashbacks, he mentioned that they have a fabrial clock. Now, this might be explained away by the fact that Hesina was born to rich parents, so they could have given it to her, but it still is something to consider. Spanreeds are not the cheapest fabrial

That is definitely a valid point.  It also might be on lone from Winslow.  However Kaladin and his bridgeman cannot afford a clock according to Sigzil in WoR(this is working for Dalinar at triple pay). 

30 minutes ago, Gderu said:

Spanreeds are not the cheapest fabrial. 

Spanreeds were just the ones that we had good descriptions of.  Even if not the absolute cheapest they should still be very cheep.

30 minutes ago, Gderu said:

My other point is this: fabrials are a very new technology. They are only around 70 years old, from what I remember. Because of all the new fabrial discoveries that are being made, as well as the fabrial arms race we can expect in RoW, the price of their creation should drop dramatically.

It could.  This is another one of the reasons I used spanreeds.  Spanreeds are probably about as streamlind as they possibly can be given the number that are produced and their eminent usefulness.

30 minutes ago, Gderu said:

In my opinion, the biggest limiting factor here is the fact the gemstones are their currency. I agree with the other commenters that once they move on to a symbolic currency, we can expect to see a major boom in fabrial accessibility.

Could you elaborate on why that would help?

1 hour ago, earthexile said:

For thousands of years, Stormlight has been used as a light source, a battery for fabrials and Shardplate which only the wealthy really possess, and a decoration. This made it semi-precious. But now, Stormlight can be used to heal deadly wounds, to repair destroyed structures, to teleport armies and trade goods, to radically accelerate the growth of crops, to make soldiers fly, and so on. It's absolutely the most essential resource in the world, and the world is having an emergency. We're also seeing Elsecallers and Lightweavers appear, which means that the inefficient and debilitating Soulcasting fabrials might not be nearly as needed in the future. 

Current values for gemstones are the average amount of stuff you can make with a soulcaster before it breaks.  This holds true for both radiants and soulcasters.  We have no information that indicates that when radiants use gemstones that soulcasting is more efficient or that gemstones brake less often.

1 hour ago, Gilphon said:

that they're probably about to start valuing gems more for their utility than as symbolic currency, so the current value of a ruby might not end up holding forever

I think it more likely that it increase given that the number of possible uses is increasing and the supply is not.

1 hour ago, Gilphon said:

And once the idea of Rubies having a set intrinsic value dies... well, then the actual cost of a Spanreed depends on a bunch factors we don't know- it would on how costly it is to actually mine/excavate/collect rubies. Though I've always gotten the impression that Gemstones are more common on Roshar than they are on Earth, so they'd almost certainly be quite a bit cheaper than a real world ruby.

Gemstones are Roshar are either grown, hunted or mined from beds of already dead animals.  They might find a way to grow them faster or breed animals that produce larger ones but I find it difficult to believe that this will happen quickly.  In fact given the number of gemstones that are hunted and Shallan's estimate that this approaches extinction for at least the chasmfiends supply may decrease farther. 

Edited by Karger
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1 hour ago, Karger said:

I think it more likely that it increase given that the number of possible uses is increasing and the supply is not.

No, see, that's not how the value of money quite works. Like, one $100 bill is worth 100 $1 bills, but that doesn't mean that the ink and paper used to make a $100 bill is 100 times harder to get a hold of. And, if for some reason, all kinds of ink became a resource that's useful enough that passing it around as currency stops making sense, we wouldn't bother to price various kinds of ink based on what kind of bill they could've been used to make. 

To be concrete, it has to cost less than 400 marks to get a new ruby, because otherwise the currency is inherently unstable; the country would lose capital every time they have to make a new sphere. It likely costs significantly less than 400 marks- Indeed, we don't even know that rubies are harder to come by than diamonds, which have to possible to gather at ~1 mark each, for the same reasons. So once the culture lets go of the idea of the of rubies have a set intrinsic value, you could have some enterprising merchant selling spanreed pairs for, say, 50 marks each- which is probably still quite a bit more than it would cost him to acquire the rubies, but basically affordable as one-time purchase for most people-  and therefore capture this huge market that's been priced out by people trying to sell them at 400. 

