Fantasy Economies That Work [was: Pernese drudges]

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Timothy Burke

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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Here's what I've been thinking about as I read the thread on Pern's
drudges. Most of the replies go something like this,

"Well, sure, some drudges have options..." [Me: Such as?]

"No, Pern isn't as elitist as it looks..." [Like most fantasy novels, it's
told from the perspective of the elite, which makes it easy to overlook
just how exalted their status actually is...]

"The genetic lines of the Lord Holders need to be preserved for potential
psionic skills..." [I'd like to see the specific genetic line that could
be held true for 2500 years without insanely rigorous rules governing
reproduction--and those aren't in play here, since the Lord Holders are
frequently said to have bastard children and seem to rut with commoners
without any fear of the consequences...]

"The possibility of being a dragonrider is what makes the system
egalitarian..." [Until F'lar's time, we're told, Searches weren't
conducted among the rank-and-file of the Holds except for queen
candidates, and we're told that by and large recruitment still takes place
from within the Weyr.]

"It's good that Pern isn't a perfect world, it makes it more realistic..."
[if in fact it were realistic, I would agree...]

"The headwomen like Manora seem very happy, have privileges and are
well-liked..." [the existence of house slaves doesn't mean that there
isn't slavery]

"It's a war economy, so people are used to privations..." [more on this below]

Etcetera. Now, much of this just won't wash. As with a lot of
sword-and-sorcery stuff, Pern is basically a world where the real work of
the society in question is done largely off-stage by compliant
serfs/drudges/slaves who rarely challenge their status in society (unless
they are nobles in disguise, aka Lessa). In order for the society we see
in McCaffrey's books to work, the vast majority of Pernese must either be
farmers (somebody's raising all those animals that the dragons eat) or
drudge-like subordinates in the crafthalls, weyrs and holds. The Pernese
ruling classes don't seem to have to do *anything* in order to keep these
folks in line: some of the marginalized may pursue the "outcast" option,
and in F'lar's time, some social tension is obviously being bled off by
the recolonization of the Southern Continent. But up to that point, for
1500 years or more, we get no sense that there has ever been substantial
social unrest, rebellion, protest or whatever. And it won't do to explain
this in terms of Pern being on a permanent war footing--many of Europe's
most devastating peasant uprisings in the medieval era took place during
or in proximity to warfare. People will not indefinitely tolerate massive
social injustice even if protest means that their society becomes
vulnerable to an external threat.

Some fantasy novels solve the problem of a large servile class by making
them into some non-human "race" that "naturally" obeys the elites or the
Evil Overlord, aka "orcs". That's a little better than just saying "well,
these drudges like being drudges and the nice dragonriders keep saving
them from the nasty Thread, so there." But it's still not hugely
satisfactory.

So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
realistic economy? Realistic in that it has a huge servile class who
behave like a servile class--e.g., they have to be kept ground under heel
by the elites (including, possibly, the heroes) in order to remain servile
or better yet, they are in a state of potential rebellion? Or realistic in
that it comes up with an alternative model of economic production that
allows large numbers of healthy people in chainmail to go galloping around
the countryside whacking evil spawn upside the head with a bastard sword?
(say, laboring golems, or food and goods that are produced by magic,
etcetera.)

Brenda and Larry Clough

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
to Timothy Burke

Timothy Burke wrote:
> So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
> sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
> realistic economy? Realistic in that it has a huge servile class who
> behave like a servile class--e.g., they have to be kept ground under heel
> by the elites (including, possibly, the heroes) in order to remain servile
> or better yet, they are in a state of potential rebellion? Or realistic in
> that it comes up with an alternative model of economic production that
> allows large numbers of healthy people in chainmail to go galloping around
> the countryside whacking evil spawn upside the head with a bastard sword?
> (say, laboring golems, or food and goods that are produced by magic,
> etcetera.)

The problem with economic underpinnings is that they're boring. Nowhere
near as exciting as beheading foes with broadswords, or flying dragons
to fight Thread. Therefore, in just about every fantasy you can think
of, all the boring work of maintaining the economy takes place off
stage. For instance, it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that
somewhere on Pern, somewhere where the books aren't taking place, the
peasants are in revolt or a native-born Faraday has harnessed dragon
power to run spinning mills. We just never see them. Likewise, I'm
sure that Sauron can't be as inefficient an empire-runner as he looks.
Somewhere offstage his peasants are working hard at an efficient and
sensible farming operation which supplies the food and fuel for the rest
of the empire. Someplace in the Empire the Imperial Storm Troopers are
guarding shipments of grain rather than ineffectually firing blasters at
Luke and Leia. The fact that we never see them doesn't mean they don't
exist.

Brenda


--
Brenda W. Clough, author of HOW LIKE A GOD from Tor Books
<clo...@erols.com> http://www.sff.net/people/Brenda

Jo Walton

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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In article <tburke1-0203...@d119.trotter.swarthmore.edu>
tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu "Timothy Burke" writes:

> So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
> sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
> realistic economy? Realistic in that it has a huge servile class who
> behave like a servile class--e.g., they have to be kept ground under heel
> by the elites (including, possibly, the heroes) in order to remain servile
> or better yet, they are in a state of potential rebellion? Or realistic in
> that it comes up with an alternative model of economic production that
> allows large numbers of healthy people in chainmail to go galloping around
> the countryside whacking evil spawn upside the head with a bastard sword?
> (say, laboring golems, or food and goods that are produced by magic,
> etcetera.)

Barbara Hambly. Different economic structures in different books, but
the way she puts societies together so they resemble things from
plausibly real history and then manages to run adventures against them
is one of the reasons I keep reading her stuff.

C.J. Cherryh's :The Chronicles of Morgaine:.

Samuel R. Delany's :Neveryon: series.

George R.R. Martin's :A Game of Thrones:.

--
Jo - - I kissed a kif at Kefk - - J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk - Blood of Kings Poetry; rasfw FAQ;
Reviews; Interstichia; Momentum - a paying market for real poetry.


