How to Create Your Own World:

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GriswaldTerrastone's avatar

Literature Text

How to Create Your Own World: Technology and Civilization.

Nooooo, this isn't an obsession with the word "technology" like you see on television... ;)

Why are you reading this right now?

HOW are you reading this right now?

Because of the Internet, of course, you are thinking...but how did it come about? Did you know that it goes as far back as 1957, in response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik? Over half a century ago, yet even as APRANET- as it was known for decades- it was the same Internet we know today in the basic sense: a decentralized network of interconnected computers- complete with an amazing three or four (count `em!) "servers."

It wasn't until the latter half of the 1990s that the Internet really started to become a part of daily life as it is today, and is there any doubt that it has had a tremendous effect on much of the world? In the way we interact, spend our time, behave, even? The fact that you are reading this was something that you would not have done 30, or likely even 20, years ago, but today you can do with something no larger than Captain Kirk's communicator.

And what of automobiles? Think about how our lives center around the car; of people who commute for hours just to get to work? The fast food drive-thru? Of the industries around it, of the need for petroleum and all that entails? I could visit the place where I used to live 200 miles away, spend hours there, and be back here...all in one day, and think nothing of it as long as I had a reliable car and enough money for fuel!

What our race has created, affects our very way of living and thinking. THAT is why you are reading this right now (and hopefully aren't getting too bored...).

Warfare truly changed in the 20th Century because of the airplane and the submarine. Throughout history war had been waged in a largely two-dimensional manner; World War One was when war was truly waged underwater and in the air, so it was now three-dimensional. The traditional thinking was no longer valid; rivers, walls, and mountains were no barriers to airplanes and on the high seas enemies lurked beneath the waves, too. Soon radar and sonar made it harder to hide, and in later years light amplification and infra-red made the formerly reliable cloak called Night often useless.

Nuclear weapons gave even small nations the power to threaten any other. Would Nazi Germany have invaded The Netherlands in 1940 if that little country could have retaliated by annihilating Berlin with a single blow? Nuclear destruction is what kept America and the former Soviet Union from ever coming to direct blows, for all the tough talk and rhetoric from both sides.

Look what we have and where we are, at our way of living, now.

BUT, things could have gone in so many different directions, at so many points in history.

In Ancient Greece a man named Hero actually built a working, primitive steam engine, and it's quite possible that the legend of Icarus centered around a crude hot-air balloon flight that went horribly wrong. How close we came to flight and an industrial age millenia ago, then!

A popular subculture here at Deviantart is "Steampunk." Anthro or human, fantasy or alternate reality, it portrays a mechanical, rather than electronic, culture. We are where we are only because so many key things happened or failed to happen.

The Agricultural Revolution, by supplying man with a steady food supply in one place, allowed enough free time for invention, for large numbers of people in one place to study and interact. More than simple survival was now possible, and how that changed the world!

Even a casual look at history reveals that what we have today, how we live today, is all due to a large number of events and inventions, any number of coincidences, serendipity, of timing bad and good, all showing that the chances of our world being as it is were very small indeed (What if Tesla had never been born?). Any number of events or alternative situations throughout our world's history, big and small, and one would hardly recognize the world of 2012.

Countless alternative technologies and thus ways of living...and you are free to take advantage of any of them.

You can be totally fantastic about it, or actually come up with a perfectly realistic alternative society. How would certain things be done, then? In CalamityKangaroo's steampunk comic "Gidget" there are robots. But wait- how, in a non-electronic society, would one build a robot? Maybe in an alternate world certain things would not exist...or maybe you could think of a way it could be done? Perhaps only simple automatons would be possible in a steampunk world, for example. In the 1970s we had a toy car that would be steered based on a small plastic piece inserted on a small shaft; it would spin, and a second shaft, controlling the steering, would be pressed against it. Figure eights, loops of varying shapes, square-like patterns, etc. were possible. Would a more sophisticated, but essentially the same, idea be done?

Maybe a steam-powered vehicle would run up and down streets. In a narrow slot in the street would be a rail with holes or such, which would act as triggers. A series of control pieces would control the vehicle, placed in advance by the operator. The triggers would "activate" the pieces- if any- to turn or delay the vehicle. It would act as a simple robot vehicle. Placement of the control pieces would be a mechanical form of programing. Maybe a metal disk with holes or bumps, like with a music box, instead of control pieces? In such a situation, what would you come up with? There are any number of alternatives.

But in this case social ways might also determine such. Rather than even that kind of mechanical "robotics," perhaps society would rather have an operator at the controls. We tend to forget that much of what we are told is "inevitable" is anything but. Never forget that.

In a mostly mechanical, rather than an electronic, society, things would likely be more manageable. The average person would be much better able to maintain and repair things. This would make life in general more manageable for most people, which in turn would lessen the need for others to do it. Trust me, my first used car (1971 model) in 1983 was much simpler than a teenager's used car today from 2000 is. Would people feel more independent? How would alternative science affect society?