Like, they don't have any particularly pressing need to Soulcast things into fire, so they're probably not scrambling for every ruby they can get their hands on or hunting whatever animal grows them to extinction. They're probably just gathering the number of rubies they need to make their currency work. 

Edited by Gilphon
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I just really don't think they survive the desolation (as a planet). This whole book is "journey before destination", and that journey is going to be about how losing a war with honour. We are seeing the next phase of the Iralia trail, and we are watching "the most important steps'"their society can make before they are called to leave Roshar for good. 

 

"I hold the suckling child in my hands, a knife at his throat, and know that all who live wish me to let the blade slip. Spill its blood upon the ground, over my hands, and with it gain us further breath to draw. "

—Collected on Shashanan 1173, 23 seconds pre-death, by the Silent Gatherers. Subject was a darkeyed youth of sixteen years. Sample is of particular note
 

"So the night will reign, for the choice of honor is life... 

—Observed circa Ishi 1173 by Taravangian. Subject was King Valam of Jah Keved.[4]
Edited by teknopathetic
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There's a reason that revolution and industrialism are linked, historically. Changing the game in economic terms (and therefore in terms of who has power) is always going to be disruptive to society, for a lot of the reasons listed in the OP, especially in the later stages of industrialization when the promise of it (cool stuff more readily available) doesn't quite pan out due to wealth concentration.

That said, the Desolation makes this sort of moot. It forces technology development to be more or less solely oriented towards military ends for survival reasons. It also -- and I undertstand how brutal this is -- just straight up eliminates a lot of those disenfranchised 95% (to use the OP's number) who don't get to participate in industrialization or who would otherwise be taken advantage of under the new system. Additionally, the Desolation is also forcing a whole lot of social and economic changes that might normally require violent revolution. Just look at Bridge Four. Kaladin doesn't have to fight the Alethi to justify his place in society. In a lot of ways I think he's going to sort of skip the "new money" phase. There might be some friction there later, but I think that'll be fairly minor where, if there were no Desolation, it could be the story. All of this is to say that I think the Desolation and the pressure it is and will put on society will do the work of revolution in its place.

On the other hand, it very well could be that the back half deals with this more directly. I've joked on the Discord server before that the back half could feature a Jasnah as Iron Man vs Kaladin as Captain America Marvel Civil War style conflict, and that could very well be built around how to address issues caused not only by the Desolation but by industrialization and the economic reshuffling it causes (if indeed you can really disentangle that from the Desolations and their aftermath).

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The problem with replacing spheres with a representative money is that magic systems make money counterfeiting a lot easier. Spheres are reliable, if they shine it is because they are real. But I agree that eventually an alternative will be needed, as in the future they will find a way to produce synthetic polestone and even perfect gemstone.. 

Perhaps the level of Stormlight itself will become the priority and set the money value, just like for the Sprens currency.

So I bet my chips on perfect synthetic gemstone and a Stormlight measurement system.

Edited by Raphaborn
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ultimately, it all depends on the availability of gems. gems are needed for all fabrials, both to make them work, and to hold stormlight to make them keep working.

gems are a renewable resource. they grow in animals.

on the other hand, gems are also not forever. infusing and draining them eventually cracks them.

so, we can infer that a stationary state will be reached, with many new gems being harvested and just as many old gems breaking under use, or getting lost or destroied accidentally. there will be a roughly fixed, stable amount of gems in the society.

the question is, how many gems will be available per capita? the answer to this will dictate if they can make a flourishing society or an oligarchy where only the rich has access to technology.

