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I'm wondering what techniques exist to make the technology change quicker in my story. I want to be able to change the setting quickly, like progressing from a computer mechanic where space travel is where it is now in the real world to a space ship mechanic in, say, 20 years. How can I make this society change and progress very quickly? The beginning point is slightly ahead of current technological progress.

My setting specifically is roughly sci-fi, but magic will be discovered. This is (in essence) a way around the law of entropy.

Note: This is not a writing question. I'm wondering what I could to to make technology quickly, not about how I could write more concisely.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about how to have a rapidly changing setting, where the 'technology' changes rapidly? If so, please edit your question to make that clearer. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH The OP seems to be asking how to have rapid development in-world... just not asked particularly clearly. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ This edit should fix the relevant issues with the post. It was not very well formed in it's original state. $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH This is definitely a worldbuilding question. "How to make a leap forward in technology plausible and consistent?" is a worldbuilding question, because "How to make X plausible and consistent?" is every worldbuilding question which doesn't belong on History, Physics (etc). $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ I would eliminate all forms of religion and “imposed beliefs.” It’s crazy what these two things have done to (mostly unwillingly, I agree) slow down human progress. Aristotle, in particular, had a philosophy that was followed too closely by many—physics and astronomy suffered because of that. It’s only one example. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 3:09

14 Answers 14

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Lack of wars

Contrary to an assertion in another answer, wars do not really advance technology. What really advances technology is money put into research. Now wars can justify nation-states putting more of their tax revenue into research - but the evidence of many peacetime periods is that you get a whole lot more research done by civilians when they have money to invest in competing with each other and aren't dodging bullets/blades.

In recent history, consider the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, tarmacadam roads, clipper ships, steam power, the internal combustion engine, the jet engine, the Green Revolution, transistors, microchips, the Internet as a separate entity from the original ARPANET... Not a single one of those major advances came from military investment, and in some cases (notably the jet engine) military investment skewed the market to actively delay development.

More than that, consider the fact that technological development requires ongoing progress by a succession of people. If you break that process - whether that's by killing the original people, killing the next generation of people, or destroying the data which they rely on - then you may literally have to develop an entire field again from scratch. You don't necessarily even still have the knowledge that something is technically possible.

The most obvious example of this is the fall of the Roman Empire. That set European technology back by a thousand years, and it could have been even worse had the various Muslim empires not retained a lot of that knowledge. A very similar process happened in South America, where dominant cultures were overrun by people who were better fighters but less technologically advanced. There was a lot of interesting development in Africa too before Europeans trashed the place; and actually Europeans did a rather similar thing to the more advanced Muslim nations as well from the Crusades onwards.

TLDR: If you want technological development to happen, don't kill your scientists and engineers, and have money to pay them; and not having wars is the best way to guarantee both

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ @vsc I don't know what you're drawing from, sourcewise, but it seems to conflict with my sources. Yes, the lifespan of the people living within the area did improve 1850;s onward, but if fell significantly before that. There's a dearth of sources that are just wrong, based on discarded or outdated research, as it could not muster repeatability. After the population within such areas fell(slowly) and then raised again. Evidence that fits in the scant character limit of a comment would be that no non monetary tribe actually used barter, they use favor's, off topic, but sources matter, as $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 6:57
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Make technological progress a huge priority for your culture.

A big limitation for progress in human society has been the amount of resources devoted to research/engineering and its prerequisities (most notably education). This is part of the reason why you see some technologies make big jumps in times of conflict - when the society finds itself in existential dangers it can get itself to devote much more resources to technological improvement than in peacetime.

So if you set your culture to put technological progress as its highest value, progress should be much quicker than in current society. Specifically, this could include:

  • Levy big taxes and funnel them into research/engineering and education
  • High priority on high quality education
  • Teachers, researchers etc. have high social status and are well compensated
  • It is frowned upon to put personal gains ahead of collective progress, e.g. there is a cultural push towards collaboration and knowledge sharing (at least within any given institution, but possibly some healthy competition between institutions).

The point is that even most losers in this system have enough buy-in into the culture that they consider the negative side effects (e.g. lower standard of living, or less generous social systems) as fair and morally good - think medieval peasants assuming that nobility and church deserve the privileges they get. Additionally, strong cultural values can reduce (not eliminate) various overheads of redistribution etc. - if most people sincerely try to contribute, you can spend less resources on policing and bureacracy.

It is less clear how your society could become this way, but maybe a history of long-term conflict with a neighbour which is slowly overcome by technological improvement could build basis for such a culture.