In a world without radio, maybe communication could be done with flash towers, as was done in our world long ago. Maybe steam pipes would take the place of fiber optic and telephone lines, and valves would enable steam pressure, using Morse code, to transmit messages. Since even the most modern of computers use binary- on/off, high/low, yes/no- even such a method could be used to transmit images, much as a form of FAX in the 1930s could do (yes, it did exist!); think of monochrome images. Possibly even color images- first, an ink wheel with colors is spun, then it puts a dot on paper. But one must consider pressure loss over distance; "relay" stations might be necessary.  

Maybe flashlights would work like those toy sparklers, using flint and steel? Zeppelins instead of airplanes? Triboluminescence (rub two pieces of quartz crystal together to see this), maybe?

What if there was no petroleum, or it was universally decided not to use it? How different would our world be, and how would things be done?

Maybe, in a more mechanical world like that, a central point would supply mechanical energy to an entire village. A mill,complete with water wheels, would be the "power plant," and from it, spinning shafts under sidewalks would in turn spin shafts going to a "power supply room" in each house. That gear would power that home's water pump (running water!), or a washing machine, or even fans to circulate air in the summertime. Would there be lesser gears and shafts going to other parts of the home, that could be engaged at the pull of a lever? In our world, such an idea was once really envisioned, and could have happened had things gone a bit differently!

(If heat from friction was a problem, maybe cooling coils with water flowing through them would not only cool the shafts, but supply heated water, too! Problem + Ingenuity = Benefit! In Germany steam pipes are run under streets to keep them dry during the winters.)

A stove might have friction-heated "hot plate" instead of wood, gas, or electric.

Would it not have been likely, then, that towns and cities would cluster around places with reliable mechanical power sources, like rivers and large streams? How different would our society be?

What would be the social and military implications? If a people upstream wanted to dam the river, this would jepordize the power supply of an entire town or city downstream, and it doesn't take much imagination to see where THAT could lead! What sort of diplomacy, trade-offs, tributes, would be involved? If the upstream people were, for some reason, too strong to be attacked or could threaten destruction (they mined a gap through mountains and could choke off the river for a long time), they'd be in a position of great power. Perhaps with a huge dam those upstream people would be able to control the power supply, much as countries in our world control oil supplies. Perhaps the downstream people would have something the upstream people needed, and so a balance of power exists...until the upstream people find a source somewhere else; if it was a third group of people, what would the downstream people do about them, if anything?

Would such a situation maybe spur alternative mechanical power supplies? Maybe a downstream people in an open, windy plain would use wind power, building windmills so their land would look much like The Netherlands did. But if the wind does not always blow, would they be willing to live with an unreliable power source? Would they build an artificial lake, filled with water pumped by those windmills from another lake (which itself might not be suitable for a power source), as a sort of backup battery? Who might own water or land needed for that? Would Eminent Domain be used? You start with a simple alternative idea, and find that you can build upon it in so many ways!

If in a sunny zone with plenty of water mirrors might focus the sun's energy to create steam power, so during such times the heavy work would be done...consider the social implications of such a set-up!

Of course, it doesn't have to be one or the other; it can be a mixture. A society can be mostly mechanical or steampunk, but with some basic electronics. AM radio, for example, might exist, especially since crystal sets do not absolutely require batteries or electricity. Therefore music, news, educational programs/lessons (helpful to children in isolated places), and such would be available to even the poorest, or those in more isolated areas. The afore-mentioned mill might also have a simple DC generator for the radio station in the area.

An alternate technology might have a form of television like this: AM radio supplies the sound, but the "screen" is actually like one of those pin-toys that you can press your hand or face on to leave an image of it. Periodically during a show a different radio signal would- in a binary sense, using tiny electromagnets- create images using such a pin-screen. It would be much like a book with illustrations sprinkled throughout, resetting each time. Or maybe just modifying an existing image if called for (an image with a closed door is modified only by drawing the door open). Just as color television transmissions also worked with black and white televisions, one could have a radio that would simply receive the sound. Possibly each point is a tiny cluster of colored pins- then you'd have a compatibility problem along the lines of computers in earlier years, when there were so many different kinds.

Perhaps a society might shun things both electronic and mechanical, and have a form of "organic technology." This was actually done in the 1988 movie "Lightyears," where even guns shot seeds that would grow thorns in the victim. Maybe instead of light bulbs glass globes with luminous fungi (or plants, or tiny fish, or luminous insects)- made brighter via selective breeding- would be used; animals might be bred for specific purposes: fast kangaroo-like creatures for swift travel, birds or small pteradactyl reptiles to carry messages, possibly. Huge animals, the size of wooly mammoths, would be the equivalent of large 18-wheel trucks. Whale-like creatures for barges and transport ships. Such a society would be expert in using nature to solve problems: a mosquito plague would be dealt with by using already-bred and ready to go predator insects or animals instead of DDT, for example.

Would a sort of bird, maybe able to speak like parrots and bred for more intelligence, act as spy planes and satellites? Would there be countermeasures with predator creatures, the way falcons were used to kill homing pigeons? Would those "parrots," for civilian purposes, convey messages, taking the place of telephones? It would then be much like telegrams, requiring an altogether different mindset for communication as opposed to phones and texting. Maybe sensitive plants (think of Venus fly traps), with tendrils extending miles with luminous tips, acting as visual telegraphs. How sophisticated might that get?

