In any society, improved knowledge and understanding of the world around us, can help 'improve' our way of life. It can also lead to chaos and conflict if not implemented properly/fairly etc.
If we were to wake up tomorrow and find a hidden cache of 'higher' knowledge how fast could changes be made without leading to chaos and strife by those who feel they were sidelined?
When looking at 'failed' attempts to upgrade the level of society one of things historians, and economists, political advisors etc, note is that they tried to do too much too quickly, and/or that a small group of people controlled the distribution of this knowledge and became immensely rich (and corrupt) off it!
Is there some sort of established/agreed on theoretical rate or method for stable civilisation upgrade? Or is it too dependant on the existing societies make-up?
I have a feeling that many people will hoard the knowledge so as to have more power over others. They will throw barriers in the way of any attempts to improve the bottom rung of society etc. Major Religious institutes and other interested parties won't want a change in the status quo.
Pretty much I want to determine how fast I can get my benevolent ruler of a large empire to introduce changes (based on a hidden cache of lost knowledge that is superior to our own current level) that will improve society without leading to civil war and the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. How fast can a society /civilisation level be upgraded? I have a particular scenario in mind, but it is not completely fixed yet so I am still interested in any other broad theoretical aspects that I might be able to incorporate into my world. You can read on for my scenario or real life 'failed' examples. Hopefully the scenario edit will help narrow down the scope of this question.
This benevolent ruler supposedly has total power through both marriage and blood and a little bit of superstition (and winning a civil war to get the throne). They can implement any reforms or changes in law they wish. The nobles might not like losing their 'power' but have to go ahead with the reforms for fear of losing their land, riches and titles etc.
My world has several empires. In the Empire in question, absolute rule is held by an Emperor and his immediate family as well as a noble class. They are supported by a Janissary style military arm as well as more traditional army. As with the Janissaries of history the nobles have seen the pro's of being a member and have weakened the system by promoting on status rather than merit. The general population is a mix of slaves, freedman (not a lot of those), tradesman and merchant families etc. I'd hazard a guess that the technology level is late middle-ages to early renaissance.
All land is property of the Emperor, who gives it out to who he sees fit shortly after their ascension to power. Typically noble families keep their lands over several generations and most consider the whole relinquishing of land and titles to the throne a mere formality. There is no one major religion (or if there is I haven't come up with it yet) but there are several belief systems - the janissary belief system being the most prominent. Magic doesn't exist, only in the mind of the superstitious.
This being a made up world, we have several deposits of hidden/lost knowledge from a lost space-faring age. One of these deposits is a library accessible to any who wish, but it's kind isolated and tricky to get to so not a lot of people visit. On the plus side this has stopped book burning through the centuries! Knowledge of exactly what is included in this library has even been lost so not even the librarian's know just how informative it can be!
Another deposit is reached through a single user interface that has for centuries been locked (to stop the possible misuse of such information). It can only be accessed by a select few, so sharing the knowledge will take time but can be controlled. All the knowledge is information - very few working technological devices and no real blueprints on how to make things more like the theories behind it. This knowledge also includes a record of all of human history (up until it was lost) so hopefully whoever uses the interface will be able to learn from past mistakes.
My empire and neighbouring countries have just come out of a devastating civil war and a new leader has emerged. They have the complete support of the remaining janissaries, and most nobles support them for various reasons. They are popular with the some of the general population - they also just outlawed and freed all the slaves (that opens up a whole different level of complexity so for now just go with popular with a vast majority of lower class subjects). Enter my benevolent ruler! (wow, just writing this makes me realise how cliché it all is)
Now my benevolent ruler is aware of this lost knowledge and most importantly wants to change the world for the better. They have a handy summary of how things can go wrong if they push to fast or too hard. They also have the support of the other library deposit and they will help with spreading 'the word' like missionaries. So this leader is hoping to learn from the mistakes of their ancestors and skip several cultural revolutions that resulted in the rich hoarding all the power, the poor getting angry and frustrated and several head chopping incidents that can ensue. They know they can't change things overnight and are planning are several phases of 'development' to build on the foundation of the previous phase. The leader is prepared for this to be a multi-generational project but would really like to see, at least some, successful end results before they die!
There have been several previous leaders who have tried to reform and bring some advancements to the way things are done. Some of these ideas have stuck around, and some have been squashed once the leader was no longer around to reinforce them. So a lot of people are aware that there is another way of doing things and after this civil war they just survived a lot of them are receptive to trying another way!
In the rebuilding after the war, my leader can make many reforms to change the way people are promoted based on merit, re-educating the nobles who didn't support them, re-educating the uneducated masses, pretty much re-educating the world and generally just being a kickass leader. sidebar - re-educating - NOT in the Russian or Chinese revolutionary way of thinking
How fast can they drag the people from the backwards way they live to a more enlightened era? Are there some set steps or methods that might avoid most of the pitfalls? I'm hoping that any changes my leader make are not negated the moment they die! I'm thinking that my leader can use the chaos of post war to slip in a few amendments that the typical snobby noble won't like. By the time these nobles notice they can't do much without losing what power they still have.
And the leader can show the nobles real life examples of what will happen if they don't upgrade and what will happen if they upgrade in such a way that the elite few keep the power. Show the benefits of improving agriculture returns etc etc.
Real life 'failed' examples:
After the Chinese Emperor decided he, or his predecessor, had lost the mandate of heaven (major fire in one of the major palaces, might have been the forbiddon city, among other things) he stopped the Chinese expansion and exploration of the world, closed off the borders and isolated the Chinese Empire for the next few centuries. Then when the European nations 'advanced' there was a clash when the two met. Different ideologies and different 'level' of society. China has since undergone a rapid expansion but has been ruled in a very strict authoritarian manner. While China may have mega cities and major transport networks etc, I am under the impression that a vast majority of everyday people are still poor, and while not technically uneducated they don't have the greatest of life's.
Genghis Khan was originally from a tribal nomadic way of life. Once Genghis united the clans of the steppe he defeated the Chinese Empire. This was an Empire that was for all intents and purposes more 'advanced' than the horse tribes. Genghis incorporated most knowledge and technology into his 'empire' and the everyday life of the average person was greatly improved (if they survived the initial invasion and mass killings). As soon as he died the empire disintegrated over squabbles between his sons and leading generals as to who should lead (the same can be said for Alexandra the Great).
A more recent example which has for all intents and purposes failed, or at least not taken off with a flying start, is post apartheid South Africa. A small minority of people held power over a small population of white European descendants and a much larger indigenous population. Amongst other horrendous things, the Apartheid government restricted access to education to the average everyday person of any other colour except white. When the ANC took power, they promised to reform the system and redistribute the balance of power. In twenty years, rural schools are still majorly underfunded and understaffed. Every year there are incidents where schools have not received the school books for the year. And yet the government can afford to pay ZAR4billion for a private plane! The power has essentially transferred from the elite white nationalist party to the elite black african national party leaving the poor just as marginalised as before. To be fair this is an on-going situation and people are working on correcting the system...but I'd like to avoid this situation in my imaginary world.
Apologies if this is a duplicate question. I couldn't find anything but will happily be pointed in the right direction.