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    $\begingroup$ Uuuuuuhhh.... Kinda. You'd be surprised how much money can be thrown down the research hole with nothing valuable coming out of it (been there, done that). Most governments/societies need a reason to make technological progress a priority. People who have what they need don't often dream of having something more. We lived happily without any form of telegraphy for thousands of years. 1st and 2nd world societies today know well what the benefits of technology are - and yet it's very hard to convince tax payers to pay for research. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH As a research scientist, I am well aware of the waste in research spending. That's why the suggestion is to change culture not just policy - a lot of the waste arises due to conflicts between personal/institutional goals and the idealized need of "society" or "science". Those are hard to overcome by changing policy. But if more actors get internally culturally aligned with the broader goals, the waste might plausibly be reduced. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH You are absolutely correct. It requires the reason behind the research. The US made it to the moon because it became a national priority. The research and development that happened in a short time was nothing short of insanity. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @ITAlex And they made it a national priority because of the Cold War space race, which started when the U.S. made the announcement to put up "small Earth circling satellites," which was the U.S. contribution to the international geophysical year, which was, itself, somewhat of a celebration of the cessation of international scientific collaboration due to the cold war. It's difficult to overestimate the value of war to technological development. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 1:10
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The Singularity

Many science fiction writers (and a number of other people) believe that we will reach a point where scientific progress accelerates exponentially, when computers (AI) are able to create better computers without significant human intervention, which in turn can create even better computers, etc, with several revolutions, each equivalent to the shift from discovering fire to creating electronics, happening possibly first in a year, then in a month, then in a single day...

The problem with the Singularity as a reason for a total shift in the technology level in a decade is actually reining it in to where technicians are even relevant anymore. If AI has advanced to the point where it basically revolutionized everything for us, why are people anything more than an afterthought? Did the Singularity fizzle out, hitting some unexpected ceiling in development before machines became gods and humans were rendered superfluous? Did the machines ascend and leave us behind, and we picked over their leavings to reverse engineer a moderate tech revolution for ourselves? Did we panic and wipe out the advanced AI somehow (and, again, get a moderate boost from reverse engineering what developed before we pulled the killswitch)?

Aliens

Congratulations! We made first contact with aliens who were maybe a couple of centuries ahead of us technologically. Against all odds, we made friends, and they shared at least some of what they knew with us (or they crash-landed and we learned from the survivors / wreckage).

Depending on the scenario of how exactly we acquired the alien tech, and the attitudes of the aliens, this could impact a story in different ways. Did governments try to hush things up, but it leaked out? Is there some concern that we might run into aliens out there somewhere like the ones whose wreckage we salvaged? Are there limits to where we can go, because there is already claimed territory, or, alternatively, are there already spaceports and such infrastructure with aliens which we can readily visit?

Big Breakthroughs Happen to be Around the Corner

Technogical progress has accelerated in the past few centuries, and in the past few decades, and in the past few years. Even without a Singularity with runaway progress, we're not really sure if practical spaceships are 500 years away, 50 years away, or less (or never!). There are some specific engineering problems we mostly know about already, which we have a reasonable idea of the difficulty of overcoming, but easy breakthroughs might be around the corner to surprise us.

And a little handwaving for a breakthrough that's implausible but which an audience is likely to accept could fill the gap. Like when H. G. Wells justified a story about traveling to the moon by having someone discover an element which repelled instead of attracted, gravitationally, when he wanted to write a story about people traveling to the moon.

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    $\begingroup$ Which Jules Verne story is that? I only know the one where they used a really large cannon. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann My mistake - it was H. G. Wells, not Jules Verne. $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ This is the proper world-building answer. It is a pity that two answers argueing whether 'war' or 'not war' is better for progress got more votes because people felt the need to ensure their opinion is voted higher. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ And I guess that story is The First Men in the Moon. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:13
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War

Nothing advances technology like war. I’m not talking about little skirmishes or proxy wars. All out war that threatens your way of life that’s worth sending a generation off to die. Those wars have advanced technology like nothing else in very little time.

Discovery

Technology has never advanced smoothly. It goes in fits and starts. Discover something new and very soon it’s being exploited.

Dream

Big advances come from people with big dreams. A good story shows the dream before it’s realized.