And we cannot answer this question. the OP tried to, by estimating current availability of gems. for those criticizing the intrinsic value of currency, remember that a sphere of larger denomination has a larger piece of gem inside, so it seems there is a direct relation. and right now, comparing the size of the gems needed for fabrials with the size of gems in spheres, and with the amount of spheres available to the average joe, it seems that there are few gems.

however, gem production is dependent upon demand and request. Now that gems are useful for a lot more things than currency and light, a lot more people will want them. and breeding animals for the gems will be a lot more convenient. so we can expect gemstones production and availability to increase.

and this will start all the dance of consequences and feedback mechanisms. with more technology fueled by gems agriculture will be more efficient, so less terrain will be needed for crops, more can be used to breed gems. but with  better living conditions the population will grow, thus reducing the amount of gems per capita. and with more use, gems will crack more often. and so on.

we simply cannot predict what the result will be. this kind of analysis would require very detailed data, which for roshar simply does not exhist. so sanderson is free to make up whatever he pleases, for he will be fully able to justify it afterwards.

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11 hours ago, Karger said:

If you take that and add a 100% for manufacture and transporting costs you end up with 800 chips or three months pay just to get the cheapest widely available fabrial.

The problem with that reasoning is that while the spanreed may be cheapest in manufacture, it need not be cheapest in raw materials. I fact, that is unlikely.

This may indeed collapse the Rosharan currency system. They may find out that you can make a regrowth fabrial giving you perfect health with diamonds. It works only if the gem stone buys you more than the usage.

11 hours ago, Karger said:

  It gets worse.  Most Rosharans have no capital and are not real wage earners.  Assuming Roshar follows earth patterns in this respect at least 75% of the population should be working in these food production with very limited expendable income.  Of the remaining 25% (described here https://medium.com/@zavidovych/what-we-can-learn-by-looking-at-prices-and-wages-in-medieval-england-8dc207cfd20a) odds are a good that most of them were working bridgeman wages and would want to save disposable income for expenses or insurance.  The fifth who are better off or 5% of the population will probably be making around three times that so it will still take them a month's earnings to acquire a single spanreed pair.

Yes. But that does not rule out communal and business use of fabrials. Here we leave Earth analoga a bit behind. The spanreeds will not be used as replacement for telephones. They will kind of run like telegraph offices. You will get a poor peasantry with punctual access to Sci-Fi gadgets as services through commerce.

11 hours ago, Karger said:

Both the spren

That may radically change for the rarer kinds.

11 hours ago, Karger said:

Most fabrials also last a fairly long time

One more reason you can offer commercial services with them.

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The OP might be right that the spheres as a currency will need to be replaced, but the part about how afordable they are is incorrect. How much a specific person earns is linked to their nahn and dahn, but this is only true in Vorin Kingdoms - Alethkar, Jah Keved, Kharbranth (?). For Azish it works differently - I guess it is based on the state-run exams? - and we don't know much about Shinovar. So, at best, the analysis done by OP on how much afordable fabrials are and will be, is only valid for Vorin half of Roshar.

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On 4/8/2020 at 8:07 PM, Gilphon said:

bills, but that doesn't mean that the ink and paper used to make a $100 bill is 100 times harder to get a hold of

It does on Roshar and it did on earth back during the gold standard.\

On 4/8/2020 at 8:07 PM, Gilphon said:

To be concrete, it has to cost less than 400 marks to get a new ruby, because otherwise the currency is inherently unstable; the country would lose capital every time they have to make a new sphere

I don't think they do.  Spheres might just be a carefully weighed out and cut piece of a larger gemstone that was shattered during a soulcasting or from being part of a fabrial.

On 4/8/2020 at 8:07 PM, Gilphon said:

Indeed, we don't even know that rubies are harder to come by than diamonds, which have to possible to gather at ~1 mark each, for the same reasons

The books are pretty clear that gemstones are worth as much as the average amount of stuff that can be soulcast from them.  Rubies are probably valuable because turning things to fire is handy during some types of construction.

