I have a magic world where the source of magic is an abundant form of energy, but also unpredictable and hard to access safely, meaning that there are few who can use it and it has high costs on the user.

Also, the magic is kind of chaotic and not always reliable, meaning that it can't always be pulled off successfully and on demand all the time.

Its effects are not always repeatable because of environmental factors and the condition of the user.

Question: Are the common non-magic users of the world to develop their technology and advance it further rather than focus on the magic. This is despite the fact that magic is potentially much more powerful than technology?


closed as primarily opinion-based by jdunlop, Draco18s, L.Dutch, nzaman, kingledion May 19 '18 at 16:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Guy. Your question is likely to get closed in its current form as primarily opinion based because ultimately people make their decisions on much more detail than is provided here. That said, as a general rule, investors will always go for a reliable return with lower risk over high risk, high reward strategies so I'd say technology in this instance, particularly if the magic is inconsistent and therefore harder to industrialise. When looking at questions like this, follow the money, not the brains, for the answer. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II May 18 '18 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! As @TimBII has already said, you appear to be asking about a plot, as opposed to a world. Essentially, which option would you rather happen? Once you've figured that out, you could come up with a potential reason why that's the case (those appear to be opinion parts of the question), then potentially, depending on what the reason is, ask if that reason makes sense in the world you've created. Although, another question to ask yourself is do you even need a reason? or can you just do what the plot demands without explaining why? $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 May 18 '18 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, this could potentially be reworded to ask something about the world that would indirectly answer your question, such as something specific about how the economics of such a system would work, although maybe that's what you're asking here and I'm just not able to pick up on it? $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 May 18 '18 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! You may find the tour and the help center useful when you have a moment. Also, Worldbuilding Meta is used for discussions about the site itself (though requires 5 rep to use.) Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental May 18 '18 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Substitute radioactivity for magic and you see this happening in our own world. Beta radiation is great for sterelizing kitchen utensils and in the 19th century people bought uranium enriched water because they thought it was good for health. $\endgroup$ – Renan May 19 '18 at 2:32

This is an interesting situation, especially with magic having high costs on the user. To use an analogy, its situation were a single person could construct a building and wreck themselves in the process, or a large group of people could build the same building with less risk. The only difference from our world is that, in your setting, the building gets erected in the exact same amount of time either way.

Historically speaking, humans have been more or less fine with endangering themselves if it meant getting more profit (see any dangerous but high paying profession) and the march of technology was slow until the printing press revolutionized education. Doing things the magic way and damn-the-human-cost might be a common practice in your world.

Of course, then you have the problem that the same people who are being exploited for profit and the ones who have the means to resist exploition.

"Phil, I'm going to need you to turn this water into Chianti, in the process lowering your lifespan or maybe permanently raising your blood pressure, while I take most of the profit."

"Actually, boss, how about I take the entire profit and, in return, not transform 50% of you into a frog. Thanks for the magic classes, by the way."

Then again, a profession that carries a high amount of risk, demands a large amount of training, has the potential to generate a lot of profit, and would be a stupid thing to teach lower-lass people to do already existed in our world. They were/are called warriors, people skilled in combat.

Consequently, your magicians/wizards would likely be in charge or employed by people who are in charge. After all, if they are both finite and powerful, why waste them plowing fields when they can be used to secure land and resources or deter invaders with just their presence? Let the peasants invent plows, aqueducts, and roadways. We need the magic users in the kings army.

Sorry I turned your mages into WMDs. I get excited whenever magic gets presented as finite commodities.


As you say, there's only a small percentage of the population who can do magic. The rest of them will not just sit around and wait for them to walk their way so they can ask them to do the work for them. They will want to stay alive in the first place, and do things like farming and make items they use in their everyday lives, and if they do that a lot, they will discover better ways to do these things and from that, technology will evolve.

  • $\begingroup$ That was what I was thinking also. Becuase the magic isn't always available they would naturally find another way to do the same task that didn't rely on magic. I guess the real question should be, Would the non-magic users exert more energy and time to completing a task themselves rather than rely on magic, although the magic could get the job done faster, it wouldn't always be available and the best results of using the magic would depend on things no one had control over. $\endgroup$ – Guy Mann May 19 '18 at 7:35

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