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    $\begingroup$ Necessity can create advancement. That is why war can cause interest in certain advancements to eventually crush your enemies. But in the end war is only detrimental. Men, money and resources are spent on the battlefield instead of turning a good economy and well rounded research. More knowledge and opportunities are lost than that war research can gain. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ War creates wartime technology, peace creates peacetime technology. Unfortunately, I think I need mostly peacetime technology here, although war could work as a motivator. $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:01
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Magic can change everything, and can do so quickly. Magic can be whatever the author says it is. However, it seems to work best in a sci-fi/or science-fantasy story if the magic is very clearly defined as to what it can and cannot do.

Magic requires suspension of disbelief. It becomes harder for readers to suspend their disbelief if all things are possible. I personally find it jarring in many anime/manga stories when there always seems to be something more that the characters can do to solve a problem, as if they simply weren't taking matters as seriously as they should have right from the start, and they then trot out something new.

Have a look at Sanderson's Laws of Magic:

  • The First Law: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

  • The Second Law: Limitations > Powers

  • The third law: Expand what you already have before you add something new.

So, by introducing magic, you can have things change quickly as you wish, but be sure to explain it well, and give it limitations, or else you'll break your readers' suspension of disbelief.

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    $\begingroup$ Very true. Magic is not or should not be a quick fix for the author it needs just as much if not more care in writing about than science based technology. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 9:14
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Steal/adopt the technology from someone else

We have lots of experience with countries growing rapidly more technological advanced very quickly by adopting technologies already invented elsewhere. Japan, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates are all examples of countries that have experienced this kind of dramatic modernization.

There are other less well known examples.

The Comanche Indians in the U.S. adopted first horseback riding, and then the use of firearms, from Europeans they encountered in first contact situations. Several U.S. Indian tribes developed written languages for their previously unwritten languages after European contract with huge implications for their societies.

The Etruscans in Northern Italy were one of the last few surviving non-Indo-European societies in Europe that outlived their peers because they rapidly adopted the technologies of the invading Indo-European Italic peoples.

The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand basically invented trench warfare in their wars with English colonizers (historically called the "Maori Wars" and now often called the "New Zealand Wars"), rapidly advancing to the state of military technology used by their opponents.

Another historical example is in the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. During the Bronze Age, the Hittites developed advanced metal working technology that was a closely guarded state secret for about 700 years, and gave their empire a decisive military advantage. During Bronze Age collapse ca. 1200 BCE, this empire fell and its metal working technologies were leaked, giving rise to the Iron Age almost everywhere.

One of the standard tropes in speculative fiction is for people on Earth to gain the knowledge from aliens, either invaders whose technology is stolen, or friendly aliens (a la Men in Black). The Foreigner series of C. J. Cherryh, and the Jaran series of Kate Elliot are other examples of this trope.

Closely related is the trope of technology transfer from one dimension to another seen, for example, in The Merchant Prince Series by Charles Stross.

This is also the trope utilized in the anime series How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, in which a civil servant from another dimension utilizes his educated layman knowledge of 20th century history and technology and science, along with his natural acumen and training as a junior Japanese civil servant, to use his power as king of the country that summoned him from his own dimension to not just insightfully identify potential key technologies for the kingdom, but also to come up with ways to maximize the dissemination of expertise that the kingdom already has but hasn't utilized to its fullest.

This is to some extent an allegory for the historical efforts of the Meiji Restoration in Japan to combine "modern advances", mostly but not exclusively from abroad, with traditional "eastern" values, after the stagnation that came from a couple of centuries of self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world left Japan seemingly powerless in the face of contact with United States Commodore Matthew C. Perry who came to Japan in 1853 in large warships with armaments and technology that far outclassed those of Japan.

Albania is another place where technology has stagnated and lapsed after a long period of isolation that developed technologically very rapidly when it was reopened to the outside world at the end of the Cold War, as it borrowed technology from its neighbors.

Another standard trope in speculative fiction is for ancient aliens to have left traces of advanced technologies that are rediscovered, a la Stargate and the anime series Spriggan.

An older trope from mythology, associated with the Prometheus myth, for example, is for the gods to provide technology that make a society more advanced. The mythological notion that the Japanese imperial dynasty descends from Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess, is likewise kindred to this idea.

Have a genius or three in a community that shares knowledge

Lots of revolutionary periods of scientific invention and technological advancement are attributable to a small number of geniuses.

Archimedes fit the bill in ancient Greece.

Einstein and a few of his peers discovered quantum mechanics and general relativity in the early 1900s over the course of about a decade.

A small core of innovators who have the ears of people capable of funding their research and disseminating it widely can have a massive impact on the rate at which newly discovered technologies advance.