On 4/8/2020 at 8:07 PM, Gilphon said:

So once the culture lets go of the idea of the of rubies have a set intrinsic value

But they do.  Their intrinsic value is how much someone with a soulcaster will pay for them.

On 4/8/2020 at 8:07 PM, Gilphon said:

Like, they don't have any particularly pressing need to Soulcast things into fire, so they're probably not scrambling for every ruby they can get their hands on or hunting whatever animal grows them to extinction. They're probably just gathering the number of rubies they need to make their currency work. 

Soulcasting things to fire is great for construction, waste disposal, just to name a few.  I am somewhat baffled by their use as well but the books speak for themselves.

On 4/8/2020 at 8:37 PM, teknopathetic said:

I just really don't think they survive the desolation (as a planet). This whole book is "journey before destination", and that journey is going to be about how losing a war with honour. We are seeing the next phase of the Iralia trail, and we are watching "the most important steps'"their society can make before they are called to leave Roshar for good. 

Well that is depressing.  However it is kind of moot as any argument for what things will look like after the war is based on the assumption that they survive the war.

On 4/8/2020 at 11:04 PM, Kon-Tiki said:

just straight up eliminates a lot of those disenfranchised 95% (to use the OP's number) who don't get to participate in industrialization or who would otherwise be taken advantage of under the new system

I am not 100% sure that the 5% are better off.  Unlike during normal wars rich people are just as likely to die in many cases as poor ones.

On 4/9/2020 at 1:05 AM, king of nowhere said:

Now that gems are useful for a lot more things than currency and light, a lot more people will want them. and breeding animals for the gems will be a lot more convenient

Only problem is that this actually makes a deflationary period.  Opening a new breeding operation is not possible without investment and during a period of deflation investment is super hard.

On 4/9/2020 at 4:03 AM, Oltux72 said:

The problem with that reasoning is that while the spanreed may be cheapest in manufacture, it need not be cheapest in raw materials. I fact, that is unlikely.

We have no idea as to the likeliness.  I am simply using what was available in terms of information. 

On 4/9/2020 at 4:03 AM, Oltux72 said:

Yes. But that does not rule out communal and business use of fabrials. Here we leave Earth analoga a bit behind. The spanreeds will not be used as replacement for telephones. They will kind of run like telegraph offices. You will get a poor peasantry with punctual access to Sci-Fi gadgets as services through commerce.

They don't really seem to be wage earners and commerce in Roshar is pretty limited.  Hesina is able to communicate with her family already using conventional methods.  I don't see why she would spring for a much more expensive option.

On 4/9/2020 at 4:03 AM, Oltux72 said:

That may radically change for the rarer kinds.

That is actually really bad for average people.

On 4/9/2020 at 4:03 AM, Oltux72 said:

One more reason you can offer commercial services with them.

Possibly.

14 hours ago, Hyarmenatan said:

For Azish it works differently - I guess it is based on the state-run exams? - and we don't know much about Shinovar. So, at best, the analysis done by OP on how much afordable fabrials are and will be, is only valid for Vorin half of Roshar.

True.

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5 hours ago, Karger said:

I don't think they do.  Spheres might just be a carefully weighed out and cut piece of a larger gemstone that was shattered during a soulcasting or from being part of a fabrial.

You don't understand. Let's say for a moment that the worth of the gemstone is more than the worth of a sphere - that would mean that every time the state creates a new sphere, they take a gemstone, with value 5 let's say, and then lower its worth, to 4. At the end of the process, instead of having a value of 5, the state now has a value of 4. They lost one value in the process of making the sphere. This is bad for all sorts of reasons. What is to prevent someone from breaking the sphere, and just taking the gemstone itself? They gain money by doing this. It makes no sense for anyone to keep their spheres, because they could get more money by breaking them. This is also bad for another reason - it would mean that the state is losing money by making spheres. This prevents them from being able to mass produce spheres in times of need. Let's say that they want to cause inflation, to increase trade - now they can't. 

