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Ramblings about technology in Era 4

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Since I learned about the concept of eras in the Cosmere, I have been intrigued by how Brandon plans to implement his magical systems into technology in the future. Perhaps the most revealing WoBs on the subject are the following:



Technological progress. So Scadrial is going all the way to cyberpunk.

Brandon Sanderson



But do you plan to do it anywhere else?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, with an asterisk, right? Roshar has a very different technological path but they have access to so much more Investiture in an easy to use format. Roshar is really heading toward what we call magicpunk, or things like this, magepunk, where you are using a magical power source and things like this. So their technology is going to go weird but it's going to go fast once they start figuring things out because they have easy access to Investiture resources.

Scadrial: slower for various reasons and things like that, but it's ahead.

And then there was Taldain, which was really far ahead but then froze when it got-- Offworld travel was stopped and it became isolationist.

So most everybody is kind of heading that direction but, yeah.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview (March 17, 2017)



You mention... No you didn't mention Arthur Clarke. The guy with the "Any sufficiently advanced technology is distinguishable from magic" ...In, at least, one of the Mistborn trilogies you are probably going to have to deal with the distinction between magic and technology. So can you talk a little about how you are going to address that?

Brandon Sanderson

So yeah, addressing the-- This is a really good question, thank you. So Clarke's Law says that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Right? And this is kind of a science fiction truism that we use in writing. It's a really cool concept when you think about it. But he asks "Well we're pushing the Mistborn trilogy more and more towards science fiction--"

For those who don't know, I pitched the Mistborn trilogy to my editor, long ago--this was 2003 when I pitched it to him-- I pitched it as a trilogy of trilogies. An epic fantasy trilogy that then after the epic fantasy trilogy we would jump hundreds of years and do an urban fantasy trilogy in a more modern setting, where all of the events of the epic fantasy trilogy became the foundation of religion and superstition and even culture to a modern society. What if our heritage were something like The Lord of the Rings? And then I was going to write a science fiction trilogy where... magic became the means by which space travel is possible. So there is, built-in to Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy, FTL-capability. *audience mutters* *nervously* It's not there yet don't worry. *laughter*


Somebody found the rabbit-hole.

Brandon Sanderson

That's all RAFO's. I'm not answering any of that.

So I did Alloy-era, by the way, as a stop-gap between the epic fantasy and the modern because I wanted something smaller-- The modern trilogy is going to be very thick books, and I wanted something to balance Stormlight while I was doing the first five Stormlight...

So he's asking how I'm going to deal with this whole collision... between science and magic. So there's a-- I don't know if corollary is the right term. Probably not, but there's a version of Clarke's Law which you inverse. And you say "Any sufficiently understood magic is indistinguishable from science". In the cosmere the magic is science. What I would call-- say is science fantasy because we've added to the Laws of Thermodynamics. We have this other thing called Investiture, which is what powers all the magic. Which is the souls of the things they call gods, their substance. And you can change matter or energy into Investiture and back. And so we've got a third circle in the old Laws of Thermodynamics and so because of that it's science fantasy. I would still call this fantasy because science fiction is where they go "We're going to take the Laws of Thermodynamics and try to explain what we can do using them" I'm like "No, we're just going to add to them, right?" But yeah that's where we're going. There will be a collision of that but it's really going to be-- To them it's indistinguishable, once you get far enough along, that it really is science.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing (Dec. 6, 2016)

So we have that Scadrial and Roshar will have almost parallel technological developments, with Scadrial heading towards Cyberpunk and Roshar towards "Magepunk". If we think about it carefully, the result is that in the future the Scadrians will use technology more aesthetically similar to Startrek/Starwars while the Rosharians will have something more similar to Warhammer 40k (with a lot of distance).

The first with ships with more aerodynamic profiles (more similar to those of our world) and the second with more cubic and robust ships (perhaps as a derivation of the 4th Bridge). But I have always had the persistent thought that the way things are set out, it could be the case that these roles are reversed.

Note: It's obvious that Brandon won't go in that direction but I still wanted to put this idea down in writing.

My approach is simple, Scadrial apparently in Era 2 has a great crutch, the metal arts, the presence of this form of investiture has delayed and redirected its development (High knowledge in metallurgy but still does not have a radio) I have even its technology most advanced coming from an area with few metalborn is entirely based on the mechanization of said arts. What happens if we extrapolate that constant to the future technological development of the planet? Well, we have a society with technology dependent on 17 raw materials for its operation and its realmatic properties (This is far from the technology of our world where current developments are based on the experimentation of compounds and mechanical properties. that arise from different geometric configurations in their atomic structure)

This line of thought arose after reading the preview of "Sixth II" years ago.

As for Roshar, although at first glance it might seem that its technological development may go in a totally strange and alien direction than one might think, I feel that the opposite is the case. The fabrials are developing in directions very similar to our technology. Additionally, the surge of transformation with a user with sufficient knowledge of the axes could produce large quantities of theoretical compounds (from two-dimensional materials to high entropy alloys) that in the Scadrian technological aspect were discarded due to being allomantically inert.

Well, these are my thoughts on the matter, given the information we have so far obviously that will not be the scenario that will play out but it seemed good to write it down.
As a fun note due to this I imagine that the Scadrian ships end up looking like the classic flying saucer, it would fit a lot with the tone that was developed in Era 2.

Edited by Dofurion
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  • 2 weeks later...

It seems to me that you are thinking too minimalist in that regard. You are asking how to build spaceships with a set of technologies. But that makes relatively little sense. The Rosharans do not want to build space ships. They want to get to other planets. Why build a ship if you can build better oath gates? Why cure diseases if you can conjure a new body and transfer the soul? And so on.

Edited by Oltux72
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