Often having multiple geniuses who can interact with each other, either in the same city or region, or at scientific conferences, can lead to the rapid exchange of ideas that allows all of the advances to cross-pollenate and increase the rate of innovation.

We don't necessarily think of Napoleon as a technological innovator, but in terms of law, government, and military organization he was a genius who rapidly and profoundly changed how society and governments and armies worked all over Western Europe.

Rediscover the work of past geniuses who were ahead of their time

There is also a rare but real scenario not entirely unlike the ancient aliens concept where a brilliant scientists works away for decades in obscurity, without being identified by someone who understands their work or builds upon and utilizes it.

One example of this is the intellectual history of fractals, whose work languished in obscure journals for several decades before it was rediscovered in the 1960s by Benoit Mandelbrot who was able to utilize emerging computer technologies to show the power of the concept.

Another example of this is chromium steel, which was perfected by a small community of metalworkers in Iran hundreds of years before the idea was independently reinvented and widely dispersed. But, this idea could have been adopted and spread widely at any time in between if someone had just rediscovered this pre-existing technology. See Rahil Alipour, Thilo Rehren, Marcos Martinón-Torres, "Chromium crucible steel was first made in Persia." Journal of Archaeological Science (2020); 105224 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2020.105224 (recounting their discovery that there was widespread manufacturing of chromium steel in Southern Persia around 1000 CE, a metallurgy technique that was subsequently lost and then only rediscovered about nine centuries later).

There was a similar case involving a sword maker by the name of Ulfberht in Northwest Europe somewhere who learned how to make steel swords profoundly better than anyone else of his era in the 800s or 900s CE or so, only for his art to be lost and reinvented many centuries later. But at any time in between, if someone had adopted this sword maker's methods (e.g. if an apprentice had survived and taught others) this technology would have advanced much faster.

The Italian Renaissance involved rapid innovation spurred and accelerated by a mix of rediscovering technologies from the Greco-Roman classical period and adopting technologies that had been developed in the Islamic empire, in a geographically small area with multiple geniuses who interacted with each other exchanging knowledge and who also served as rivals to each other.

The anime series Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, likewise involves a world where past magical knowledge was much greater but only person who knew her, her long lived elven apprentice, has access to her authentic grimoires and the understanding of them that came from working as her apprentice. Magic still exists, but its high points have been lost after centuries and Frieren's apprentice, in turn, gains advanced magical skill that no one else has. If that kind of rediscovered knowledge of a past genius were widely spread, the state of magical technology could have advanced rapidly.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer. One small caveat. The "genius" story is an artifact of (bad) science popularization, even a defect. Looking carefully and more comprehensively into good source, historical "geniuses" did "only" a small increment to their peer's work. Capable intelligent creative people, sure, but "sole genius"? I'd rather OP not go that route in their work, if possible. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ @PabloH Whatever you want to call these people, there are absolutely individuals who are wildly more productive of new useful ideas than others. For example, a small percentage of people produce a vast number of patents each, a huge number of chemical elements were discovered by a single man who didn't even have a graduate degree, etc. It may be a function of being in the right place (with resources and recognition available) and the right time (which other science advanced enough that there's lots around the corner to discover) but it does happen and makes for a more human good story as well. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke the pareto principle? $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 22:10
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like progressing from a computer mechanic where space travel is where it is now in the real world to a space ship mechanic in, say, 20 years.

This vibes with the space race. The US spent a total 25 billion dollars in the Gemini, Apollo and Mercury programs, before adjusting for inflation, throught their duration (source). For comparison, the US GDP in 1972 was around 1.2 trillion dollars. So it's not about money, as the total cost of those programs over more than a decade was less than 2% of the GDP of a single year.

Now picture this. In 1952 no one had ever achieved orbital flight (Sputnik was launched in 1957). In 1952, you could maybe fly state-of-the-art rockets a few hundred kilometers at most. 20 years later, in 1972, commander John Young became the first astronaut in history recorded farting and saying f❤️❤️❤️ during a lunar mission.

What led to that progress was unity and purpose. The authorities convinced everyone that America had to win the space race. Anyone who disagreed was labelled a communist and treated accordingly. Scientists were heroes and technological progress was a matter of national pride.

Now in 2023, half of the people in the West believe that scientists are liars, the Earth is flat and vaccines contain nanobots that control your mind by receiving signals from 5G towers.

