Recently i've read Worldbuilding by Stephen Gillett and one thing that struck me was that for one reason of another many of the alien worlds lacked the resources needed for metallurgy. However, the book also mentioned how crystals would be common on at least a couple of these worlds which made me start thinking. Could a advanced species develop on a acidic world (even with less energy available) that instead of using metals, uses crystals, clays some other material in the place of iron/copper and has to advance on very different lines from humans with their steel and silicon chips or those other aliens with their calcium rich bioships and moldy circuitry?
Crystals and clays according to the book would be in abundance on the acidic worlds (which is a generalization- the author goes through nitrogen-oxygen worlds, worlds with chlorine rich atmospheres where plastics instead of cellulose is used for wood and sulfur rich worlds, all of these worlds he concludes would lack in iron/copper. Therefore leaving any civilization that develops on a acidic world with chlorine or sulfur all over the place 'In the stone age'. I am skeptical of this simply because is metallurgy really the end-all be-all to even consider technological civilizations? It seems like it is on Earth, but that's more or less because metals are attainable and iron is easily available. But on another world where that's not the case could some other technological base exist and could it still be possible to make a advanced civilization through some alternative form of conductors?
Crystals and clays to my knowledge both have diverse applications, but is it possible for them to fill similiarish technological niches seen in the modern world at least in the fields of automation of labor and/or computing?