Imagine large buzzard-like creatures ("bombers") dropping containers filled with killer bees on enemy positions while falcons ("fighters") attack, the buzzards relying on their own "fighter" escorts to protect them.

Wars might be fought with venomous creatures or spores- but is it wise to use such weapons of mass poisoning, much as radioactive contamination limits the use of nuclear weapons? What sort of treaties would be drawn up applying to such things?  

Would such a society, used to selective breeding, apply this to people, too, in part to try to eliminate genetic defects? To breed whatever kind of people might be needed for certain tasks, not unlike what was done in Huxley's "Brave New World?"

Any number of mixtures and variations possible.

Society can affect technology, and technology can affect society. The two do go hand in hand. Social mores, religion, past experiences (nuclear disaster could make a race shun any kind of nuclear anything), can all determine what technology will exist- and vice verca.

Economics can also play a role. In our world, even back in Victorian times synthetic gems could be made- not very good quality, small, but it could be done. Do we have something better after all of these years? Maybe- but would not economic considerations block the use of anything that could create fine diamonds, rubies, etc.? What would a practical alternative energy source do to our world's economy and international relationships?

The main thing is that this should only be the foundation for storytelling: to truly take in a reader, to truly fascinate a viewer, one must show how the denizens of such worlds react and are affected by what they have built. Start with an idea, see where it can lead you, and good luck!
How To Create Your Own World: Science and Technology
© 2012 - 2022 GriswaldTerrastone
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JacobMace's avatar
Definitely a thought provoking read this is! Me and Professor Awesome had a short discussion on technology in Demordicai Diamonds about two weeks ago and were figuring out just what is and isn't around technologically-speaking near where Rune and Dalken currently are at in Dalken's homeland. Relma isn't all that impressive with it's tech and is fairly basic. Dalken's homeland of Rahm isn't all that impressive either though their architecture is sturdy and keeps out the mountain cold and their mining and mineral knowledge is quite good as can be seen by some of their artisans in that field. Drakunes though are often staunch traditionalists and innovation can often take years and years to set in, both technologically and culturally.

One of the most interesting things technology-wise in the general area is in the country of Romadia (which borders Dalken's homeland, so many "R" names :lol:) which has become prosperous by it's massive water system. Over many years, the drakunes of Rahm have traded tens of thousands of tons of stone from their quarries to Romadia for food and other goods from the fertile fields below their mountains. Most of the stone and other various mined materials have gone toward the construction of a massive aqueduct system that collects and redirects water from the higher elevations in Rahm and directs the flow across Romadia. Along the way, many small villages pop up around the aqueducts, often centered around a water-powered mill that grinds up grains which has lead Romadia to be a lead exporter in grain and grain products. With oodles of clean water constantly flowing into many of its cities and food production being up, Romadia's culture has blossomed and the standard of living there is fairly high. Running water is common for the middle and upper classes and though the poor may not have private pipes, fountains abound from which all may take part from. Food is abundant and disease from unclean water is significantly lower.

Rune and Dalken haven't gone to Romadia yet though it has been mentioned numerous times in the story. Dalken's high priestess sister who normally handles Rahm's affairs has been busy in dealing with a tragic mine collaspe that may have been sabotage but there are many factions to point an accusing finger at. One of them is Romadia though it seems often stupid of them to intentionally strike back at those who are WAY upstream than them but their are plenty of other more likely suspects. Despite that, Dalken is planning a special "diplomatic mission" under his sister's nose to visit the Romadian queen (an ikeeri who is considered quite the feminist in her country and has caused a big stir there in recent years) and try to figure out just what is going on. What could possibly go wrong with Dalken pretending to be a diplomat while no one is paying attention? :lmao:

Technology is such an important stone in the foundation of any story but man can it be tough to figure out. It's amazing all the simple tech of the old days and how simple, smart, and useful it can be. Something like canning and preserving foods is almost all but forgotten and trying to learn all sorts of old world tried and true tech is tough but one great learning experience! This was a really good read, are you thinking about doing any more of these? I need to get caught up on Tales from the Bizarre Dimension here soon.
Cajek's avatar
I'll give you any physics lessons my world is based on that you ask for
Cajek's avatar
Hey Griz

My world is medieval, focused on magic: After the main timeline ends, they wish to leave the planet. What would be the best way to leave their planet using magic and medieval mechanics?
GriswaldTerrastone's avatar
That would be up to you, mainly- who better understands your world and what it has than you?

But if I had to guess, a massive airtight ship- even a sort of globe with landing gear- lifted by a massive levitation spell. Depending on how far it has to go, it might take generations...what sort of societies might develop in it in the meantime?

Another possibility would be to open a gate into another world/dimension/possibility line, and evacuate folks through it.

Perhaps a sort of "wormhole tunnel" leading to another world- only successfully built after many generations of effort by many sorcerers, many of which died when they were unsuccessful in finding another suitable world.