Would it make sense to go from the technological equivalent of the 18th/19th century to a cyber-esque/modern society in the span of 1000 years? Are there any reasons that can be applied for this comparatively slow progress? or does this just not make sense?

  • $\begingroup$ Many factors could justify this kind of slow progress, among them war / famine / epidemics could impede research budgets. $\endgroup$
    – tbrugere
    Jun 2, 2021 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ 18/19th century is too late -- the Industrial Revolution was already in full swing. The first half of the 17th century is the latest time when relatively small changes could slow down scientific and technological progress -- e.g., have Leibniz and Newton die of some childhood disease. (And no, nothing you can do will slow it down as much as requested; at best you can get one or two hundred years more of pre-modern world; but eventually, somebody will discover calculus.) If you want to delay modern society by 1000 years you must start very much earlier -- for example, in the 5th century BCE. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 2, 2021 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ Slow down, no. But take that long, easily. Just lob in a nice plague, a very successful Warlord, a new religion that bans all but the elite from reading, a plague of meteors poisoning the crops, etc, etc, etc. A sufficient setback can easily nullify hundreds of years of progress. We've had all of those (except the meteors, that's due next month), which is why the Roman Empire could not go to Mars in the year 750AD. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 3, 2021 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I am not sure that even the 17th century would be early enough. Many advancements in science and technology were proposed/conceptualised by several different people approximately at the same time, but history recorded only 1-2 persons as authors. There is no guarantee that killing baby Newton will result in no Newton physics. It will be just known under some other person's name. Perhaps, only a complete cultural change and massive depopulation could bring the desired effect. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 3, 2021 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ If you have time I would recommend reading Thomas S. Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'. Whether you agree or disagree with his views on science and technology, the book provides a lot of examples that could be useful for your project. It might also help with finding specific methods for slowing technological progress in your world. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 3, 2021 at 20:21

5 Answers 5


In fact, the problem is what we saw people talk. Your question is good. You must have read a lot of books to find out what is going on in Earth's History.

  1. We are humans and we live on a planet. This planet offers us many advantages and also makes it difficult. We, humans tried to live. But when trying to do that we were divided into tribes. Why were we divided? Because of our perception and the interpretations that result from this perception. Mankind's perception and mankind's interpretations. These 2 ideas define our history. Because of these two words, tribes A, B, and C have fought each other to find out who has the right perception and interpretation. Some of them tried violence. Some of them tried diplomacy. And mankind has come this far.

  2. In the 21st century, we are analyzing the Earth well but not enough. Our technology and perception has changed some but our main perception still is the same. For instance, being religious or not religious. From the first human to now it still is the same. That is my comment but I comment what I read. If I'm wrong you can tell me. Another example, in the USA there are two main powers. republicans and democrats. Then let's take a quick look at history, such as Greek history. You can see the same main powers. Now we don't just call them democrats though, we call them pagans vs religious.

You will ask another question? Why am I saying that technology affects perception for humans. It is simple. For example, if you think like Elon Musk, and believe there is only money and technology are powers, so you work to earn them to increase your powers. In ancient perception, technology was also main power but the prestigious power is human power. That was the perception I suppose :) .

The concepts of information and technology are somewhat different. They should not be confused with each other. Information is always needed. Technology, on the other hand, has shifted to being a scientist in today's perception. "Scientism" other word. So everyone works in this area today. Because the prestigious main power is science and innovating tech. In older times, the number of these studies were low. For example, when a scientist found technology in ancient times, people valued that person. But the prestigious power of ancient times was manpower. Strength-muscle strength was in the foreground.

To quote Varys of a Game if Thrones: a king, a priest and a farmer stand around a sellsword in the middle. Each tells the sellsword to kill the others. Who will he obey? The king with money? The priest with eternal salvation? The farmer with food? Who is the power? After a debate of the conundrum he says that" power resides where people believe it resides".

In OP's situation taking a 1,000 years to go from low-tech to high-tech there is no problem in that - humans are those who define how fast it goes. If they decide AI-overlords is not exactly a future they like, they may take their time to sort things out, before progressing further. There are other examples from the Roman empire to the Apollo program where it is not technologies that decide what's next, but it is a result of decisions made by humans as a collective (in general, a prominent example is Japan) or as their leaders (Steve Jobs, Musk, state government, there is no end to the list).

