Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

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Stingray_tm
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Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Sun Jan 23, 2022 2:29 pm

It always bugged me, that we have a situation, where the setting always assumes, that there is technological progress in Charted Space, while nothing has changed for several thousands of years.

What I mean by that is the fact, that the Imperium supposedly is working to get to TL16 and is constantly coming up with new inventions and research results but non of those have any impact.

Just take a look at how fast technology progressed on Earth in the last century and there is no reason to assume that this will slow down in the future (see Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns).

So what would be a logical explanation for that? The Third Imperium is a very conservative society so that could work as an explanation. But then why are they having research in the first place?

What are your thoughts on that? Or do you just handwave it?
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Jan 23, 2022 3:58 pm

How long was the bronze age?

Science, engineering and the underlying physics have paradigms that are obvious with hindsight but took centuries to determine from first principles.

Why did the Chinese stagnate technologically two thousand years ago - they didn't invent glass with good enough properties for them to invent the lens - no lens no microscope or telescope.

Study the breakthrough technologies at the various TLs 8-15 and you will see why it may take centuries between paradigm shifts,
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Arkathan » Sun Jan 23, 2022 4:25 pm

Wars and dark ages don't help. Especially Interstellar Civil Wars.
One or two Core worlds have TL 16, although not with mass production capabilities. In other Traveller settings, the Virus timeline isn't going to bode well for tech advancement either.
One other thing to consider is that MT2 is a recycled timeline. They went back to before Mega Traveller.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Condottiere » Sun Jan 23, 2022 10:06 pm

Technological advancement in Traveller is more or less set in stone, with two trunks: Tee Five extrapolates future development, while current developments probably propagates lateral technological development, retconning more stark science fiction depiction from an era where they weren't widely known, or even created:

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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby TrippyHippy » Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:37 am

It depends on how you view the Technological Levels, to a degree. If you assume that the current Earth is at Level 8 (or thereabouts), there is still a distance to get to the highest levels in the Traveller canon. There is no theoretical limit to the technologies offered at TL 16 or above, and they may well be exponential in progress beyond that point.

Moreover, the Technology levels in Traveller are not evenly distributed across the whole of Charted Space. You may have advanced societies with high technologies, but other places that are effectively living in the Stone Age, and never the twain shall meet.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:53 am

Stingray_tm wrote:
Sun Jan 23, 2022 2:29 pm
It always bugged me, that we have a situation, where the setting always assumes, that there is technological progress in Charted Space, while nothing has changed for several thousands of years.

What I mean by that is the fact, that the Imperium supposedly is working to get to TL16 and is constantly coming up with new inventions and research results but non of those have any impact.

Just take a look at how fast technology progressed on Earth in the last century and there is no reason to assume that this will slow down in the future (see Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns).

So what would be a logical explanation for that? The Third Imperium is a very conservative society so that could work as an explanation. But then why are they having research in the first place?

What are your thoughts on that? Or do you just handwave it?
How many times does it need to be said that the Traveller Universe is not our future. It's fictional, based on an alternate timeline.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:56 am

Even in alternative timelines certain laws of physics and sociology still apply implicitly unless specifically told otherwise by the setting. Otherwise you can handwave any criticism regarding plausability and logical inconsistency with "it's not reality" and then the whole point of having a discussion forum like this is moot.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Arkathan » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:30 pm

Stingray_tm wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:56 am
Even in alternative timelines certain laws of physics and sociology still apply implicitly unless specifically told otherwise by the setting. Otherwise you can handwave any criticism regarding plausability and logical inconsistency with "it's not reality" and then the whole point of having a discussion forum like this is moot.
Star Wars has been technologically stagnant for millennia.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Mon Jan 24, 2022 4:45 pm

Star Wars is generally less scientifically "hard" than Traveller, canonically downplays technological aspects and very, very rarely features research. Even the Death Star is simply an application of established technology and no scientific break through. There might be no relevant scientific research in the Star Wars universe for reasons that are not really relevant. We can take that stagnant setting as a given and it does not contradict other information that we have. Star Wars technology could even have reached a plateau where no progress is possible in that setting anymore, for all we know.

In contrast, Traveller is what would have counted as "hard" SF in the 70s, often features technology as a plot point and even has an own rules mechanic regarding technological progress (tech levels). Unlike Star Wars we KNOW there is a lot of research and localized technological progress in the Traveller setting and those are featured prominently. Also we KNOW that progress is still possible because the setting has established that there are many tech levels beyond 15. So Traveller has to be measured by these standards.

