Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturing

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kristof65
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Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturing

Postby kristof65 » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:47 pm

I've been considering several things for my setting, and I've wound up pondering how to deal with a disconnect between the TL needed to discover something and create it, versus the knowledge and ability to manufacture it.

For example, today we have all sorts of sophisticated electronics devices capable of doing wonderful things. The technology needed to manufacture these things in the sizes we've become used to is rather sophisticated, but the underlying principles can be utilized at much lower tech levels. Take radio - the radio was invented in the late 19th century, but the actual technology needed to make a crude working radio has been around a lot longer than that. All you really need is the ability to shape glass, make copper wire and other metal pieces, and create a vacuum. All of which is doable with 18th, 17th, possibly even 16th or 15th century technologies.

So to bring that back to Traveller. IIRC, in the OTU, Black Globe generators weren't invented, but rather discovered, and backward engineered. So that kind of sets a precedent for that kind of thing

Even though the physics needed to discover jump (or in an ATU, another FTL method) might be advanced enough to require computers, etc, does that necessarily mean that the jump drives them selves require that technology to build?

What other Traveller technologies might be buildable (or significant portions there of) at lower tech levels than the appear?
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Postby Klaus Kipling » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:25 pm

It's true for medicine too. You can get basic hygiene and germ theory out of books, so if a world is open to commerce, the locl med tech will be at least 4 (unless they're nutters).
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Postby Supergamera » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:41 pm

Assuming you've got material to burn, iron, a casting industry and some ability to make mechanical parts, you can probably make a decent steam engine, if you have a design to go on. The principles of steam were understood for a long time, but it took awhile to make a system with any useful efficiency. With a steam engine, you've got railroads and electric power generation.
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Postby Golan2072 » Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:55 am

If a world has significant interstellar contact its actual tech would typically be a mixture of local tech, imported tech, locally-made lower-tech imitations of imported tech and hybrid items using some imported parts together with local parts (for example, import the engine of a vehicle but build the chassis locally).

Only isolated worlds would have uniform technology.
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Postby Gee4orce » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:37 am

I regard the TL rating of a world as the TL that it is capable of locally producing and sustaining, but if there's any kind of starport then there will be significantly higher tech items, perhaps in quite widespread use. The starport rating could be a good guide as to just how much offworld tech is present on the world - the E class dirt pad isn't going to see as many interstellar visitors as a D or C class facility.

If all interstellar communications were cut off then the TL would gradually revert to the listed level, because there's no capacity to repair or maintain the higher tech items.

Particular government and law levels will probably effect this, and Amber or Red travel zones definitely will.
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Postby steelbrok » Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:01 am

I look at the TL as the tech in general use on the world and readily available, regardless of wether it's locally produced or imported.
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Postby aspqrz » Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:20 am

Klaus Kipling wrote:It's true for medicine too. You can get basic hygiene and germ theory out of books, so if a world is open to commerce, the locl med tech will be at least 4 (unless they're nutters).
Well, no.

Ok. they'll have basic hygiene and germ theory ... but not necessarily anything else ... for example, they may have not the slightest clew that the brain isn't for cooling the blood and that the heart isn't the source of all emotion.

Or, getting a little more esoteric, they may truly believe that only women can become "hysterical" (cf. the original meaning of the word, not the current [mis]use of it).

And have no real idea anything beyond gross external anatomy.

Which is, of course, one of the many problems with Tech Levels as they exist and are usually interpreted.

And, in any case, in an 1100 year old Imperium where, even on the frontier, the last really big wave of exploration ran out of puff because ... well, see, there's this Rift over thisaway, and those damn Zhos thataway, and those pesky Vargr over thereaway ... and there aren't any new planets to settle ... an Imperium which exists to promote interstellar trade, there is no planet that is not going to have the knowledge of what can be done at Average Imperial (even if it can't be done locally) and, indeed, its likely they know what can be done at Imperial maximum as well.

(Like I mentioned elsewhere, when Commodore Perry tried to impress the Mikado and Court with techno-gadgets like a mini-steam train on his second trip to Japan they were ... distinctly unimpressed. Why? Because the Mikado subscribed to the Illustrated London News and it was all 'ho hum' to him and his cronies. The Japanese managed isolation of sorts for, what, 300 odd years ... not for 1100!).

Practically speaking, on a poor world, Average Imperial tech of any sort is likely to be restricted to major cities (not just the Starport ... again, 1100 years is a long time).