Aviva Rothschild

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu,News writes:
>So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
>sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to
>have a
>realistic economy? Realistic in that it has a huge servile class who
>behave like a servile class--e.g., they have to be kept ground under
>heel
>by the elites (including, possibly, the heroes) in order to remain
>servile
>or better yet, they are in a state of potential rebellion? Or realistic
>in
>that it comes up with an alternative model of economic production that
>allows large numbers of healthy people in chainmail to go galloping
>around
>the countryside whacking evil spawn upside the head with a bastard
>sword?
>(say, laboring golems, or food and goods that are produced by magic,
>etcetera.)

I don't know if this counts, but Paula Volsky's _Illusion_ focuses
largely on the inequality between the Exalted class and the
commoners/serfs, who get thoroughly fed up with being leeched off of,
and rise up and crush the Exalted. Unfortunately for the serfs, many of
them refuse to work in the fields once they're free, and their lives
become even more miserable. This is not to say that the rebellion is
portrayed as a Bad Thing, just that some of the serfs seemed not to
connect their actions in the fields with survival.

Aviva

RobXXVIII

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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In article <tburke1-0203...@d119.trotter.swarthmore.edu>,
tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu (Timothy Burke) writes:

>
>So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
>sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
>realistic economy? Realistic in that it has a huge servile class who
>behave like a servile class--e.g., they have to be kept ground under heel
>by the elites (including, possibly, the heroes) in order to remain servile
>or better yet, they are in a state of potential rebellion? Or realistic in
>that it comes up with an alternative model of economic production that
>allows large numbers of healthy people in chainmail to go galloping around
>the countryside whacking evil spawn upside the head with a bastard sword?
>(say, laboring golems, or food and goods that are produced by magic,
>etcetera.)
>
>

Wurtz's mistwraith series has had a successful merchants revolt
in its recent past. All the nobles were exiled and the town mayors
took over. Green's Haven series takes place in a constitutional
monarchy with a opposition reform party. Hambly too has
some sensible economics in her series.

However your definition of realism is questionable.
Peasants revolts do occur, but they are rare and
cover a limited area. With many authors we wouldn't
even know if there had been one 10 years before
the story's present nor would it affect the plot.

Evil overlords have no problems because their hordes
have normally been bred for the purpose or created
from scratch to be ideal slaves.

Revolts are only a problem when the elite makes
unreasonable demands, such as tax rises to
pay for a war, or levying the same tax during
a famine. People need a reason to rebel, if
things are as they have always been most
people will stay quiet. Rebellion could improve
their position but it could also kill them, most of
the time it isn't worth it. If the centre is divided
by civil war or destroyed by invasion then people
may also take those opportunities, and religous
movements can make people much more daring.

Most fantasy has no religious movements without
the god's approval eliminating that cause.
In most of them the heroes come from a stable
country with no famine or plague where taxes have
not changed in living memory. This leaves no cause
for a rebellion. This doesn't cover all fantasy
but in many cases there has been no plausible
spark for rebellion and therefore no need for the
nobles to worry about it.

Robert

Julie Stampnitzky

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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Elizabeth Moon's _Surrender None: the Legacy of Gird_ is a marvelous book
in which the peasants decide they've had enough and revolt agaist the
noble overlords.
--
Julie Stampnitzky Keeper, http://neskaya.darkover.org


Erich Schneider

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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Brenda and Larry Clough <clo...@erols.com> writes:

> Likewise, I'm
> sure that Sauron can't be as inefficient an empire-runner as he looks.
> Somewhere offstage his peasants are working hard at an efficient and
> sensible farming operation which supplies the food and fuel for the rest
> of the empire.

Yep, in fact, this is mentioned somewhere in _LotR_; Sauron has vast
legions of human slave-farmers in Nurn, the south of Mordor, growing
food for his orcish armies. After the war Aragorn grants them
self-government over that land.

(Tolkien left out few details, no matter how boring...)

--
Erich Schneider er...@csdl.tamu.edu http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/~erich

Fevra

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu (Timothy Burke) wrote:
>>So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have
a
realistic economy?<<

Um...William Horwood's _Duncton Wood_? Everyone mole find your own
worms? :)
<looks around hopefully for support>
--Fevra

"When Vulcans wish one another 'Live long and prosper'--the *humans* say
'Have a nice *day*! '"
--Saavik (The Pandora Principle)

Pat O'Connell

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
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Bernard Yeh wrote:

>
> Timothy Burke <tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu> wrote:
>
> : So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
> : sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
> : realistic economy?

Well, at least in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, there seems to
be a fairly realistic pre-industrial trade driven economy,complete
with wars fought over resources and money (as well as Good and Evil).
See below.
>
> A similar gripe that I have is fantasy worlds that have stayed at roughly
> the same level of technological and social development (eg feudal society/
> medieval tech) for *millenia*. Seriously, how does innovation stop
> when steel weapons and plate armor becomes commonplace among the ruling
> clases? Although, conceivably, it is probably much easier to
> stop social progress, given strict control of communication among
> the lower classes, but what ruler wouldn't want to fund some level
> of R&D, in order to gain a technological edge over his rivals?
> Magic may stunt technological progress in some worlds, but given
> that most worlds that I've read have controlled magic being rare or
> expensive, magic should hardly have an effect on technological progress.

In the Wheel of Time there is a technological "Age of Legends," where
the technology was created by a combination of science, and magic
("channeling" the True Source). There was a loss of the sciences and
much of the magic when The Bore into the Dark One's prison was opened,
a great war ensued, and the male half of channelers were driven mad by
a taint on male channeling while closing The Bore. The maddened male
channelers literally rearranged the continents of the world, called
The Breaking.

Jordan alludes to years of war of those "in the Light" against the
Dark One's servants and fell creatures, with the destruction of much
of civilization in the process. Civilization rose and fell several
times during the intervening time, somtimes because of The Dark,
sometimes because of wars among "the good guys" for territory or
money.

The characters in the books are now in a pre-industrial age nearly
3000 years later, where only women can safely channel and not be
severed from The True Source like any male channeler would be. There
are scientists about, trying to develop technology that doesn't rely
on magic--a spyglass, for instance, catapults, and fireworks. Guns and
such haven't been figured out--yet.

> Also, most fantasy worlds never seem to lack a class of scholars of
> some sort (whether religiously or temporally supported). What the
> heck are they doing when the aren't giving advice to the heroes
> of the saga, hmm?