Sorry, "it's just fiction" and "a different setting from a different SF sub-genre with completely different narrativve focus also does it" is not a satisfying answer for my question about the Traveller canon being somewhat contradictory in regard to its own setting rules.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Arkathan » Mon Jan 24, 2022 5:41 pm

It is up to each referee to determine how fast tech goes. The Third Imperium is just one setting, and MT2 is a reset timeline. They went back to an earlier era. People making their own campaigns can adjust the setting or create worlds with higher TL's. Some people use Traveller for Star Wars or Star Trek... or B5. Don't like it? Change it. You're the show runner.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Tue Jan 25, 2022 11:11 am

You are completely missing the point again. I can introduce Space Unicorns if I wanted to. I already know that. I wanted to discuss, if I maybe missed any in-universe explanation for that perceived discrepancy or if it just something Traveller handwaves.

Telling me, that it is not the real world, that Star Wars is different and that I can change the official setting to my liking are not answers to this question.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby IanBruntlett » Tue Jan 25, 2022 12:09 pm

Stingray_tm wrote:
Sun Jan 23, 2022 2:29 pm
What are your thoughts on that? Or do you just handwave it?
I'd like to see more information on higher tech levels. GURPS has an Ultra-Tech supplement which might have some useful ideas for you.

I haven't got around to defining cool tech for higher tech levels because predicting the future (even a fictional one) is hard. So, I guess I am in the "handwavium" camp. If I were to create any new tech, it would be computer (hardware and software) tech, borrowed from the Real World.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby OrdosMalleus » Tue Jan 25, 2022 1:13 pm

I'm no Travelverse canonical expert, but the conceit I usually put forward in MTU is that technology has retreated as well as advanced. During periods of instability, some knowledge was lost and not always regained. Or, at least it took a while to get back to where they had been.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Condottiere » Tue Jan 25, 2022 4:02 pm

There is a difference between hegemonic and local technological level.

There are worlds in the Confederation and the Imperium that are one above the hegemonic level, and a lot below it; the Darrians are in theory at sixteen, but struggle to maintain that, purchasing technological level fifteen starwarships from Imperium spaceyards.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Tue Jan 25, 2022 4:16 pm

Maybe the jump beyond TL15 inherently is so huge that by the very nature of that jump it takes so much time? Like for example you need to solve a complex comutational problem to solve a hypothesis, but this problem is so staggeringly complex that even with TL15 computers you have to wait 200 years to get the result? But you simply can not progress, until you have made this calculation?
I mean, I think even today we already know computational problems that on a normal modern PC would take longer than the heat death of the universe. So maybe this can be applied on a larger scale here? (Non canonically).
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Arkathan » Tue Jan 25, 2022 6:19 pm

TL creep in Battle Tech, with the rediscovery of Star League Technology and the Clans and their tech caused a schism. Lots of people won't play anything but the 3025 era. Others won't play into the Clicky-tech era.
This setting is a TL 15 setting. There were advances in other publishers' settings which went forward, and then a big slap down after Virus.
MT2 went back to this era... because it was popular.
Play where and when you want. Zozer Games plays in a setting without M-Drives. Make a setting that fits your ideas of tech advancement, and if you think others would like it, publish it.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Condottiere » Tue Jan 25, 2022 10:04 pm

Technological advancement tends to need to be within, the ambiance maybe, of the setting.

From the summary I read of The Expanse book seven, I understand why the producers decided to end the series this season.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Bill Sheil » Wed Jan 26, 2022 10:16 am

Is it not the case that the Third Imperium was at about TL12 or TL13 when it was founded (Sylean Federation)? So there has been a general advancement in TL every 3-400 years or so including the nascent TL16 in the golden era. But it may not be too surprising that a star spanning empire is fairly conservative in progress. Even if it is actively seeking its own advancement it would also always have the temptation to suppress progress of its advanced members if they threaten to overtake its hegemonic tech advantage and that itself would slow advancement of scientific knowledge as a whole.

The assumption that the 19-21st century TL5-TL8 burst is the natural paradigm for technological progress is also questionable and actually depends on the arbitrariness of assigned numbers to technologies. A lot of things came together to achieve the burst of recent progress.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Condottiere » Wed Jan 26, 2022 11:58 am

There's also the second burst between technological levels nine to twelve.
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Re: Implausibility of technological research and lack of progress

Postby Stingray_tm » Fri Jan 28, 2022 11:33 am

Most interestingly I just got to the point in the Pirates of Drinax campaign where this point specifically was adressed! (Albeit as part of an adventure module, but still it's canon).

The reasoning is, that the Imperium saw what happened with civilisations like the Ancients (or at least has some ideas what happened), the Darians or on the planet Neumann. So the Imperium intentionally limits implementation and adaption of new technologies to a managable and safe speed (which is measured in decades and centuries) resulting in more or less quantum leaps in technology, when finally the next step is reached (after a long time). Which is at odds with the Solomani idea of continuous progress.

So there we have it.

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