So take your time, whatever it takes, if there aren't urgent matters to solve like running out of oil, but fusion tech does not mean AI-overlords.

  • $\begingroup$ Maan language is rough, but the answer contains a point. To summ it up - processes in society have more influence on what we do, including technological development, than technologies themselfs. Thus any time frame can be legit. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 2, 2021 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ if it is less clear i can correct $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not native myself, soo, not in a position provide feedback on it. But what I think can improve situation is to have some conclusion. You made your point by examples, so now it is the time to sum it up by some short enough cinclusion/ending, making a statement which adresses OP question directly, in a condenced form, which will help readers to verify if they understood your examples in a way you intended them to be understood. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 2, 2021 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ Made an edit, so feel free to remove it or adjust it the way you like $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 2, 2021 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ "humans are those who define how fast it goes" - history is rich with examples of societies that decided that it should go slowly. All of those societies collapsed, yielding to those ones which decided otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 2, 2021 at 22:45

"Are there any reasons that can be applied for this comparatively slow progress?" Could be, facing some extra limiting factors:

  • resources (ex. no easily available oil)

  • low population, limiting number of innovators

  • lower IQ (in premodern society it was going slowly up on genetic level, while after industrial revolution in modern one the higher survival rate means slight selection in favour of lower which until end of last century used to be masked by better nutrition and education; so let's say you enter industrial revolution with already lower IQ, make some improvements, face intellectual decline and achieve stagnation)

Alternative: A calamity making history cyclical and causing civilization to crumble. Let's say nuclear war, a few centuries of rebuilding, another nuclear war, another rebuilding.

EDIT: 1000 years of slow industrial revolution? The global warming is going to be awesome and at some moment can become one of hurdles.


A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force

I love Newton's first law — it can be applied to so much in our lives. The speed of technological and scientific advance is very much one of them.

Let's start with the basics. Speaking of the species and not of any individual, humanity is naturally inquisitive. When faced with a problem, we'll work out a solution. When faced with hordes of oncoming potential BBQ, we invent a pike. When faced with the possibility of being alone on a Saturday night, we'll invent music. And when music proves insufficient, we'll invent gloves to make picking roses easier and an entire process for extracting the essence of the Cacao bean. I think it's not an understatement to say that humans love to tinker.

Especially when we're motivated.

And there's your loophole. The outside force to slow everything down. How do you demotivate humanity, especially when our reaction to most outside forces led to the aphorism, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

So, knowing that the, shall we say, wrong kind of motivation will speed up the discovery of science and technology — what's the right kind of motivation that will slow it down?

I'm going to suggest you'll need, well... a series of unfortunate events. (Honestly, I wasn't looking to use that phrase... it just became, well, a necessity....)

1. Regular Depopulation

Your first best motivator for slow advancement will be regular depopulation. Plagues, wars, famines, droughts, more plagues, regular falls of a mycorrhizoid spore,1 evolution of a particularly nasty badger... Humanity will eventually figure out how to overcome all these things, but if you keep the population low enough and spread out enough, it'll take forever.

This helps you for a couple of reasons that would normally increase the fertility of innovation.

  • Low communication
  • Low leisure time
  • Early age of employment
  • Shorter life spans
  • Difficult acquisition of wealth

2. Lower Birth Rates

If a constant string of wars and disasters depopulating your world isn't your fare of choice, let's try something simpler: lower birth rates. One thing that appears very true: the more people you have to work on a problem, the faster you'll solve it with more creative results. So, if we use this chart as our reference, you want to take 1,000 years to get from 1750 to 2021. That was 0.75 billion to 7.8 billion people for an average of 20 million new people "net" (meaning after all the reasons they're getting killed are taken into account) each year. You need to effectively divide that by four or more.

3. A Fertile Landscape

Curiously, history suggests you need winter to spur innovation. Areas with low population growth but highly fertile landscapes where people could happily live in grass huts and be simple hunter/gatherers did not innovate nearly as quickly as areas with limited growing seasons, limited resources, and/or strong climate changes between seasons.