In short, having the value of spheres be less than the value of their gemstone is not feasible for those who produce the spheres.

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5 hours ago, Karger said:

It does on Roshar and it did on earth back during the gold standard

Again- no it's not. As you know, the relative value of the gems is based on the Soulcasting properties. Which is not their rarity. And the rarity is what's relevant in this context. And nor was that how it worked on earth during the gold standard; except very early on before were formalized. But once the system actually got started, we had silver and copper being given fixed exchange rates relative to gold. Which were only loosely connected to their relative scarcities. That's the stage Roshar's at right now. 

5 hours ago, Karger said:

I don't think they do.  Spheres might just be a carefully weighed out and cut piece of a larger gemstone that was shattered during a soulcasting or from being part of a fabrial.

The specifics of exactly how the spheres are being made isn't really relevant to what I'm trying to get at. The point is that somebody, somewhere is making ruby spheres, and doing so via a process that costs them less than 400 marks each, and therefore somebody out there has a source of rubies- and therefore spanreeds- that's cheaper than just buying currency. 

Although I do need to say that I feel like they must at least be farming the animal that grows diamonds. Like I don't see any other way that diamonds could possibly be ubiquitous enough that they could be used as the equivalent of pennies. So spheres can't all be made from stuff like that.

5 hours ago, Karger said:

But they do.  Their intrinsic value is how much someone with a soulcaster will pay for them.

That's just straight up not what intrinsic value means. That's market value. Like, if the Soulcaster had an immediate, pressing need to make some fire, they'd be willing to pay more, but if they just had a vague idea that they might need some fire in the future but didn't currently have a lot of money on them, the amount they'd be willing to pay goes down.

The intrinsic value refers to the idea that a ruby broam is worth exactly 200 chips in all circumstances. Which is an idea they have at the moment because they're treating it as a currency rather than a commodity. Like the relative value of the gems is based on the Soulcastings properties, but the idea of trying to put a precise, immutable number on the value of that process is insane. 

Which is why they don't do that; they've just sorted the gems into a generalized ranking and assigned the numbers that make sense for their currency to those rankings.

5 hours ago, Karger said:

Soulcasting things to fire is great for construction, waste disposal, just to name a few.  I am somewhat baffled by their use as well but the books speak for themselves.

Ehh. Soul casting things into smoke or air seems like it'd more useful under most circumstances. Especially with fire being more volatile on Roshar than it is on Earth. 

Like, to be clear, I'm not saying making fire would be useless. It's just not so vitally useful that their society would collapse if they didn't scramble for every ruby they could get. Which is makes sense; that's why rubies are in the middle tier of value, alongside smokestone and zircon. 

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17 minutes ago, Gderu said:

You don't understand. Let's say for a moment that the worth of the gemstone is more than the worth of a sphere - that would mean that every time the state creates a new sphere, they take a gemstone, with value 5 let's say, and then lower its worth, to 4. At the end of the process, instead of having a value of 5, the state now has a value of 4. They lost one value in the process of making the sphere. This is bad for all sorts of reasons. What is to prevent someone from breaking the sphere, and just taking the gemstone itself? They gain money by doing this. It makes no sense for anyone to keep their spheres, because they could get more money by breaking them. This is also bad for another reason - it would mean that the state is losing money by making spheres. This prevents them from being able to mass produce spheres in times of need. Let's say that they want to cause inflation, to increase trade - now they can't. 

In short, having the value of spheres be less than the value of their gemstone is not feasible for those who produce the spheres.

are you aware that our cheapest coins are worth less than the metals they are made of? You could take a bunch of cents, melt them, sell them as scrap metal, and you'd be at a net gain. it's just too impractical to do

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13 minutes ago, king of nowhere said:

are you aware that our cheapest coins are worth less than the metals they are made of? You could take a bunch of cents, melt them, sell them as scrap metal, and you'd be at a net gain. it's just too impractical to do

That's because cents are worth too little. If each cent was worth a hundred times its price, and the value of the metal increased a hundredfold as well, it might suddenly be worth it to do so. Another factor is that when the US wants to cause inflation, it will print out paper bills, and it definitley won't start generating more pennies. They are just worth too little to have an impact.