Which brings us to demographics. The single biggest cause of the population explosion that developed on Terra from the 1700's onwards was a result of basic hygiene being increasingly applied ... so there aren't gonna be any low pop backward worlds.

Assuming something like a survivable atmosphere and environment (and if they're low tech [whatever that means] it would certainly be likely) then you can assume a minimum of 1 billion pre-cleanliness and 2+ billion post cleanliness ... assuming basic agricultural developments which are dead easy to implement (unless the world is so hostile why on earth does anyone live there ... and how on earth do significant numbers of low tech types manage to do so ... )

Yeah, I know ... boring ... unless you have a group of players like I do, who have and will call the GM on such things :shock:

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Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:15 pm

A couple of common interpretations of the old CT Tech tables:

Air/Rafts - shown on the table at TL 8, but gravitics are TL 9.
Interpretation: Theory developed at TL 9, but can be retro-engineered using TL 8 manufacturing.

Jump Drive:
TL 9 and 10 both have J1.
Interpretation: Theory developed at TL10, but can be retro-engineered using TL9 manufacturing.

I'm sure there are others.

There was a pretty big discussion either here on on COTI about what the Roman Empire COULD have built, if they had the theory, given their manufacturing capabilities.

Steam engines (trains), Telegraph (simple electricity) and the Printing Press were a few of things that came up as possible for the Roman Empire to have built. The IDEA of mass production could have happened a lot earlier. With a food surplus, it would be possible to dedicate more people to manufacturing.

Remember, ancient Rome had a population of 1 million or more. Cities didn't get that big again for a thousand years (at least in the west). Romans had plumbing, viaducts etc so they could build things.
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Postby Gee4orce » Fri Jan 23, 2009 5:06 pm

"Pah! What did the Romans ever do for us ?"

"Well..."
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Postby walkir » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:24 am

Gee4orce wrote:If all interstellar communications were cut off then the TL would gradually revert to the listed level, because there's no capacity to repair or maintain the higher tech items.
Minus the Starport modifier...

Edit: GT:Interstellar Wars mentiones "imperial standard tech", a database every single planet of the Ziru Sirka had, including "specifications and plans for everything, from a tenth-solar penlight up to a billion-solar starship, from the proper method for applying merdesh paint up to the definition of elaborate telecommunications protocols." Imperial Standard tech equals TL11 (as this grants Jump-2), and I can easily see something like this even in the 3I.
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Postby barasawa » Sat Feb 14, 2009 12:12 am

Supergamera wrote:Assuming you've got material to burn, iron, a casting industry and some ability to make mechanical parts, you can probably make a decent steam engine, if you have a design to go on. ...
You don't even need iron. Bronze or copper would work at an acceptable level.
It could be argued, poorly, that a really persistent person could make one using even more primitive materials, though it's reliability and output would be greatly reduced.

I would say that the manufacture of something is usually easier than the development, assuming you have complete instructions available.
Reverse engineering would be more difficult as you have to be close to that tech to succeed. For example, an early 19th century person could possibly reverse engineer most of our engines from the latter 20th century. But they would be very unlikely to reverse engineer a microchip. Although they did have an understanding of photography, so it might be possible for them to manufacture a microchip if you supplied them with ALL the information to do the manufacturing, even though they have no idea how or why the photo lithography or the microchip work.
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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby simonh » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:02 am

I think what we're really talking here is the difference between having the knowledge, and having the physical manufacturing infrastructure.

If someone in Rome during the reign of Caesar Augustus discovered a book on how to make a crystal radio, he could probably make one with a month of work, maybe less. If he found a book on how to make an internal combustion engine it might take decades to build up the infrastructure to obtain and process the raw materials such as metals, fuels, etc and manufacture the tools needed to make the other tools you then use to construct the machinery to make the components that you then assemble into a functioning vehicle.

Here's a question, if our theoretical Roman found a full set of detailed, purpose-written manuals on how to develop all the technologies and industrial processes to reach our level of technology, how long would it take before the Romans could put a man on the moon?

It took us about 200 years, starting from the 1760s which is a level the Romans could probably reach in just a few years. Could they do it in 100 years? How about 50 years? Could they leapfrog entire phases of development, such as steam power?

If instead of detailed instructions they only had general principles and descriptions of the technologies, how much would that slow them down?

