Imagine an Agrarian civilisation (whose entire economy is based on producing and maintaining crops and farmland.) had developed a way to cultivate something like Cable Bacteria into large basic circuits (able to do basic arithmetic, but at a larger scale that modern day circuits. Think the size of a breadboard but organic, with inputs for the cable bacterial to attach to.)

What is their one pressing need, of this agrarian nation, that this new technology addresses?

I know for instance, the Aeliopile/steam engine was more or less just a plaything to Hero of Alexandria, so it's possible the bio-circuitry serves them no purpose. But if it does solve an agrarian civilisation level challenge, what one biggest thing would it solve for them?

(I am trying to ascertain something like "X, Y, and Z are the biggest issues most agrarian societies encountered. This cable bacteria does/doesn't solve any/solves this one the most.")

If it matters don't assume anything beyond bronze age technology, something like the 'Indus Valley Civilisation'. The main thing is, that the majority of the populous is growing and selling crops.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Nov 30 '20 at 20:12

Accounting, as simple as that. The agricultural revolution was also the dawn of record-keeping, which entailed tracking surpluses and deficits, setting prices for exchanging goods and calculating profits/losses, taxes, tributes, tithes and rents: in other words an economy. Your bio-circuity would likely be put to use in these areas as areas of influence and trade grew with the rise of empires.

Calculating seasonal changes and patterns tied to astronomical cycles, which can have significant agricultural implications, would also benefit from these early computers

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    $\begingroup$ Probably the best answer; computers took off primarily because of their business applications. Nevertheless, it would be worth adding surveying and civil engineering (e.g. bridge strength) calculations, if this hypothetical society is advanced enough to have the concepts. Possibly the occasional astronomical calculation as well. $\endgroup$ – GrumpyYoungMan Dec 1 '20 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ @GrumpyYoungMan Astronomy is a good point, for the agricultural implications. I'll add that. $\endgroup$ – rek Dec 1 '20 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ @GrumpyYoungMan Surveying could be useful, especially if permanent landmarks were hard to construct (e.g. ancient Egypt and the Nile floods) but early civilizations didn't do much civil engineering beyond building houses. In particular, they rarely built bridges at all, though they did build boats. $\endgroup$ – alephzero Dec 1 '20 at 2:01

They sell it to someone else

If a society is based on purely agriculture, it's producing more food than it need and not enough tools, finished products, luxuries, etc. This means it must be trading them to other societies and buying back the finished products it needs.


Telecommunications seems like the biggest thing. I think agrarians tend to be spread-out, so any communication tech faster than horse messenger would be hugely welcome.

It's not just about convenience, either. Consider that even if food and supplies must be hauled overland slowly, coordination is itself a problem that flows from glacially-slow information transfer. This is a society that has seen starvation because information about unexpected food or supply shortages wasn't disseminated quickly enough to be actionable.

And because so much of their economy consists of perishable goods, timely and accurate information is vital. Whenever there is a mismatch between what gets shipped and what is needed, lots of people suffer. In the best case, surplus goods are sent to where they are not needed, and so the people who produced those goods lose their investment. That by itself can lead to major hardship. In the worst case, unanticipated needs are not met quickly enough, and lives or crops are lost.

Oh, and even though they're agrarian, it's not like food and farming are their only concerns. War, politics, crime, disease, natural disasters, predators -- wherever there are people, these problems are too, and people need to talk about them. They need information about the facts, and (unless they are all at war with each other) some will want to coordinate their responses.

The Western genre can only exist in one place: the boundary between wilderness and civilization. One of the clearest harbingers of the coming of civilization -- the eradication of the wilderness -- is the telegraph. A society without the telegraph is still the wild west.

Throw in a steam engine and you're practically living in post-WWI America.

ETA: second place might be electric lights. Electric lights are superior to fuel lamps for a few reasons (including that they don't spew toxic smoke directly into living spaces), and so electric lights can be adopted more widely than lamps. Artificial light allows diurnal creatures like us to be productive for longer each day. I imagine one of the biggest impacts is just that it means farmers suddenly have more time to read, which means education, which leads to literally all the good things. Education is the closest thing humans have ever found to a silver bullet.

But even if you don't want electricity to let them bootstrap their way to smartphones and credit-default swaps and dark web chat bots, it'll make a big difference simply being able to do the paperwork and read the latest farmers' almanac after dark, instead of those things competing for daylight with the farm work.


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