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7 hours ago, Karger said:

It does on Roshar and it did on earth back during the gold standard.

Well, no. Gold and gems differ in a crucial aspect. You can melt down gold and reunite smaller objects. Gems do not allow that. Spheres are a fiat currency.

7 hours ago, Karger said:

The books are pretty clear that gemstones are worth as much as the average amount of stuff that can be soulcast from them.

Well, no. First, those rates must swing with harvests and other economic activity. And, second, their worth is determined by what could be made from the precursors.

7 hours ago, Karger said:

 Rubies are probably valuable because turning things to fire is handy during some types of construction.

Fire has few uses that air, smoke or water would not fulfill. While a diamond can make glass. Windows are irreplacable in a sense.

7 hours ago, Karger said:

We have no idea as to the likeliness.  I am simply using what was available in terms of information.

We have ten essences. They would use diamonds if they could. They are cheaper.

7 hours ago, Karger said:

They don't really seem to be wage earners and commerce in Roshar is pretty limited.

Thaylenah, Reshi and the Iri. It is not a given that the Vorin parts lead economically. In fact it is likely that they will not. Keeping half the people from literacy is likely to be economically unviable. The Vorin parts of Roshar may be permanently economically disadvantaged.

7 hours ago, Karger said:

Hesina is able to communicate with her family already using conventional methods.

Newspapers, traders and other businesses. Economic development need not be driven by average consumers.

 

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7 hours ago, Gderu said:

with value 5 let's say, and then lower its worth, to 4. At the end of the process, instead of having a value of 5, the state now has a value of 4. They lost one value in the process of making the sphere. This is bad for all sorts of reasons. What is to prevent someone from breaking the sphere, and just taking the gemstone itself?

In making a sphere the gemstone is probably not cut correctly to hold stormlight and as such is worth less then afterward.

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Well, no. Gold and gems differ in a crucial aspect. You can melt down gold and reunite smaller objects. Gems do not allow that. Spheres are a fiat currency.

Are they?  The gold standard is what you can do with a soulcasert.  Gems have intrinsic value on Roshar.

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Well, no. First, those rates must swing with harvests and other economic activity.

A bit I suppose although convenience is going to counter a lot of that.

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

And, second, their worth is determined by what could be made from the precursors.

?

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Fire has few uses that air, smoke or water would not fulfill. While a diamond can make glass. Windows are irreplacable in a sense.

Windows are often a bad idea on Roshar.  Making blood is generally not worthwhile and air might be explosive.

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Thaylenah, Reshi and the Iri. It is not a given that the Vorin parts lead economically. In fact it is likely that they will not. Keeping half the people from literacy is likely to be economically unviable. The Vorin parts of Roshar may be permanently economically disadvantaged.

In the long term I agree but at the same time economic activity on Roshar is currently concentrated in the east.  The Alethi are the center for large scale science and trade at the moment.

4 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Newspapers, traders and other businesses. Economic development need not be driven by average consumers.

It is generally better when it is.

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1 hour ago, Karger said:

In making a sphere the gemstone is probably not cut correctly to hold stormlight and as such is worth less then afterward.

Correct and that is the point. Gold is useless. It may look pretty, but it has no practical use. Spheres are useful. They make light. In fact you can speculate that diamonds are worth least because the church wants the poor to have light.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

Are they?  The gold standard is what you can do with a soulcasert.  Gems have intrinsic value on Roshar.

Yes, but that is a problem.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

A bit I suppose although convenience is going to counter a lot of that.

