This is a broad question, but the premise is fairly simple: what technological advancements that we take for granted today might be lost, or might no longer be necessary for a spacefaring civilization? There are a few obvious answers that come to mind, such as firearms (which ultimately are not "necessary"), but might there be other things that could be lost, such as certain means of terrestrial transportation, or computing/communications technology, that might be done away with, and still allow said civilization to engage in regular interplanetary space travel?

Once again, I understand this is a broad question, but I'm trying to start from the ground up here, at least on a technological level. There are lots of sci-fi stories that imagine that the future will be more technologically advanced in essentially every way, but I can't help but wonder if there are things we might actually lose along the way.

Edit: In response to this question being put on hold, I will try to narrow it down a bit. I am not imagining a civilization that lives exclusively in space, as some of the answers below seem to have assumed (the answers were still insightful though, so thank you). I am instead imagining a civilization that has the technological capability to travel between planets (specifically within the same solar system, so so-called "FTL" travel is out), and has colonized those planets, with large, thriving cities and permanent societies/cultures on their surfaces. Within this context, I am wondering what technologies we take for granted today, specifically things like cars, firearms, computers, cell phones, etc., would no longer be necessary or present in such a civilization. The premise behind this question is whether or not it is realistic to imagine a spacefaring, human civilization that has advanced significantly in some technological areas (such as rocketry and space travel) but has regressed in others (automobiles, firearms, computers, etc.).

For the purpose of example, imagine such a civilization as follows: rocket-based spaceships are regularly used for interplanetary travel within the confines of a specific solar system, but: beasts of burden are used in place of automobiles on the surfaces of those planets; swords, spears, and other medieval/ancient weapons are used instead of firearms; and textiles are produced by hand rather than en-mass in factories. Is such a civilization plausible, and if so, why? If not, why?

  • $\begingroup$ So in terms of spacefaring, do they plan to live in space indefinitely or seek and colonise new planets? With the latter I would say firearms could still be useful in order for protection. $\endgroup$
    – Jonnyboy
    May 25, 2018 at 8:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Lots of technological knowledge has been "lost" (scare quotes because the reality is more complicated) because it was no longer useful. For example, we no longer know how to build the heavy galleys which were the main attack platforms of the ancient fleets; the art of dancing with bulls has died with the Minoan civilization; writing systems have been forgotten; etc. The point is that people don't keep technological knowledge unless needed. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 25, 2018 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ While the answers to this could be fascinating, they could lose everything related to living on the ground, from farming to boatbuilding, so you'd need to consider any given technology as they encountered it in the course of your story rather than trying to make a potentially unending list in advance. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    May 25, 2018 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. You can already see a trend that we outsource as much as possible to machines. I see no reason why that would stop. It is more likely that we will start going backwards, using less technologically advanced tech in order to make exploration more difficult/interesting (mainly when exploring new worlds) $\endgroup$
    – Jonnyboy
    May 25, 2018 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ Watch the disney Film Wall-E, ignore the impossible basic robot suddenly has emotions out of no where story line and see the depictions of people on-board the ships, its quite disgustingly accurate how accurate a "worse case scenario" could go for humans, but things like writing would be out, and depending on your ship sizes , playing football or most sports require a huge open area to play, if the ships can't justify this space use then those actual sports would be relegated to playing them on a computer $\endgroup$ May 25, 2018 at 10:00

2 Answers 2


Anything to do with navigating liquid water is probably out, unless they are colonizing. Mining ice asteroids is far easier then dealing with planet gravity.

Mining on planets is out for the same reason. When you can mine without gravity, by bother with anything else. For the same reason again, construction of large buildings. Why bother with planet side skyscrapers?

If the civilization moves frequently, then renewable resource technologies and practices may also phase out because "we won't be here next year, so who cares".

An understand of plate tectonics may be limited to only specify military uses. "Drop one bomb here to cause nuclear winter "(eg Yellowstone park equivalent)


Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering is a huge field that is almost entirely obsolete in space. Vast stretches of empty space make roads and traffic useless, 0 gravity makes structural design largely unnecessary, and most would be forgotten - especially where it concerns dynamic loads from weather and earthquakes.

If these people settled again, they'd have to reinvent the road, and likely what to build the road from - there's not a huge demand for cement or asphalt in space. They also probably couldn't build high-rise buildings anymore, or especially large bridges.

Not under the category of civil engineering, depending on how their spaceflight works, they may not even be able to manage atmospheric flight.


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