With our current and near future technology, it would be feasible to send a probe to Alpha Centauri in 22 years. If we do that, other close stars (I'm thinking about Tau Ceti) would be reachable in our lifetime, and our descendants might even get close pictures of planets from faraway systems. It would be quite complex, and probably require cooperation on global level. We would have to convince a lot of people to drop off with all the war, and to trust scientists, so that might never happen.

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    $\begingroup$ You know, all those are more plausible than COVID being caused by 5G signals...which is something I've had someone look me in the eye and very seriously warn me about with a straight face. Even the last one, because at least there is a logical progression from cause to effect via the nanobots. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 17:25
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Have an external threat force society to spend a lot of money on research.

You can massively speed up research by having large numbers of people do research on it. Computer simulations, experiments, trials, all of these things cost lots of money. Societies will tend to prefer to spend money on welfare and infrastructure and blowing each other up, but an external threat could massively increase spending on research. Most countries spend around 2% of their government income on research. Spending more like 200% would yield much larger results.

It would massively reduce quality of life, require higher taxes, but enough of an external threat might make them willing.

Aggressively recruit all existing geniuses

You can't just boost research by throwing more money at it. You need geniuses with a spark of inspiration to aid research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_research_and_development_spending

This may require some wars. Note the top three countries by percent spending on research, Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. An external threat often forces a society to prioritize a tech advantage, and means you get a lot of scientists of high quality. Those three countries are known to have strong tech industries. In your world if there's a country filled with lots of geniuses, the powers that be need to crush all external threats to them, flood them with resources, and make all the untapped geniuses focused on war focus on space research.

Do unethical and extensive human testing to boost intelligence.

You need more intelligence and geniuses. Take criminals, dissidents against your massively increased tax rate, volunteers, whoever, and force them to undergo experimental treatments to boost their intelligence. Brain modification, stimulation, cybernetic implants, whatever. The faster you can reach the singularity, the better.

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  • $\begingroup$ Rather than geniuses, you could just have the culture be more geared towards cutting "unproductive" jobs and working more effectively while allocating resources more efficiently with less of the bumbling around and exploitation. You know, an "enlightened" society. Kinda boring though. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ They have twenty years, they don't have a lot of time to cultivate and find smart people. Your approach might work better if they had 80 years. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:00
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Competition

Reading the answers that have already been given, I've realized that competition is going to be essential in advancing technology quickly. It has been found that competition supports productivity.

For example, "Holmes and Schmitz (2010) [summarised] evidence from a range of studies of industries which have seen a change in their competitive environment – typically leading to an increase in competition. Nearly all of the studies they review find that increases in competition led to increases in industry productivity. Many of the studies also showed that firms facing stronger competition made substantial investments to raise productivity" (see here). Another example is how the USSR and USA were in the space race, accelerating development as well.

If I want to develop technology faster, strong competition between technology companies is a helpful tool I can use, and it will speed up development.

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    $\begingroup$ Why was this down voted? $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Why not cooperation?? $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ Cooperation can work, but competition (when directed the right way) is a strong motivator. You need to avoid a situation where people waste effort by doing things that have already been done, however. $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Also, you need to avoid situations where competing factions interfere with and destroy the other's work. $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @PabloH for cooperation you need to avoid situations where companies/individuals collectively stifle innovations. $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 22:12
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Ancient Civilization

Your civilization is not the first to develop a technical society, but previous ones have fallen (think Atlantis or Mu). On cue, archeologists or explorers can discover a trove of artifacts and documents, which the scientific and engineering communities descend on in a reverse-engineering feeding frenzy. Most of the artifacts won't work, unless they're primarily based on ceramics or corrosion-resistant metals, but can still be studied.

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Extreme Empathy

Technological progress gets great benefits from coordination and economy of scale . Throw money and people at a problem, and you solve it faster. Splitting up into many disjointed attempts at solving the same problem, and you are wasting time and effort.

One of the most "effective" ways of causing this disjoint, is rivalry , be it domestic, or international.

Rivalry comes from many things but in most cases an "Us & Them" mentality.

So, the solution for extreme effectivization and pooling of resources is to delete that sense of us and them.

How do we do that?

Extreme Empathy

Make your population feel that there is no "Us & Them". Whenever a person sees another person, they feel as if they are the same as themselves.

This can then be used to dissolve national borders, dissolve rivalries, and have a unified front for solving problems.

Sure, this is a super-boring resolution, I know, where everyone "just gets along", and I have no idea how you will use this idyllic setting to create the kind of conflict that makes for an exciting story. But, hey, it would work.