In the Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai meddle in other governments, and
pull in the gold because their home city is also a major river port.
The hero of the story, a young man who can channel, is trying to
establish a technological school and research institute, but loses his
best researcher to one of the Dark One's creatures.

> So, is there any fantasy works out there that deal with technological
> or social progress in a reasonable time scale, either as background,
> or as a theme of the work? Or at least something that explains why
> technological and scientific progress has stopped.

Actually, in the Wheel of Time, there has been a slow loss of magical
knowledge and magical power (genetics is hinted to be the reason), and
technology has slowly become more important, until the era told about
in the books when a group of strong magic wielders for The Light,
female and male, are drawn toward a Final Battle with the Dark One and
his Forsaken.

Jordan really seems to have thought much of his world out well.
--
Pat O'Connell
Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but footprints,
Kill nothing but vandals...

Robert A. Woodward

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Mar 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/2/98
to

In article <tburke1-0203...@d119.trotter.swarthmore.edu>,
tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu (Timothy Burke) wrote:

> Here's what I've been thinking about as I read the thread on Pern's
> drudges. Most of the replies go something like this,
>
> "Well, sure, some drudges have options..." [Me: Such as?]
>
> "No, Pern isn't as elitist as it looks..." [Like most fantasy novels, it's
> told from the perspective of the elite, which makes it easy to overlook
> just how exalted their status actually is...]
>
> "The genetic lines of the Lord Holders need to be preserved for potential
> psionic skills..." [I'd like to see the specific genetic line that could
> be held true for 2500 years without insanely rigorous rules governing
> reproduction--and those aren't in play here, since the Lord Holders are
> frequently said to have bastard children and seem to rut with commoners
> without any fear of the consequences...]
>

That original quote was silly; it was only the Ruatha blood line that
regularly produced great queenriders (and because of a lot of crosses back
to the weyrs). If I remember the opening chapters of _Dragonflight_
correctly, F'lar was looking at crafters as well as holders for candidates
(but took none, because he wanted to find a VERY promising candidate).

<snip>

--
rawoo...@aol.com
robe...@halcyon.com
cjp...@prodigy.com

Bernard Yeh

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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Timothy Burke <tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu> wrote:

: So what I'm wondering is, can anyone think of a fantasy series, whether
: sci-fantasy or sword&sorcery fantasy, in which the society seems to have a
: realistic economy?

A similar gripe that I have is fantasy worlds that have stayed at roughly


the same level of technological and social development (eg feudal society/
medieval tech) for *millenia*. Seriously, how does innovation stop
when steel weapons and plate armor becomes commonplace among the ruling
clases? Although, conceivably, it is probably much easier to
stop social progress, given strict control of communication among
the lower classes, but what ruler wouldn't want to fund some level
of R&D, in order to gain a technological edge over his rivals?
Magic may stunt technological progress in some worlds, but given
that most worlds that I've read have controlled magic being rare or
expensive, magic should hardly have an effect on technological progress.

Also, most fantasy worlds never seem to lack a class of scholars of
some sort (whether religiously or temporally supported). What the
heck are they doing when the aren't giving advice to the heroes
of the saga, hmm?

So, is there any fantasy works out there that deal with technological


or social progress in a reasonable time scale, either as background,
or as a theme of the work? Or at least something that explains why
technological and scientific progress has stopped.

Yeah, a know Pern had something of a tech renaissance, but even
after the chaos of the first threadfall and subsequent regression
(I haven't read Dragonsdawn), there would have been some impetus
to rediscover technology faster, I would think. What the heck
were they doing in the 200-year periods between threadfalls?

Most other fantasy (that I've read) seem to be in millenia-long tech
stasis: Tolkien, Feist, Eddings, Hobb, Martin. Brooks has token mention
of progess in his Shannara stuff, but note nothing has effectively changed
in the 600? years between the two series...

--
Bernard Yeh
by...@tsoft.net


Joshua Jasper

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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In article <34fb6...@news.tsoft.net>, Bernard Yeh <by...@tsoft.com> wrote:
>Timothy Burke <tbu...@cc.swarthmore.edu> wrote:
[snip]

>
>Most other fantasy (that I've read) seem to be in millenia-long tech
>stasis: Tolkien, Feist, Eddings, Hobb, Martin. Brooks has token mention
>of progess in his Shannara stuff, but note nothing has effectively changed
>in the 600? years between the two series...
>
Misty Lackey has had tech progress in her Valdemar books. I've
never heard her go into weapons tech, which is something superceded by
mages. The "Big Empire" lasting for millenia seemed to have magic up to
the tech level of just post industrial (before magic collapsed). L.W.
Evans mentions technologists in his later Ethshar books. It'd be scary
to imagine a world where magic and tech progressed in synch and were used
in tandem (not like Anthony's _Incarnations Of Immortalty_, where it's an
either/or proposition, you use magic OR tech).

Sinboy


Charles Meigh

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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Maybe we are not considering the wholly different nature of the fantasy
world. They are usually created by a god or gods and the whole
underlying presupposition that there is evolution and progression in a
biological or social sense may be an anathema. Are fantasy writers
largely creationists, but worry people will laugh at them if they say
they like Genesis?

Consider the effect also of pestilence and warfare; if we do have
progressive technology, then a few bitter wars and a plague or two will
'reset the clock'. Had Rome not fallen, and no Dark Ages ensued where
would we be now?

Bernard Yeh wrote:
>
> A similar gripe that I have is fantasy worlds that have stayed at roughly
> the same level of technological and social development (eg feudal society/
> medieval tech) for *millenia*. Seriously, how does innovation stop
> when steel weapons and plate armor becomes commonplace among the ruling

I wonder if it depends on the fantasy world discovering gunpowder or
not?
--
Charlie Meigh - charle...@diamond.co.uk

"It was 97 degrees in the city and no hope of improvement. Not bad if
you're a lizard. But two hours earlier I was drinking Acquavit with an
Eskimo lady in North East Alaska. That's a tough change to make. It
was so good, I didn't want to leave, so I left a day early."