Yes, because the value of spheres is basically set by command. This is possible because the issuing authority has a monopoly on soulcasters.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

?

5g of gold are 5g of gold. One chunk of 5g or 5 chunks of 1g.
Not true for gems if you soulcast. The rational way to make gems is to use broken gems from soulcasters.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

Windows are often a bad idea on Roshar.  Making blood is generally not worthwhile and air might be explosive.

Ehm. A fire in a 30% oxygen atmosphere is also a questionable idea.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

In the long term I agree but at the same time economic activity on Roshar is currently concentrated in the east.  The Alethi are the center for large scale science and trade at the moment.

The Azish will dispute that. And they will challenge calling the Thaylens Vorin.

1 hour ago, Karger said:

It is generally better when it is.

Well, it is not a matter of choice.

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1 hour ago, Karger said:

A bit I suppose although convenience is going to counter a lot of that.

Well, no. Or alternatively, yes, that's the entire point. 

Like, what's going on with Rosharan currency is that certain gems are prized more than others because some are more useful to Soulcasters than others. I'm confident we're on the same page so far. Now the first important way that differs from the gold standard on earth is that usefulness to Soulcasters isn't  related to the rarity of said gems- except indirectly, in a supply and demand sort of way. 

But I think the disconnect here is that you're assuming that the value of a gem is precisely the value of the goods that a soulcaster can create with said gem. But if you actually look at the numbers, you'll find that that doesn't actually makes any sense. Like, you have to make yourself believe that smoke is exactly ten times more valuable than glass, gram for gram. And that oil and smoke have exactly the same per gram value. And a whole lot of convolutions like that. 

So that's probably not what they're doing. They almost certainly just assigned a fixed value to each gem based on a simplified and generalized version of those transactions. Out of convenience, like you said. But as soon as you do that, the currency is no longer defined entirely by soulcasting. The gems have the value they do just because that's what the state says they are. And once that's in place, if they, say, discover a new use for soulcasting glass that makes that process desirable, they're not gonna just immediately say 'welp, I guess we have to re-jig our entire currency system'. They're gonna keep using diamonds as the lowest denomination- have them continue to count as one of tenth the value of ruby- just because that's what they consider normal.

In this way, the system gradually gets de-coupled from soulcasting entirely. Some gems are more valuable to a soulcaster than they are as currency, and others are less valuable. And since this system is centuries old, that process is probably well underway. 

But that's actually all somewhat besides the point. Because when we're talking about a use for Rubies that's neither soulcasting nor currency- which were are in this case- what's most important isn't their value as currency or the usefulness of soulcasting. It's the rarity. Because the people who own the ruby sources are gonna be the ones who can make spanreeds the cheapest, so they're gonna be the ones who dictate the market price for the Fabrials. So the price is gonna is based on how difficult it is for those people to get rubies, not how much it costs your average person to go out and buy a ruby broam. 

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21 minutes ago, Gilphon said:

Like, you have to make yourself believe that smoke is exactly ten times more valuable than glass, gram for gram

Only that turning things into smoke is more valuable gram for gram then turning them into glass.

22 minutes ago, Gilphon said:

So that's probably not what they're doing. They almost certainly just assigned a fixed value to each gem based on a simplified and generalized version of those transactions.

Agreed but even during the gold standard years gold did not have a fixed price.

23 minutes ago, Gilphon said:

But as soon as you do that, the currency is no longer defined entirely by soulcasting

Sort of true.  I suppose you could say that they are rounding.  However this..

24 minutes ago, Gilphon said:

The gems have the value they do just because that's what the state says they are

Actually it is because people expect them to.  I am just guessing here but what probably happened was that during the silver kingdoms in the desolation years commerce was pretty limited and standardized so people got so used to x being worth y that they act like it does even when it no longer really makes perfect sense.  Vorin wage fixing laws are somewhat the same they reflected what things were like during a commercially static period and have become ingrained over time.  Conditions are starting to change a little bit but it will take time for them to uproot themselves from the social consciousness.