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  • $\begingroup$ I used to have a bit of a Minesweeper addiction. One of my younger sister's friends saw me playing Minesweeper, and later beat all my scores, as a "surprise". I worked hard and reclaimed the scoreboard on our computer. She put in some time and beat my scores, then I put in a lot of time and set scores she was not sufficiently interested to beat. I would never have gotten that good without competition. People can be egged on in lots of things (including research) by competition, friendly or otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Also, when everyone works together cooperatively, where is there a place for mavericks who overturn the paradigm in search of a competitive advantage (like the high jump "flop" where the jumper's center of gravity is never above the bar, so they can eke out another inch or two of clearance)? $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Jedediah You were working for personal glory, not to achieve a common goal. Also, there is nothing that says that — in a cooperative environment — that "mavericks" cannot thrive. The notion that cooperation equals conformity and stifles innovation, is just wrong. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ I'm confused - what about working for personal glory negates that I accomplished something that I wouldn't have without that competitive drive? $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:54
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Making specific advancement that enables access to significant amount of resources.

The sample fictional world is from the Fallout universe. They have successfully made small-scale fusion reactors using technologies from the 1950s, so their miniaturization and computers stopped advancing, made portable fusion reactors everywhere, then started World War 3 and everyone got nuked into the post-apocalyptic age.

The real world has better computers than the Fallout universe, but we have inferior sources of power.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify a bit? $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:02
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You need to have a culture way more focused on collaboration.

From Star Trek, think of the borg

If you take the borg drones and give them back free will something like that.

All knowledge is stored in a universal database accessible to everyone.

A discovery is made everyone in society can immediately access the research and try to improve on the design.

This relies on education, and so your whole society is going to have to revolve around this and nobody can waste time.

Think of how many people are soldiers dying in wars, these people are all 40+ years of wasted growth potential. For example if you get killed at 30 you could have lived to 70 and spent those 40 years researching.

Many modern countries spent so much of their GDP on the military, those all wasted dollars that could have been spent on research.

If society was 100% focused on research things like crime would be drastically reduced, and the money that would be spent on police would be redirected to research.

Every member of society needs to collaborate and dedicate their lives to this research. Research into automation will automate all the mundane tasks like cleaning and producing things. Think a 3d printer in every home, library, business, and etc.

No trademark, copyrights, or other limitation on knowledge would exist.

When you died your life's value would be measured based on the contributions you made to the global database. How much knowledge did society gain by having you in it. Your epitaph would list all your life accomplishments from said database.

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Interesting, in most stories we see technology advance slower with the use of magic as there's not as much need for technology when you can just use magic instead, also research/learning would need to be split between technology and magic, so depending on the focus it could easily be seen that one may get neglected. Most of technology is developed due to a need or want. For example we want to be able to travel places faster, so we invent the engine. However with magic, there would not necessarily be any need, as you would just be able to fly or teleport, or whatever, so the need is greately reduced.

You will have to overcome this in some way for your story to make sense, one way would be to have limitations on the magic, or maybe limit the number of people able to use magic. An easy way to overcome this could be to only recently discover or learn or somehow gain the ability to use magic. Since in a modern setting, technology would already be ingrained in people.

After resolving that initial issue of stunted technology, we can then move on to how it can be used to rapidly advance technology. The easiest way would be to use magic to 'handwave' significant issues with technology. For example a solar panel is like 5% efficient or something, you could replace it with a 'solar power gathering magic circle' that funnels the solar energy applied to the circle into a nearby battery at near 100% efficiency, because magic.

Another way I could see magic rapidly advancing technology, is if some sort of 'simulation' magic was discovered. Which we could use to test things that would normally take hundreds of years in a matter of minutes and at no cost to human/animal life, or other materials/resources.

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  • $\begingroup$ The "magic" is just a way to generate effectively infinite heat, so this shouldn't be much of an issue. Unlimited heat -> unlimited electricity -> accelerated technology. $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ well if you're gonna completely break physics. but wouldn't it make more sense that using magic expends energy, so if you're making heat for electricity via magic, then you're gonna expend more energy and therefore need to eat more calories to make that up. I feel like you're gonna end up with a lot of problems if you have such a broken mechanism. But anyway, with such a severe limitation, I don't think it would affect tech at all. Maybe you could explain how the magic works but ye; we have essentially unlimited electricity now in most places on earth so how is it going to be any different? $\endgroup$
    – Aequitas
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 23:53

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