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In many SF stories (or fantasy if you replace science with magic), there is one technology that is hyper advanced in one specific field, like robotics in Real Humans or in Extant, but almost nothing else in the world has advanced beyond what we know today.

However, robotics (like most advanced science fields) is a highly pluridisciplinary field of study, from mechanical engineering to energy production and storage, to ethics, to artificial intelligence, to human biology (bionics), to human psychology (social robotics)...

What could lead a society as the one on earth today to focus so much on one specific thing ? (like building human-like androids) without the technology ever branching out to other applications (improving transportation, treating mental disorders, developing communications, better health system and whatnot).

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Investment will go where the money is. How much is invested to fight disease like Ebola compared to the new almighty iphone 6. The world is at stake here.

Money and the need for a specific resource will push people toward one project. Our dependency on oil made us neglect other sources of energy. This is partly because of the strong corporatism and the powerful lobbies. In sci-fi it's common to see a world rules by the mega corporations. I don't believe this will happen but if it does, let's just say that the companies and the governments don't have the same goals. Corporation goals might not look very rational form the point of view of a nation.

And as bowlturner, if mankind face a dire threat they will need to invest most if not all of their resources. Maybe the threat is the climate changes, warfare, an evolved and aggressive alien specie.

That being said, I'm not sure it's possible to go narrow as having progress in just one field.

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Generally I would say an extreme event/push on the society. We come upon a problem that requires all of our focus, say knowing that in 3 years a planet killing asteroid has a %90 chance of plowing into the earth. We would focus all of our energies into finding a way to preserve as much of the earth as possible and find a way to prevent the disaster.

We might actually design a generational starship with artificial gravity or make an 'anti-gravity' beam to push the asteroid out of our path. We would likely have a huge jump in one direction like that, but after the danger has passed and we start to feel safe other uses for the technology would begin to seep out into the market for other purposes. Unless of course governments or powerful businesses keep a tight lock on it all for 'national security' or 'protecting profit margins'.

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  • $\begingroup$ A generational starship, based on something similar to what we have on Earth today, would be incredibly multidisciplinary. You'd probably see work into self-sustained isolated environments and habitats, computer AI and hardware, protection against both micrometeors and radiation, and figuring out just how the h* you are going to get any significant number of people even into Earth orbit. And it might be a good idea to have some idea where you would be headed, and what you do when you get there. All this just to name a few things that would be needed to pull something like that off. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 22 '14 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ yep, maybe that one wasn't the best example, but the 'anti-gravity' gun would more than likely fall into it. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Sep 23 '14 at 2:17
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I suspect most stories focus on only one form of hyper-technology simply to examine it's specific impacts without having to worry about a more complex picture.

That said I have a couple suggestions why not this might happen, but does happen.

1) Not all things are equal:

Tasks by XKCD

XKCD

2) Once you have a hammer...

With many technologies, if you develop one far enough the use of others can be diminished. For example, many individual tech markets like portable music players, camera's, watches and so on have all had hits due to the wide success of the smartphone.

Similarly if one has access to large numbers of semi-intelligent robots, what would be the point in continuing to develop 3d printing, self-driving cars, more labour efficient industry etc?

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I'd say that a sudden abundance of easily available food and energy would lead society to a state of wandering. If at that moment a charismatic leader appears, he could bring all people onto one grand idea.

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I think its best to understand why technologies are created. 3 main reasons, arguably 2

1.) Easy Access to Food (farming, cultivation, processing etc..) 2.) War- easier to kill others and take their food and resources

Arguably 3 3.) Laziness - ie making jobs we don't like doing easier

Focus on one of these things.

Example Food: Interstellar Movie- extra galactic travel in search of food because of the blight.

Example War: Live Die Repeat (day after tommorrow) movie- mechanized combat suits given to infantry to fight alien invaders and actually have a chance at killing them.

Example Lazy: as mentioned earlier the iPhone giving people immediate access to the internet and essentially computers in our pocket. But this can be further evaluated based on the invention of the internet which is a communication invention and used for purposes of war...

So the initial reason for inventions can have ripple effects on society technology later on which leads to this laziness.

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