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Postby AKAramis » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:24 am

Simon:
without the detailed instructions, a lot of technologies don't get built.
just look at the general tech level of africa...
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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby Dave Chase » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:34 am

simonh wrote:I think what we're really talking here is the difference between having the knowledge, and having the physical manufacturing infrastructure.
and the incentive to make it or have it.
If someone in Rome during the reign of Caesar Augustus discovered a book on how to make a crystal radio, he could probably make one with a month of work, maybe less. If he found a book on how to make an internal combustion engine it might take decades to build up the infrastructure to obtain and process the raw materials such as metals, fuels, etc and manufacture the tools needed to make the other tools you then use to construct the machinery to make the components that you then assemble into a functioning vehicle.
I disagree. I have seen a working 1 cylinder engine made entirely of wood. It used 3 strokes to accomplish what takes 2 or less now.
Here's a question, if our theoretical Roman found a full set of detailed, purpose-written manuals on how to develop all the technologies and industrial processes to reach our level of technology, how long would it take before the Romans could put a man on the moon?
Are you talking culturely or technology wise? It makes a difference in how quickly and what resources will be spent. Also keep in mind the use of slaves and such. Depending on what era of 'Roman' Culture you are talking about, man power and safety was not an issue, so if they really wanted to do something they would just do it, no matter how many 'life' times it took.
Also the average lifespan for them was shorter than what we have now. That is motitivation for some individuals to accomplish X before they die which in turn means it could have happen sooner.
If instead of detailed instructions they only had general principles and descriptions of the technologies, how much would that slow them down?

Simon Hibbs
Again, motitation and reason to have makes a huge difference to this.
The Roman's could have made firearms if someone had only thought of it or left them a book. They had all the material knowledge to make the items, just not the reason and not the knowledge to put them together into a fire arm.

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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby rust » Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:21 am

simonh wrote:I think what we're really talking here is the difference between having the knowledge, and having the physical manufacturing infrastructure.
A society would also need a reason, or at least the willingness, to use the
theoretical knowledge and apply it to manufacturing.

In the case of the Romans, I have no doubt that their society would have
been able to adapt the knowledge and use their resources to manufacture
increasingly advanced technology in a surprisingly short time.

However, I also do not have much doubt that they would simply not have
done it. From their point of view, the changes necessary to enable their
society to do it would have destroyed their society.

So, much like the Manchu in China, the Romans would most probably ha-
ve chosen stability over innovation, in order to preserve the social and
political structure of their society, and would have ignored the opportunity
to replace slaves with machines on any larger scale.
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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby kristof65 » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:03 am

Yes! I like the direction this conversation has spun.
rust wrote:A society would also need a reason, or at least the willingness, to use the theoretical knowledge and apply it to manufacturing.
Well, war provides a pretty good reason. I can't see Hitler giving up very many of the technological innovations we currently have if he were somehow able to get ahold of books on them.

And I wonder would the promise of FTL lead modern humans to "advance" ourselves right now?
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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby simonh » Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:27 am

Dave Chase wrote:I disagree. I have seen a working 1 cylinder engine made entirely of wood. It used 3 strokes to accomplish what takes 2 or less now.
You don't answer the question though, how long would it take to make one of those?

I think you're probably underestimating how difficult it would be. What do they use for pressure seals and tubing? They'll need stills to fractionate and purify the fuel and lubricants. How do they manufacture the bearings, fuel injectors and spark plugs? I doubt they're made out of wood. In fact one of the first things they'll need to to is make a decent micrometer so they can get the tolerances right on the tooling to make all the fiddly stuff. Without the micrometer most modern technology from the Victorian age onwards would be impossible.

Using wood for the frame may make it look low-tech, but I think that's very misleading.

On the question of why they'd bother developing an industrial base - they were actually very good at industrialisation. They had an efficient division of labour into crafts, assembly lines, modular construction methods for their ships and clearly understood the value of technology. When they took Syracuse there was a standing order and bounty to capture Archimedes alive, but unfortunately he was killed due to a misunderstanding (he was working on a maths problem and when a soldier asked "Are you Archimedes?" the old man told him to shut up and wait outside. Oops!)

