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Some ramblins on technology

My game group has a few techies (and I am one myself) and we got to discussing the evolution of technology (too much sugar I think
). Anyway, this got me thinking and I have written up a quick (read long) sketch of how technology and civ's might interract / drive each other.

Anyway, might be of some interest to someone other then my group of pendants

The Evolution Of Technology

Drivers in the Development of Technology
Any civilisation that advances goes through several stages of development which are, on the whole, enabled by the meeting of a number of requirements in their tools and equipment. These requirements (or drivers) can be broadly classified into three categories :

  • Application - the tool built must be able to be appropriate to the task at hand, applied easily and be made of an appropriate material.</font>
  • Energy - the tool must consume the minimum amount of energy to perform the task for which it was built.</font>
  • Size - the item must be of a size that makes it practical to use and yet able to undertake it's designated task.</font>
When you combine these three drivers and look at the interactions between them you begin to understand why each civilisation begins to follow a fairly common thread of development, even if the implementation may vary depending on social / racial attributes. As the civiliation evolves and develops there is an over-riding driver :

  • Knowledge - The ability to store, correlate, retrieve, manipulate and transfer knowledge.</font>
Initially the volumes of knowledge to be stored are minimal but as the first three drivers work to push the species knowledge base forward so does the amount of information that needs to be stored grow and so too does the capability of the species to store this knowledge.

The initial three drives also interact with the well documented principles represented by a model which uses a pyramid of needs at the societal / species level. There is, of course, an interplay between these two elements as the ability and desire to meet the security and sociological needs of a species is the main driver behind the evolution of technology and the tools to move it forwards, from the first primitive that picked up a branch to drive off a predator or built a shelter from the elements to the modern man who skips from planet to planet. They all want comfort, security and the ability to do what they need to in the most time, energy and cost effective manner. An interesting side play here is that what is defined by a civilisation as being ‘basic needs’ is, on a large part, determined by what is the technological norm of the civilisation at that given point in time.

On a wider level the species as an entity, and the civilisation as a manifestation of the species, competes to ensure both it's survival and propagation against both internal and external forces.

Scale - a matter of application

If we then take this model and break down the application of technology based on size/interration with the environment we end up with several distinct, but mutally supportive, categories. These categories can and do exist mutually but build one on the other from largest to smallest. This is not to say that the progression through these categories is linear, indeed, advances in one often lead to advances in the other.

  • Macro Scale</font>
  • Micro Scale</font>
  • Nano Scale</font>
  • Pico Scale</font>
A Description of each Scale

Macro scale Technology : Works on the control of structures and energy using tools ranging from many meters to millimetres and less based on the technology of the society. This level of technology forms the basis of every civilisation and in it’s crudest form is the start of sentient civilisations.

The application of this level of technology focuses on size and quantity outputted. Energy consumption is high, though this decreases as technology increases. Eventually this peaks at nuclear fission. Macro scale only civilisations are often bound to a single planet as the costs and time associated with intra and inter system colonisation are prohibitive at all but the highest levels of achievement in this sphere.

Micro scale Technology : Works on the control and manipulation of structures and energy using microscopic tools. This scale of technology often is found in the mid to high levels of civilisations at the Macro scale and is arrived at by the drivers listed above.

It is at this level that civilisations first start to deal with molecular and atomic level manipulation using crude tools. The advent of integrated circuits means that the first crude computers begin to emerge and rapidly gain a central role in the dissemination, control and value adding of information. Indeed, the rate at which these advances are made is often incredible and lead directly to the development of nano scale technology. The emphasis is on the application of tools in a precise, qualitative and cost effective manner.

Hand in hand with this is the drive towards genetic engineering and manipulation. This leads to breakthroughs in the use of gene therapy and also is a road that leads to nano scale technology due to the desire for more precise, non intrusive means of curing and treating illness arrive. Much of this is driven by the fact that Macro and Micro scale civilisations tend to pollute their environment by using carbon based fuels and fission at higher levels. Combined with increased population densities, increasing viral and bacterial threats from poor hygiene and a growing disjunct between the poor and the rich and it becomes a race for survival and security.

Cybernetics are often found in mid to late stages of this cycle of development and are met with varying degrees of acceptance. Military application again can drive this technology.

Energy production is still at the macro scale though there is also an increase in renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric, solar or geothermal power. At later levels efficient fuel cells again provide a breathing space for the race and it’s planetary environment.

Later in the development cycle some basic micro scale nano technology is employed for both computing and medical research as well as the first attempt at stronger custom materials. This may lead to the break through of a society into the first stages of AI’s and into crude fusion. Some societies begin to play with antimatter reactors as well.

This also goes hand in hand with the development of basic space flight and, eventually, the establishment of bases in orbit and colonies on some of the nearer planets and moons.

Exploration of the solar system via unmanned probes is common

Nanoscale Technology : This allows the control matter to achieve atomic level precision in manufacturing and medial applications. The main types of tools built at this level are : nanite assemblers, customised materials and, at the higher end self-replicating machines.

Nanoscale technology also impacts upon the micro and macro scale tools, allowing the creation of molecular level computers, deep space structures and custom alloys, to name a few. This in turn allows the civilisation to spread out more effectively into their solar system. At some stage AI’s will start to become more powerful as the increasingly effective use of nano scale technology allows for even more powerful computing and data storage.

Energy production takes a quantum leap into such areas as advanced fusion power and antimatter production are possible.

In terms of individuals the impact on health and human capabilities surpasses the crude cybernetic abilities found in the higher end Micro Scale technologies. At the far end of the scale is the ability to upload minds into computers and to create quite involved and complex AI’s. In environmental terms the introduction of nanite recyclers allows for the efficient and clean recycling of waste matter and also can be of aide in the reclamation of polluted or damaged environments. Advances in genetic engineering when coupled with better nano scale technology means that the first steps towards true terra-forming are arrived at.

The use of custom materials, mainly based around diamond and carbon as well as high density metals, and, later, reactive metals based around nanite speed the race to space and beyond. Once true interstellar flight is achieved the race explodes beyond it’s solar nursery into full colonization.

On the whole most nanotech is created with specific application in mind (the template). This said, there are also general purpose nanotech tools created, such as nanite factories, which can replicate any object with atomic precision, provided the templates and raw material is available. The most common control placed on nanite level technology is to give it a restricted environment in which it can function and to make it non self replicating.

As with all advancements the level to which this is implemented within a society is limited by the mores and rules (as well as experiences) of a given society. It is common to have a mix of the macro/micro/nano scale where the most common driving element is cost and return on investment. Add to this the ability to repair, maintain and deploy any given technology and there are natural limits placed upon what can be implemented. Of course, nano scale technology is also expensive to create so the application is often only where there is a definite benefit, such as cost return, social good or military edge.

Pico scale Technology : This allows the control matter by working with subatomic particles and quantum field events. Pico scale technology is most often deployed within a nanotechl support structure.

The most common applications of this scale technology, outside of increased precision and greater speed/storage within the computing element, is the creation of artificial elements and exotic matter production.

The down side to pico tech is the cost to develop and deploy this level of technology.

The limitations and applications of this scale technology are the same as for Nanoscale tools, often pico scale elements are integrated into nanoscale applications.