The butterfly effect of technology

An idea. Technology doesn’t progress in the same sequence in Motherland as in real life.

People in real life often take for granted that technology progresses as it currently does. Many feel it as this inevitable thing but I disagree. without specific people with specific ideas, specific inventions would never have come along at the same time, and they never would have influenced others in the same way. There is no reason something like the compass couldn’t have been invented centuries earlier or later than when it was. The vast majority of people only know about inventions because they are already known and recorded. Say the concept of global magnetism was never discovered. Do you think you could invent a compass single-handedly without ever seeing one before or knowing the mechanism of its function? I never would. I only know about it because someone told me, who was told by someone else, who some where back in the depths of time was discovered by some sharp (and perhaps a bit lucky) individual who caught something that everyone else missed. I think that’s incredible.

As far as we know, the world population didn’t even hit 1 billion until the 19th century. We have septupled in population in just over a hundred years. Some estimates place the entire world population at 1000AD around the current population of the United States. Think how much more rapidly group knowledge and learning occur in the current environment compared to the days when cities of 30,000 were considered massive. I don’t think we’re smarter now than we were in the past, we just have more access to the knowledge of people before us to build on.

When it comes to technology as related to different eras, I see the same pattern constantly – especially from european-influenced works – history is inevitably shown as going from: ancient -> classical -> medieval -> renaissance/neoclassical -> industrial -> modern -> future. This is hardly the only way it could have gone (and it only represents the sequence in a small corner of the world anyway). I want to play with this concept a lot in the comic. Not to mention the Motherland world is not earth – different wildlife, climate, seasons, chemistry, etc. This changes a lot. I threw around an idea that fire is either nonexistent or difficult to create due to the atmosphere composition. Just imagine life on earth if fire wasn’t a thing. Apart from the obvious like heat and cooking, imagine trying to forge metal without fire. No metal means no tools, and much later down the line no industrial revolution. Coal and oil would be useless commodities. But what if electricity was discovered early? Lack of fire would mean coal generators to power the current wouldn’t be viable, leaving hydroelectric generation as the primary source. Maritime nations having access to electricity while neighboring regions without river or sea access would drastically change the balance of power practically overnight. The butterfly effect can be extremely pronounced with even minor changes.

Obviously the effects are different in the Motherland world, but just think about it as an example. Who is to say some bright individual wouldn’t come up with an alternative to fire that no one had ever thought of? What if a unique chemical compound from alien fauna not found on earth combusts without access to oxygen? What if the planet has ready access to geothermal power? Tons of possible ideas and solutions. Just because something wasn’t done in real life doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done. What if the cure to cancer is the one mundane compound everyone overlooked? What if the secret to time travel is peanut butter? How would you know?

Humanity is much more naive about the world than it likes to think. I’m okay with that.