Dan Goodman

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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In article <34FB7B4E...@diamond.co.uk>,

Charles Meigh <charle...@diamond.co.uk> wrote:
>Maybe we are not considering the wholly different nature of the fantasy
>world. They are usually created by a god or gods and the whole
>underlying presupposition that there is evolution and progression in a
>biological or social sense may be an anathema. Are fantasy writers
>largely creationists, but worry people will laugh at them if they say
>they like Genesis?
>
>Consider the effect also of pestilence and warfare; if we do have
>progressive technology, then a few bitter wars and a plague or two will
>'reset the clock'. Had Rome not fallen, and no Dark Ages ensued where
>would we be now?

Riding in oxcarts, if we were lucky. On horseback, if we were really
lucky.

The Dark Ages were a time of technological innovation -- compared to the
previous era. Mostly in the northern portions of Western Europe.

Note that the _eastern_ part of the Roman Empire didn't fall till much
later. So, why wasn't Byzantium (and its empire) more technologically
advanced than the north-west of Europe?
--
Dan Goodman
dsg...@visi.com
http://www.visi.com/~dsgood/index.html
Whatever you wish for me, may you have twice as much.

JoatSimeon

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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Note also that the timocratic elites which dominate most preindustrial culture
have a solid grounding in economics -- armor and training are -expensive-,
particularly relative to the low overall productivity.
-- S.M. Stirling

JoatSimeon

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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>Bernard Yeh

>the same level of technological and social development for *millenia*

-- perfectly credible, given real history. With the exception of the medieval
and post-medieval West, most of the planet has shown very, very slow
technological innovation since the neolithic.

Cycles of rise and fall within a fairly static economic-technological-social
setting are more typical; a flicker of political and cultural change over an
endless repetitious cycle of peasants and crops.

"Eating from the field I plowed;
Drinking from the well I dug;
Living in the house I built --
Emperors and wars, what are they to me?" -- as the poet put it.

And only two cultures in the whole of human history have come anywhere close to
a rationalist-scientific view of natural phenomena; Classical and Hellenistic
Greece (near miss) and us (hit, but it could have been otherwise).

Scientific and industrial revolutions are, IMHO, extremely low-probability
accidents.
-- S.M. Stirling

John Moreno

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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JoatSimeon <joats...@aol.com> wrote:

> >Bernard Yeh
>
> >the same level of technological and social development for *millenia*
>
> -- perfectly credible, given real history. With the exception of the medieval
> and post-medieval West, most of the planet has shown very, very slow
> technological innovation since the neolithic.
>

-snip-


>
> Scientific and industrial revolutions are, IMHO, extremely low-probability
> accidents.

Besides the Pernese model isn't static - it's a fairly slow
de-evolution. They slowly LOST technology over the millenia, probably do
to the fifty year wars they fought every two hundred years.

--
John Moreno
I am trying to convince the author of YA-NewsWatcher that the latest
version should be released to the public. He doesn't think there's much
interest in a new version. Help me prove him wrong. To do so, send me
mail <mailto:phe...@interpath.com> with a Subject of New YA. Comments
on what you like/dislike in the current version will be appreciated.

David Given

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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In article <34fb6...@news.tsoft.net>, Bernard Yeh <by...@tsoft.com> wrote:
[...]

>Most other fantasy (that I've read) seem to be in millenia-long tech
>stasis: Tolkien, Feist, Eddings, Hobb, Martin. Brooks has token mention
>of progess in his Shannara stuff, but note nothing has effectively changed
>in the 600? years between the two series...

The only fantasy series that I can think of off-hand that actually has
some technological development in is, believe it or not, Terry Pratchett's
Discworld books, particularly the later ones. There are always off-hand
mentions of newfangled things like lucifer matches, clockwork watches
(rather than ones with little daemons inside peddling furiously) and so
on. They even invented gunpowder once.

David Given
d...@freeyellow.com

Joshua Jasper

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
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In article <19980303060...@ladder03.news.aol.com>,

JoatSimeon <joats...@aol.com> wrote:
>>Bernard Yeh
>
>>the same level of technological and social development for *millenia*
>
>-- perfectly credible, given real history. With the exception of the medieval
>and post-medieval West, most of the planet has shown very, very slow
>technological innovation since the neolithic.
>
>Cycles of rise and fall within a fairly static economic-technological-social
>setting are more typical; a flicker of political and cultural change over an
>endless repetitious cycle of peasants and crops.
>
>"Eating from the field I plowed;
> Drinking from the well I dug;
> Living in the house I built --
> Emperors and wars, what are they to me?" -- as the poet put it.
>
>And only two cultures in the whole of human history have come anywhere close to
>a rationalist-scientific view of natural phenomena; Classical and Hellenistic
>Greece (near miss) and us (hit, but it could have been otherwise).

I think you downplay the scientific advances of the Middle
eastern Moslems a bit. A lot of data and methods were transported from
them to Europe. They may have not been entirely scientific-rational, but
the come close, as did the Helenistic Greeks. When contrasting
methodology with todays, they come closer to ours than the Greeks did.
They also filtered alot of the better data from the Chinese.

Sinboy

Charles Meigh

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
to

> >Consider the effect also of pestilence and warfare; if we do have
> >progressive technology, then a few bitter wars and a plague or two will
> >'reset the clock'. Had Rome not fallen, and no Dark Ages ensued where
> >would we be now?
>
> Riding in oxcarts, if we were lucky. On horseback, if we were really
> lucky.
>
> The Dark Ages were a time of technological innovation -- compared to the
> previous era. Mostly in the northern portions of Western Europe.
>
> Note that the _eastern_ part of the Roman Empire didn't fall till much
> later. So, why wasn't Byzantium (and its empire) more technologically
> advanced than the north-west of Europe?

Yes, I agree that the Dark Ages would be an era of innovation, it would
have to be considering the idea I postulate, of the fall of the Empire
resetting the clock. Suppose we had a Catasrophe (Day of the Triffids,
Postman etc.) now. Society, the infrastructure, breaks down and we
'reset' to a primitive agrarian economy with nothing even approaching
the size of a nation state in authority - maybe even reset to
hunter-gatherers. Now the rate of innovation would incredibly fast,
some of us would remember that Connections program about what inventions
where necessary for civilization and would probably set about making
ploughs and unsupported arches. In short there would be a memory of
what was lost and in some areas a desire to regain 'former glory' -
result massive innovation, but from year zero perspective.

