There is this world, and several people came out of a cave without any memories, but they do have basic knowledge of survival. Years later, the descendants of these people are fairly progressive and have made beautiful architecture, and are at about the technology level of Lord of The Rings, without the magic. They are progressive and pursue change.

My question is how long this civilization could theoretically go without inventing new technology to launch the civilization into a Renaissance, also without actively avoiding it. I know that other questions on this site have covered how long technology would take, but my question is different because this covers a different technology level, and they aren't given any advantage.

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    $\begingroup$ Can this world have enough crippling events like wars, diseases and natural disasters to hold back its development? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ You may want to clarify the meaning of the word "progressive". There are 1,940 years between the Battle of Marathon and the Fall of Constantinople; aren't two millennia enough? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP what is the meaning of the 1,940 years between the Battle of Marathon and the Fall of Constantinople? Those events had nothing to do with the rise and fall of civilizations, they were political events, and did not even involve any of the same polities. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding: The battle of Marathon serves as an easily rememberd marker of the point of departure from which East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet; there were easily identified major differences before that, of course, but from that point forward we can definitely say that the two parted ways. The fall of Constantinople is an easily remembered marker for the end of the Middle Ages. They represent in real history reasonable points for the start and end of the phase corresponding to what the question asks. (And the question is about a civilization not a polity.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 6:28

3 Answers 3


I wouldn't say these are the best examples of this, but rather the schizo nature of technological innovation brought about by the availablity of natural materials that could help improve the technology.

For example, the Aztec civilization had brain surgery long before contact with the more "advanced" Europeans, who wouldn't get nearly as close to survival rates as the Aztecs until some 400+ years after first contacts (at the time, a twice operated on individual had a 90% survival rate when they met the Europeans). Similarly, the Inca civilizations built road networks as good as Romes or better in some cases, but never invented the wheel. As a whole, the entire New World saw the wheel as little more than a child's play thing and never had a practical application for one of the most basic of inventions.

A Progressive society is not likely to have long technological stagnation periods as any member of society has an equal opportunity to promote the next revolutionary device. As a teacher of mine pointed out, this also compounds with the speed of information accessibility. At the time of the Gutenberg Press, a new book came out every six months. By the dawn of the internet age, a new web-page is created every six seconds.

Your biggest limiting factors to technological growth are your resources and desire to make new technological innovations, your ability to share knowledge, and your equity of opportunity in a society.

  • $\begingroup$ You have some good points in there and I liked your point about the Aztec brain surgery, but attributing their progress to their life span is a bit misleading because it had more to do with the domesticated animals and the diseases they brought. especially in cold Europe $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ @user45751: Well, the reason they could get so good at it was because they had plants that would work to clean up the infections when applied to the wound, which weren't available to Europe. It wasn't an improved life expectancy, but an improved survival for those who were operated on. In fact, it was one of the reasons diseases were more effective when they did come over. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 19:41

This is really complex but basically never, progress is a very flexible definition and historically could mean anything. Before the 19th century no one even used the word like that. So the technological progress I'm assuming your talking about is electrical and the Renaissance your referring to is the western one. Well in understanding that you need to know it was more religious than progressive and was based more as an effect of the changes brought by the Crusades and as a response to the Middle Ages. So theoretically without any access to the culture that took this path and a completely different history they could effectively never reach the western form of progress.


Short answer: thousands of years.

Long answer:

The fact that your society is initially Progressive might actually be its undoing when it comes to progress. Its counter-intuitive at first, but take note that the fastest bounds of progress come from "out of the box" thinking and weird ideas developing against social adversity.

If you have a society that starts from "survivalist" stone age, but is open and permissive of technological progress done by just about everybody, then people are orders of magnitude more likely to try to improve and perfect the "tried and true" technologies, than rebel and try to invent completely new ones from scratch.

So for example, a technologically progressive "Medieval" culture would have:

  • extremely good bows and crossbows improved to a perfection that cannot be made any better due to simple constraints of physics, making early handguns superflous and silly;
  • extremely fast, durable, and healthy horses bred progressively over countless generations, but no cars, trains, etc
  • near perfect crop rotation and plant knowledge for agriculture, but no advanced machinery or fertilizer, as this was never necessary to be invented
  • sail-ships so fine that no early steamship could ever compete
  • blacksmithing mastery that makes "epic" quality tools and weapons, and thus prevents the need for industrial metallurgy to arise;
  • everything from weaving, basketry, pottery and animal-husbandry to herbalism, martial arts and calligraphy was progressed up to such heights of quality that there is just no need, or even the ability to conceive that these technologies could be outright abandoned and replaced.

Your civilization is now a meritocratic-aristocratic heap of Archmasters, Masters and Apprentices polishing whatever art is their focus to above and beyond the everyday necessity, and inventing new ways to improve old techniques ad nauseam. "Out of the Box" thinking is both impossible and pointless, they cannot conceive of thinking outside of the Box, because the Box is a perfect. jewel-encrusted work of art and masterful carpentry. All they can think of, is making the Box progressively prettier.

Basically, they are Elves.


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