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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby Dave Chase » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:17 pm

simonh wrote:
Dave Chase wrote:I disagree. I have seen a working 1 cylinder engine made entirely of wood. It used 3 strokes to accomplish what takes 2 or less now.
You don't answer the question though, how long would it take to make one of those?
Took the guy about 3 months, so I will guess 1 to 2 years for the Romans. Also it was about as powerful as an old washing machine motor.
I think you're probably underestimating how difficult it would be. What do they use for pressure seals and tubing? They'll need stills to fractionate and purify the fuel and lubricants. How do they manufacture the bearings, fuel injectors and spark plugs? I doubt they're made out of wood. In fact one of the first things they'll need to to is make a decent micrometer so they can get the tolerances right on the tooling to make all the fiddly stuff. Without the micrometer most modern technology from the Victorian age onwards would be impossible.
Wood, wood and wood. The guy had to make sure that there was not metal in any of the wood because it would get so hot that it would start to burn the wood. So metal detectors would be needed, EXCEPT most of the Roman era did not have wire fences, idiots firing guns into trees and such so they probably would need metal detector.

Before you start to discount how much various types of wood can be used in mechanical operations, you should look up things from the past. Wood was and is used for many things today with out all of your high tech metal compounds and with out 'nail & glue'.
Using wood for the frame may make it look low-tech, but I think that's very misleading.
Main article about the All wood gas engine was in an issue of Farm Show magazine. Go look up things before you try to discount something as a fake.
On the question of why they'd bother developing an industrial base - they were actually very good at industrialisation. They had an efficient division of labour into crafts, assembly lines, modular construction methods for their ships and clearly understood the value of technology. When they took Syracuse there was a standing order and bounty to capture Archimedes alive, but unfortunately he was killed due to a misunderstanding (he was working on a maths problem and when a soldier asked "Are you Archimedes?" the old man told him to shut up and wait outside. Oops!)

Simon Hibbs
Yes they were, many of the things that became the current world industrial standards were taken from the far past, Rome, Greek and China.

OK, I will answer your question but only after adding these considerations

Assuming they (Romans) really wanted the device and were not rushed or compeled to make it.
I would assume it would take about 35-50 years to make a working engine.

I say this because
1) that would be about the life span of the individuals who would be working on it and they would want to complete it before they died (referring to all that worked on it not just an individual)
2) They were good at following plans but if no specs on tolerances were included or explained it would take about a dozen or more failures in each part before they found a somewhat working form.
3) it would take about 20yrs before someone would figure out what it (the engine) could be used for and then they would apply the workings in that direction(s) and the speed/money/resources would keep coming in
4) you think of engine fuel as gasoline and you would be only partily correct. Many older engines could burn oil directly and they did have refining processes for lamp oils, so the fuel for a crude engine is not an issue. Plus after a working engine was made others would in the future (our past) attempt to improve upon it.

There is your answer. In the future before waving a hand and disclaiming something does not work or exist please do a bit of research.

Also, it was fair to ask for an answer. I did not avoid answering your questino the first time. I just needed some additonal information before I could answer, like motitivation, reason and such. They do make a big difference on how fast someone is willing to attempt to make something. Example current day: The X projects for commerical space flight and automobiles.

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Re: Tech Levels - understanding and creating vs manufacturin

Postby rust » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:49 pm

kristof65 wrote:Well, war provides a pretty good reason. I can't see Hitler giving up very many of the technological innovations we currently have if he were somehow able to get ahold of books on them.
He, like all dictators of his kind, would have taken great care to ban all
technologies and innovations that could have endangered the stability of
his regime. Rest assured that there would have been, for example, no-
thing like access to the global Internet under his rule, war or not.

To return to the Romans, the Emperors would have sent the Legions into
war to protect or expand their Imperium, but they would never knowing-
ly have used technologies or methods that would have undermined their
rule.
simonh wrote:
On the question of why they'd bother developing an industrial base - they were actually very good at industrialisation. They had an efficient division of labour into crafts, assembly lines, modular construction methods for their ships and clearly understood the value of technology.
Of course, the Romans were exceptionally good in organizing the slave
labour to get the best possible results. But they did not show much inter-
est in replacing slave labour with machines, in my opinion because they
considered it both unnecessary (there were enough slaves) and dange-
rous to the structure of their society - and that was the point I attempted
to make.
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Postby Dave Chase » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:22 pm

I have to concur with rust on the slave part.

To the Roman (and a few other cultures) taking terrorities meant taking slaves. To keep slaves in line you have to keep the so busy that they are too tired to revolt.

To replace the slave with machines you would have to either accept the slaves as part of the citizenry or kill them or send them back to where you got them from. But remember some of the slaves had been slaves for many generations so that they had no place to call home other than as a Roman slave.

If you forced the Romans to start using machinery instead of slaves they would probably started having lots more games, gladitor games that is.

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