What was lost was the infrastructure that allowed a greater
cross-fertilization of ideas, a slightly more successful education
system, probably more stable trade routes. All the dull intricacies of
the imperial economics would, I believe, have led to an environment that
would foster greater technolgical innovation earlier.

All the above is only MHO and idle speculation to boot :-)

Jerome Bigge

unread,
Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
to

On 3 Mar 1998 06:05:11 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:

>>Bernard Yeh
>
>>the same level of technological and social development for *millenia*
>
>-- perfectly credible, given real history. With the exception of the medieval
>and post-medieval West, most of the planet has shown very, very slow
>technological innovation since the neolithic.
>
>Cycles of rise and fall within a fairly static economic-technological-social
>setting are more typical; a flicker of political and cultural change over an
>endless repetitious cycle of peasants and crops.
>
>"Eating from the field I plowed;
> Drinking from the well I dug;
> Living in the house I built --
> Emperors and wars, what are they to me?" -- as the poet put it.
>
>And only two cultures in the whole of human history have come anywhere close to
>a rationalist-scientific view of natural phenomena; Classical and Hellenistic
>Greece (near miss) and us (hit, but it could have been otherwise).
>

>Scientific and industrial revolutions are, IMHO, extremely low-probability
>accidents.

>-- S.M. Stirling

You can also run into the problems that organized religions offer:
Certain types of scientific study tend to "threaten" the powers that be.
We have the same problem here in the "West" over cloning, over all
sorts of work with human genetics. Any major technological change
will produce both "losers" as well as "winners", and if those who feel
they will "lose" control enough power; your technological change does
NOT take place! A good example of this was Japan after the introduction
of firearms. The Japanese "establishment" (warlords and professional
warrior caste) simply "outlawed" the use of guns for everyone, returned
to the use of swords and bows, because they wanted it to be that way!
True, they eventually had to "modernize", but it wasn't until Perry in the
19th Century paid them a visit that they realized just what had happened.

We landed men on the Moon on July 20th, in the year 1969. After a few
more flights, we gave up. Cost too much for what we could learn from it.
So you might have technologies that can be "done", but the cost is just
too high for a democratic society to be willing to support them unless it
is in "competition" with a non-democratic society doing the same thing.
As the Russians seem to be pretty much "kaput", the US no longer has
the incentive to put a lot of money into space any more. And given the
anti-nuclear prejudices a lot of people have, you aren't likely to build
the sort of spacecraft that are necessary to do any serious work out
there in space. No nuclear-ion shuttle that you need to get from Earth
orbit out to Mars' orbit and so forth. There was even something of a
fuss over our launching of a probe that had a small nuclear power
source. So if you want a real space program, you really need to
have some sort of non-democratic government to allocate the $$,
and put the protesters in the concentration camps when they make
trouble for your space program. You really do need someone like
the Communists or say Stirling's "Draka" to get the ball rolling here...

(and back to the topic)

There are about three separate "technologies" that we could be doing
a lot more with, although one presents a lot of danger to a free society.
The first is bio-tech, cloning, genetic modifications, etc. The second is
developing the ability to rewrite our mental "software" by some means
of "electronic hypnosis". This is probably something too "dangerous"
to have at our present stage of social development however. Too easy
to establish a tyranny that would "program" people into total submission.
The third would be a combination of virtual reality and cybernetic feed-
back. You would be the "robot", the machine, or whatever is being used.
Might have some use in the nuclear power industry, although I think as
a military weapon it would be too easy to "jam" the device.

Jerome Bigge (jbi...@novagate.com) NRA Life Member

Author of the "WARLADY" series of SF fantasy novels.
And of the "alternative history" WARTIME series where
history was just a little bit "different" from our own!
Download them all at http://www.novagate.com/~jbigge

A bee gets "respect" because she has a "sting"...

Dan Goodman

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
to

In article <34FC658E...@diamond.co.uk>,

Charles Meigh <charle...@diamond.co.uk> wrote:
>> >Consider the effect also of pestilence and warfare; if we do have
>> >progressive technology, then a few bitter wars and a plague or two will
>> >'reset the clock'. Had Rome not fallen, and no Dark Ages ensued where
>> >would we be now?
>>
>> Riding in oxcarts, if we were lucky. On horseback, if we were really
>> lucky.
>>
>> The Dark Ages were a time of technological innovation -- compared to the
>> previous era. Mostly in the northern portions of Western Europe.
>>
>> Note that the _eastern_ part of the Roman Empire didn't fall till much
>> later. So, why wasn't Byzantium (and its empire) more technologically
>> advanced than the north-west of Europe?
>
>Yes, I agree that the Dark Ages would be an era of innovation, it would
>have to be considering the idea I postulate, of the fall of the Empire
>resetting the clock.

We seem not to be talking about quite the same thing.

What is called the "Dark Ages" in European history is a time of
technological advancement _beyond what the Roman Empire had_.

Not just catching up again with Rome's technological achievements. Not
just catching up with what the surviving part of the Roman Empire
(Byzantium and its possessions) had retained.

I maintain that if the Roman Empire had lasted, technological progress
would have been _retarded_. Slowed down considerably.

Suppose we had a Catasrophe (Day of the Triffids,
>Postman etc.) now. Society, the infrastructure, breaks down and we
>'reset' to a primitive agrarian economy with nothing even approaching
>the size of a nation state in authority - maybe even reset to
>hunter-gatherers. Now the rate of innovation would incredibly fast,
>some of us would remember that Connections program about what inventions
>where necessary for civilization and would probably set about making
>ploughs and unsupported arches. In short there would be a memory of
>what was lost and in some areas a desire to regain 'former glory' -
>result massive innovation, but from year zero perspective.
>
>What was lost was the infrastructure that allowed a greater
>cross-fertilization of ideas, a slightly more successful education
>system, probably more stable trade routes. All the dull intricacies of
>the imperial economics would, I believe, have led to an environment that
>would foster greater technolgical innovation earlier.

Then _why_ didn't it? Why didn't the Eastern Roman Empire advance beyond
the barbarians of Western Europe?

It seems to me that the evidence shows that a surviving Western Roman
Empire would have retarded progress.

