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Old Today, 06:33 AM   #1
Tom Mazanec
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Default Hyperdepression and technological regression

We have read plenty of stories, I am sure, of war (or maybe pandemic) reversing technological advancements. But could this happen with just economic collapse, without mushroom clouds or piles of plague-struck bodies?
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Old Today, 06:59 AM   #2
malloyd
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: Hyperdepression and technological regression

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Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
We have read plenty of stories, I am sure, of war (or maybe pandemic) reversing technological advancements. But could this happen with just economic collapse, without mushroom clouds or piles of plague-struck bodies?
It's actually not too plausible even with the piles of bodies unless you can get the survivor count down below fractions of a percent, preferably only in places that are already lower tech, and are mostly interested in the short term aftermath, so probably not.

To the extent it works at all, I don't see why an economic collapse is vastly less believable. That's how the regression is supposed to work in the piles of bodies cases anyway - the lowered population (and maybe damaged capital infrastructure) supposedly can't support the higher TL.

Which is also what's wrong with the concept really, because a what a smaller economy can't support is major investments, not high technology. What you get should look more like high tech poverty than lower technology. There are lots of kinds of technology that don't demand particularly huge investments, particularly not compared to the lower tech things they are replacing. I've pointed out before that single shot black powder firearms are simpler to build than many of the flashier bits of TL3 weapons and armor, crystal radios don't take much beyond an ability to draw wire and pound metal into foil, and you can get most of TL5 medicine with the germ theory of disease, the concept of specifics, and the ability to make metal surgical tools.

Edit: the traditional story justification for this sort of collapse is "running out of oil". That doesn't work so well in a modern context, because we know actually burning enough fossil fuels to run out will render the planet an uninhabitable greenhouse, but it works for a more retro story, or one set somewhere other than Earth or with a different really vital resource.
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Old Today, 07:32 AM   #3
patchwork
 
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Default Re: Hyperdepression and technological regression

Sure. Consider the example of Roman concrete; there were three concrete factories in the Roman Empire, which supplied the needs of the whole Empire, with their buyers overwhelmingly being government. The empire collapses, trade networks fragment, and now you can only reliably sell to the province you're located in, and one province doesn't have the demand to keep a factory going, so all three factories shutter for lack of demand and the technique for making concrete is forgotten.

High technology frequently requires a large market to make the degree of specialization required profitable. When the market fragments, the people and specialized equipment necessary for cutting-edge tech will find itself swiftly repurposed, and techniques and data get lost because preserving them is expense for no revenue.

Having said that, it's a fair question how far down you could really go. A worldwide depression shaving off one TL is extremely plausible, maybe even demonstrable. Heck, look up "institutional archaeology" if you're unfamiliar with the term - technology companies already have to sink time and effort into fighting this, as market and employment shifts destroy knowledge networks that cannot readily be rebuilt from scratch. Could we get two TLs? I think we could, if the energy sector was badly disrupted. The price of electricity and/or oil goes through the roof, and suddenly lots of things become commercially nonviable, shipping is disrupted, starvation becomes a possibility, the Internet becomes an intermittent and possibly local phenomenon...three? I'm struggling to see how you get three, although it's fair to say that such an economic collapse almost certainly causes the wars and plagues you were trying not to posit.
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Old Today, 07:54 AM   #4
malloyd
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: Hyperdepression and technological regression

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Originally Posted by patchwork View Post
High technology frequently requires a large market to make the degree of specialization required profitable.
That's the dodgy bit. Certainly [some] technologies (and not just high ones, concrete after all is not a particularly high technology) require large markets to justify. Others not so much so. You lose the stuff that requires a major capital investment relative to what your new situation can support, not the stuff that's "high tech". There's some overlap, but there is plenty of stuff in the disjoint parts of both sets. You get "change" instead of "regression".
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