34 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

Correct and that is the point. Gold is useless. It may look pretty, but it has no practical use. Spheres are useful. They make light. In fact you can speculate that diamonds are worth least because the church wants the poor to have light.

Or just because glass can be made cheaply without the use of soulcasters.

35 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

Yes, but that is a problem.

I personally agree but that is not likely to change any time soon.

37 minutes ago, Oltux72 said:

Ehm. A fire in a 30% oxygen atmosphere is also a questionable idea.

People use fire for all sorts of things on Roshar.  Worldhoppers just don't know how to manage it.  If you are building with stone or want to clear a large area then soulcasting fire is probably the way to go.

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13 hours ago, Karger said:

Agreed but even during the gold standard years gold did not have a fixed price.

But it did. You went to a mint, handed in gold and got money at a fixed rate.

13 hours ago, Karger said:

Actually it is because people expect them to.  I am just guessing here but what probably happened was that during the silver kingdoms in the desolation years commerce was pretty limited and standardized so people got so used to x being worth y that they act like it does even when it no longer really makes perfect sense.

Well, no. Limited commerce leads to less stable prices. A bad harvest locally is to be expected from time to time. All over Roshar, no that would be a rare catastrophe. Yet with commerce you get a world wide price.

13 hours ago, Karger said:

  Vorin wage fixing laws are somewhat the same they reflected what things were like during a commercially static period and have become ingrained over time.  Conditions are starting to change a little bit but it will take time for them to uproot themselves from the social consciousness.

They look like war time price controls perpetuated over time.

13 hours ago, Karger said:

Or just because glass can be made cheaply without the use of soulcasters.

It still requires sand, minerals and wood for a fire for smelting. So the price of glass should be over wood needed to make it

 

15 hours ago, Gilphon said:

In this way, the system gradually gets de-coupled from soulcasting entirely. Some gems are more valuable to a soulcaster than they are as currency, and others are less valuable. And since this system is centuries old, that process is probably well underway.

Not really, a large gem is worth more than the sum of its parts. The only economical way to breal gems is as a byproduct of soulcasting. The state really has a monopoly on coinage, but it is economic. A situation without precedent on Earth.

13 hours ago, Karger said:

People use fire for all sorts of things on Roshar.  Worldhoppers just don't know how to manage it.  If you are building with stone or want to clear a large area then soulcasting fire is probably the way to go.

So would a torch. When would you specifically soulcast into fire?

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10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

But it did. You went to a mint, handed in gold and got money at a fixed rate.

Sure and vice versa but the actual worth of gold varied greatly depending on who had reserves of it.  This was actually an underlying weakness of the gold standard as after the first world war the US had about half of all gold reserves and a bunch of nations wanted to leave the gold standard thus making gold less valuable.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Well, no. Limited commerce leads to less stable prices

Untrue.  Commodity prices stayed relatively fixed throughout Tudor England for a good couple centuries.  The only fluctuations were in grain markets

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

They look like war time price controls perpetuated over time.

Which makes sense.  Roshar has been more or less always at war since the humans showed up there.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

It still requires sand, minerals and wood for a fire for smelting. So the price of glass should be over wood needed to make it

Roshar is a fecund and heavily wooded landmass.  I don't think wood is going to be particularly expensive for the wage earners who buy glass.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

Not really, a large gem is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Also because of soulcasting.  The larger the gem the less likely it is to break.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

The only economical way to breal gems is as a byproduct of soulcasting

It would be more accurate to say that when people soulcast gems get broken.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

The state really has a monopoly on coinage, but it is economic. A situation without precedent on Earth.

Actually this is no different from government issued bills.

10 hours ago, Oltux72 said:

So would a torch. When would you specifically soulcast into fire?

Roshar is constantly wet.  Torching things may not be practical.  Also using a soulcaster grants a larger degree of control on the speed and shape of the fire..

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