Dan Goodman

unread,
Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
to

In article <6dhru4$nb$0...@205.138.137.44>,

Not quite what happened, from my reading of Noel Perrin's _Giving Up the
Gun_. Nobody outlawed guns, exactly. The central government _regulated_
the manufacture and use of guns, and gradually regulated them almost out
of existence. (Probably couldn't have been done in any country where a
large percentage of the population had taken up hunting with guns.) It
helped considerably that the warrior classes considered guns unesthetic,
etc. However -- so, though not to the same extent, did the knights of
western Europe. And Europe did not give up the gun.

David Joseph Greenbaum

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Mar 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/3/98
to

In a fit of divine composition, Joshua Jasper (sin...@netcom.com) inscribed in fleeting electrons:

: I think you downplay the scientific advances of the Middle

: eastern Moslems a bit. A lot of data and methods were transported from
: them to Europe.

To be even more full and fair, there is a very big difference between the
depth of scientific understanding and the variety of technical adoptions
in economies. Up through a century ago, and even later, the mass economy
of the middle east was at no higher level than it was twenty centuries ago.
And eroding the fertility of land, trapped in cultural stagnation, and
miserable.

: They may have not been entirely scientific-rational, but

: the come close, as did the Helenistic Greeks.

No, they didn't. Just like the Greeks, Islamic culture's intellectual
pursuits were fundamentally uneconomic.

: When contrasting

: methodology with todays, they come closer to ours than the Greeks did.
: They also filtered alot of the better data from the Chinese.

Then why not include the Chinese in the category of "cultures that
almost cracked the productivity problem" ? There's a iron mining and
smelting complex in Northern China that put out a million tons of
processed iron a year in the late eleventh century - why didn't the
primitive blast furnaces at Tientsin move China into th machine age?

Hint - production for consumption, rather than production for investment.
Lack of primogeniture probably didn't help.

Dave G.
--
Such fragrance -
from where,
which tree?

David Bofinger

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Erich Schneider wrote:

> [...] this is mentioned somewhere in _LotR_; Sauron has vast


> legions of human slave-farmers in Nurn, the south of Mordor, growing
> food for his orcish armies.

This could be argued to fit nicely with the Gondor = Byzantine Empire,
Orcs = Turks model of Lord of the Rings. If so, the orcs might not
do much farming of their own, an orcish economy in isolation might run
on herding. Depending on exactly which period Tolkien had in mind.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Bofinger
David.B...@dsto.defence.gov.au
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bernard Yeh

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

JoatSimeon <joats...@aol.com> wrote:
: >Bernard Yeh

: >the same level of technological and social development for *millenia*

: -- perfectly credible, given real history. With the exception of the medieval
: and post-medieval West, most of the planet has shown very, very slow
: technological innovation since the neolithic.

: Cycles of rise and fall within a fairly static economic-technological-social
: setting are more typical; a flicker of political and cultural change over an
: endless repetitious cycle of peasants and crops.

: "Eating from the field I plowed;
: Drinking from the well I dug;
: Living in the house I built --
: Emperors and wars, what are they to me?" -- as the poet put it.

I don't quite buy this. Most fantasy societies are well past the
hunter-gatherer/nomadic stage. Once a society as at a level
of agriculture and mutual defense to support a class of people
that no longer have to concern themselves with immediate day-to-day
survival, they can afford to spend time or resources on how to make
their lives better. At this point, the rate of technological
change should trend faster. By the time this society reaches the
point of towns that are more than overcrowded farming villages,
having a substantial merchant class driving trade to other towns
and cultures, the rate of change should start to change exponentially.

Of course, this assumes that this society *sometimes* lets
its free thinkers and their ideas alone. A conservative society that
values conformity might remain relatively static for centuries
(eg China or Japan before permanent contact with the West), but
even then, there is some progress in technology and knowledge,
albeit slowly.

It seems to me that most fantasy settings are at the towns and
trade level of development, but fail to explain convincingly
the social/cultural/external/fantastic forces keeping the society
in technological and scientific stasis. Especially those
superficially based on Medieval Western Europe.

: And only two cultures in the whole of human history have come anywhere close to


: a rationalist-scientific view of natural phenomena; Classical and Hellenistic
: Greece (near miss) and us (hit, but it could have been otherwise).

I don't think you need to have much of a Western rationalist-scientific
worldview in order to get technological progress. All that's
needed, IMHO, is an understanding of the cause-and-effect principal,
in order to achieve basic technologies. A caveman doesn't know why
striking two rocks together over some dry tinder will start a fire,
but he somehow figured out how to do it, and he knows the benefits
fire can bring. For all the caveman cares, it could be the tinder
is an offering to spirits embodied in the rock.

: Scientific and industrial revolutions are, IMHO, extremely low-probability
: accidents.

But notice that once the first revolution happens, subsequent revolutions
happen in shorter intervals. The main problem is getting that
first revolution: *agriculture*.

Also, after each revolution, the overall quality of life for a society
usually goes up, thus more people can spend more time achieving the
next low-probability "accident".

: -- S.M. Stirling

--
Bernard Yeh
by...@tsoft.com


JoatSimeon

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Europe didn't give up the gun because, among other reasons, the structure of
competing states made it impossible. Japan wasn't seriously threatened from
outside at the time and the Tokugawa Shoguns had established internal peace; it
could afford a sub-optimal technology.

Anyone in Europe who tried that would have been eaten alive by the neighbors.

NB: in social terms, guns didn't threaten the monarchies of Europe; they made
the absolute monarchs of the 18th century possible. It was the _aristocracies_
that were displaced by the rise of armies of disciplined musketeers, uniformed
and paid by the kings.

Early firearms weren't terribly effective as _individual_ weapons; a mob of
individuals with muskets were easy meat for cavalry. Muskets were real killers
when employed by large numbers of trained, drilled troops, though.
-- S.M. Stirling

JoatSimeon

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.

The ones that advanced were the ones which could be applied on a decentralized
scale -- stirrups, horse collars, the 3-field system, better plows, extensive
use of water power, and later positional arithmetic and double-entry
bookkeeping, and so forth.

If civilization were to break down now, we'd lose the technologies which
require large-scale organization and infrastructure. Unfortunately, that
includes almost everything developed since about 1830.
-- S.M. Stirling

Andrew C. Lannen

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:

>The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
>organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.