4. Finally, let's make humanity more competitive and/or aggressive

Let's use music as an example. During the Renaissance music advanced tremendously due to patronage. Wealthy leaders and families would sponsor musicians (and artists of all kinds) to increase their personal status with the new. Yes, there were vendettas and wars, etc... but what if people were naturally more competitive? What if our social mores didn't favor compassion and life quite so much?

What if the Medici's were satisfied with a little new, and then went out of their way to make sure no one else found anything new?

This much more centralized, selfish, concerted effort to control innovation could justify a much longer delay. It's not enough to destroy a person's work — it's reasonable to destroy the person. In this way you actually minimize the number of clever problem solvers in your world. Given enough time, evolution would begin to favor the socially adept rather than the technologically adept.

After a thousand years you'd have your modern cellphone-using, Netflix-watching cyber-surfers — but the consequence of the longer period might be a species of humanity that's much more naturally politic than we all are today.

That's almost scary to think about....

1It shouldn't surprise you that SciFi/Fantasy writers have come up with reasons to retard scientific progress. This one comes from Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series of books. The spores, called "thread," were a lifeform on a planet with an orbit that brought it close enough to the planet Pern to move some between planets. It was a neat plot device that, combined with the socio-economic conditions surrounding the politics of dragon riding, acted to retard scientific progress — in fact it caused it to regress.

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    $\begingroup$ Taking time tending to basic necessities is indeed impeding. It's often talked in survival guides that making a house will take a lot longer if you spend half your time eating, and the same thing happens when working on science. Dr. Stone anime/manga tackles this issue headfront in the first episodes, as an example. $\endgroup$ Jun 4, 2021 at 10:58

The end of science

Every 20 years or some person in some scientific field declares that they have reached the end of science, and no more progress can possibly be made in their field. Then we discover more stuff and keep going.

However, theoretically there should be an end to science and scientific development. If you were to make every possible scientific advancement possible, by putting atoms into every possible configuration to make something with it, you would still have a finite number of ways to arrange the atoms and scientific advancement would end eventually. It might take a very long time but it will happen.

The amount of scientific progress we have made follows a logistic curve. The more science you have the easer it is to discover new things, but the more things there are to discover the easier it is to discover them. We see that scientific discovery has speed up over time, but for now it just looks like an exponential curve. However, we may see that it is indeed a logistic curve if we start to see the rate of scientific advancement decrease.

Since we don't know where this boundary is we can't say when the end of science will be. But based on the fact that research is still increasing in speed it is likely we are not near it. But if the end of science is near then we might soon experience a slow down in discovery. This might be enough to stop or at least reduce funding for more research. The reason everything is cyber/modern might be because that is the end of science and this is best way to have things once all technology is discovered.

Story based reasons

The religious group your story is centered on bans science and makes science progress very slowly or backwards for a bit. Zombies eat people's brains and books. Jesus comes back like he said he would and people spend more time on the spirit than science. Stuff like that.

  • $\begingroup$ Any scientist who declared an end to science would be treated like a moron by other scientists. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 2, 2021 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, here is a ted talk about that with physics, youtube.com/watch?v=gWPFJgLAzu4 $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Jun 2, 2021 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ Ted talks are not great sources for science, they are better than main stream media but that's not a high bar.. Also end of physics is very VERY different than the end of science. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 2, 2021 at 21:02

Mass depopulation, societal collapses and the dystopic ban of scientific research could all realistically slow down discoveries to a significant extent.

If you are willing to have some fantasy elements too your ("cyber-esque") story, you might as well achieve it in a smoother way: introduce a new promising field of science that would have somehow diverted the attention of global research for a few centuries (pre-Victorian social order without telegraph, radio communications, industries).

It is an idea largely inspired from "The Road Not Taken" by Harry Turtledove. A short story in which most alien civilisations discovered a very practical antigravity technology early on. Paradoxically, the highly convenient antigravity technology stifles further technological development as all the creative energies of societies that find it go into perfecting it (to perform simplistic FTL interstellar travel and wars of conquest on a galactic scale). In contrast, humanity advanced further technologically by exploring other fields of science.

Of course, this is an idea could be used alongside the other limiting-factors that I initially wrote about: after a terrible plague that almost sent humanity to a new Dark Age, scientists discovered a way a new field of science (...)


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