We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
decades, or even two years, ago.

--Andrew
--
Andrew C. Lannen and...@ix.netcom.com
"God cannot alter the past, that is why he is obliged to
connive at the existence of historians"--Samuel Butler

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Andrew C. Lannen (and...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
> On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:

> >The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
> >organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.

> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
> well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
> roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
> decades, or even two years, ago.

I don't think it's a question of *recovering* technology. We could make
roads out of stone. (They used stone, right? I'm not embarrassing
myself?)

We choose not to, for various reasons, all of which are money.

This will now devolve into an argument over how much road repair costs per
year, versus the cost of paving the US highway system in granite. Oy.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Jonathan Evans

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Jerome Bigge <jbi...@novagate.com> wrote:
>
>We have the same problem here in the "West" over cloning, over all
>sorts of work with human genetics.

You really don't think there are ethical issues regarding cloning and
genetic engineering that need to be resolved?

Read _Cyteen_ lately?

> Any major technological change
>will produce both "losers" as well as "winners"

Does this include medical care and advances in food supply?

>So you might have technologies that can be "done", but the cost is just
>too high for a democratic society to be willing to support them unless it
>is in "competition" with a non-democratic society doing the same thing.
>As the Russians seem to be pretty much "kaput", the US no longer has
>the incentive to put a lot of money into space any more.

Maybe you missed it, but communications satellites have become a major
industry, and any number of people are working on cutting
cost-to-orbit by a factor of 10.

Furthermore, the "why spend $75 billion on space exploration when we
can spend it on eliminating poverty?" question does demand a certain
amount of attention.

Jon


Bob Goudreau

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Andrew C. Lannen (and...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
: On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:

: >The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
: >organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.

: We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
: well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
: roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
: decades, or even two years, ago.

I'm not so sure that's a matter of "lost technology", but rather a
conscious cost/benefit tradeoff. You may argue about whether it's
the right tradeoff, but it's clear that modern paving technology
can produce pretty strong and smoothed paved surfaces (e.g., airport
runways) if you're willing to spend the money.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Bob Goudreau Data General Corporation
goud...@dg-rtp.dg.com 62 Alexander Drive
+1 919 248 6231 Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA

Nancy Lebovitz

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6djctp$1b1$1...@shell3.ba.best.com>,

Jonathan Evans <jeme...@shell3.ba.best.com> wrote:
>
>> Any major technological change
>>will produce both "losers" as well as "winners"
>
>Does this include medical care and advances in food supply?
>
Yes. There are people who've specialized in supplying things the
old way. Not all of them are going to do a good job of adapting
to a change.

What's more, if there's a big change in a society, the elites
are going to have a different status somehow. This will probably
annoy them.

You might not feel much sympathy for these groups (especially
the old elites), but they've definitely lost something.

--
Nancy Lebovitz (nan...@universe.digex.net)

November '97 calligraphic button catalogue available by email!


Kate Nepveu

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

David Given (dg@) wrote:

: In article <34fb6...@news.tsoft.net>, Bernard Yeh <by...@tsoft.com> wrote:
: [...]
: >Most other fantasy (that I've read) seem to be in millenia-long tech
: >stasis: Tolkien, Feist, Eddings, Hobb, Martin. Brooks has token mention
: >of progess in his Shannara stuff, but note nothing has effectively changed
: >in the 600? years between the two series...

: The only fantasy series that I can think of off-hand that actually has
: some technological development in is, believe it or not, Terry Pratchett's
: Discworld books, particularly the later ones. There are always off-hand

: mentions of newfangled things like lucifer matches, clockwork watches
: (rather than ones with little daemons inside peddling furiously) and so


: on. They even invented gunpowder once.

Pratchett has said that he wanted to explore a society held artifically on
the brink of industrial revolution, where all the trolls and dwarves and
things didn't fade away but stuck around and demanded their share of the
economic pie.

He also thinks about city-building starting with the question (IIRC),
"Where does the water come from?"

I have no idea how realistic his city is, but I think it's a lot of fun.

--
Kate http://www.concentric.net/~knepveu/index.html

It doesn't matter whether you believe in a guy with a white beard or not.
What matters is what you do when the fucking Nazgul come.
--Sean Stewart, on religion

Kate Nepveu

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Andrew Plotkin (erky...@netcom.com) wrote:

: Andrew C. Lannen (and...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:

: > We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
: > well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
: > roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
: > decades, or even two years, ago.

: I don't think it's a question of *recovering* technology. We could make

: roads out of stone. (They used stone, right? I'm not embarrassing
: myself?)

: We choose not to, for various reasons, all of which are money.

: This will now devolve into an argument over how much road repair costs per
: year, versus the cost of paving the US highway system in granite. Oy.

Ack. We don't want to do this, trust me--highway policy is one of the
most deadly issues known to humankind. Work in Congress during ISTEA
reauthorization and you'll find this out very quickly...

Beth and Richard Treitel

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

To my surprise and delight, Julie Stampnitzky <jsta...@ymail.yu.edu>
wrote:

>Elizabeth Moon's _Surrender None: the Legacy of Gird_ is a marvelous book
>in which the peasants decide they've had enough and revolt agaist the
>noble overlords.

Who turn out not to be so noble ... though explaining what they did to
stay on top would be something of a spoiler.

Connecting to another recent thread, ISTR that Gird dies at the end of
the book.

-- Richard
------
A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.
What is (and isn't) ScF? ==> http://www.wco.com/~treitel/sf.html

Mail from hotmail.com is ignored due to spamming.
I use PGP 2.6.2.

Beth and Richard Treitel

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

To my surprise and delight, Bernard Yeh <by...@tsoft.com> wrote:

>A similar gripe that I have is fantasy worlds that have stayed at roughly
>the same level of technological and social development (eg feudal society/
>medieval tech) for *millenia*.

Like ancient Egypt.

> Seriously, how does innovation stop
>when steel weapons and plate armor becomes commonplace among the ruling

>clases? Although, conceivably, it is probably much easier to
>stop social progress, given strict control of communication among
>the lower classes, but what ruler wouldn't want to fund some level
>of R&D, in order to gain a technological edge over his rivals?

What rivals? (Geography made Egypt pretty safe against invasion.)
I grant that fantasy worlds usually contain wars, just to pep up the
plot, but if the war is against some non-human entity whose advantage
does not stem from (and cannot be countered by) any technology that the
humans can understand or even imagine, there may seem to be no advantage
in improved tech.

The pace of technological progress has varied widely over the history of
the Earth, but it never stopped *everywhere* because the whole Earth was
never united into one culture. I've seen plenty of fantasy worlds that
have effectively only one culture, and so could be ruled by one ruling
class with (internal fights but) the same basic assumptions about what
was useful and what wasn't; they might well all agree that technology
wasn't useful.

David Given

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6djctp$1b1$1...@shell3.ba.best.com>,
Jonathan Evans <jeme...@shell3.ba.best.com> wrote:
[...]

>Furthermore, the "why spend $75 billion on space exploration when we
>can spend it on eliminating poverty?" question does demand a certain
>amount of attention.

Maybe so, but there's a simple answer --- that $75 billion wouldn't go far
towards eliminating poverty, but invested in space would produce
considerably higher returns. What do you want --- to help some people now,
or to help more people later?

David Given
d...@freeyellow.com


Elizabeth Moon

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Andrew C. Lannen wrote:
>
> On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:
>
> >The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
> >organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.
>
> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
> well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
> roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
> decades, or even two years, ago.
>
> --Andrew
> --
> Andrew C. Lannen and...@ix.netcom.com
> "God cannot alter the past, that is why he is obliged to
> connive at the existence of historians"--Samuel Butler

But are any of those Roman roads carrying the same kinds of traffic in
the same kind of climate? It is one thing to carry foot traffic and slow
wheeled vehicles (though the grooves worn in some Roman roads by their
wheeled traffic suggest that if it had continued, they'd be in pieces
now) and quite another to carry modern automobile/truck traffic.

Elizabeth
--
http://www.sff.net/people/Elizabeth.Moon

Jonathan Evans

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

David Given <dg@> wrote:
>>Furthermore, the "why spend $75 billion on space exploration when we
>>can spend it on eliminating poverty?" question does demand a certain
>>amount of attention.
>
>Maybe so, but there's a simple answer --- that $75 billion wouldn't go far
>towards eliminating poverty, but invested in space would produce
>considerably higher returns. What do you want --- to help some people now,
>or to help more people later?

I used that figure because the United Nations, according to the
Manchester Guardian a few weeks back, has estimated that it's the amount
needed to wipe abject poverty out planetwide.

Now, it's a dubious number, and I don't know what they mean by
"abject," but on the other hand, what exactly will investment in space
get you? I'm talking real, tangible benefits here, which have to be
weighed against children dying of eradicable diseases e.g. polio.

Jon


Jo Walton

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <2E_K.40$U75.1...@ptah.visi.com>
dsg...@visi.com "Dan Goodman" writes:

> Then _why_ didn't it? Why didn't the Eastern Roman Empire advance beyond
> the barbarians of Western Europe?
>
> It seems to me that the evidence shows that a surviving Western Roman
> Empire would have retarded progress.

I agree in general, but there were areas in which Byzantium was ahead.

In 1204 the Franks were amazed by the mechanical lions that beat their
tails and roared, birds that sang and throne that moved up and down.
This was way ahead of Western Europe.

Also note that the Eastern Empire got those horse collars and windmills
and better plows too - didn't develop them but started using them right
away, as surviving fragments of the Western Empire could have.

See Villehardouin's account of the Fourth Crusade for the description
of those mechanical things. Also note that some theories of the
Renaissance have it started by the books brought out into Italy at
the Fall of Constantinople.

--
Jo - - I kissed a kif at Kefk - - J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk - Blood of Kings Poetry; rasfw FAQ;
Reviews; Interstichia; Momentum - a paying market for real poetry.


Bill McHale

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Jonathan Evans (jeme...@shell3.ba.best.com) wrote:

Well I suspect that the UN is refering to for want of a better term could
be termed absolute poverty, i.e. people who are so poor that they have no
real prospect of meeting their minimum requirements for food and shelter.
This is someting that most people in the first world rarely experience,
for with the exception of the homeless (many of whom are on the streets
for reasons other than just poverty), even the poor are rather wealthy by
third world standards (they have a place to stay, eat at least one meal a
day, might even have tv, car, and other luxuries).

As for what the returns are from investment in space? Well just consider
that an extremely large percentage of of the wealth generated on this
planet in the last 30 years can be directly attributed to the results of
Space Exploration. The Telecommunications satellite, the modern
micro-processor based computer, industrial robots, light weight, low cost
construction material all were developed as a result of space research.
Further the possibilities of orbital factories being able to manufacture
materials and drugs which cannot be synthesized on Earth are very real.

Sure none of these things will directly stack up to the fact that their
are still children dying of hunger and diseases which we can treat. On
the other hand, it might create the surplus wealth necessary to end those
very things.

--
Bill

***************************************************************************
The main problem with my job is that they expect me to actually work.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Home page - http://www.gl.umbc.edu/~wmchal1
***************************************************************************

Jo Walton

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <34FDB3...@sff.net>
elizabe...@sff.net "Elizabeth Moon" writes:

> But are any of those Roman roads carrying the same kinds of traffic in
> the same kind of climate? It is one thing to carry foot traffic and slow
> wheeled vehicles (though the grooves worn in some Roman roads by their
> wheeled traffic suggest that if it had continued, they'd be in pieces
> now) and quite another to carry modern automobile/truck traffic.

Bits of them have been re-surfaced slightly and are part of the European
motorway network, including at least one bridge built in the time of
Claudius.

That was a _good_ road network.

If you're ever in Britain and you notice you're on a straight road it's
a pretty good assumption that it's a Roman road. Everyone else who's
ever invaded this island has gone in for curved roads, even now. (This
had the oddest effect on me in Canada, where all the roads are straight,
and, get this, meet at right angles. Wow.) Part of the A1 is a Roman
Road, and almost all of the A5 (which runs from Marble Arch in London
all the way to Holyhead on Mona/Ynys Mon/Anglesey) is Roman.

I don't know what you mean by "the same kind of climate" but there are
Roman roads in use today in Spain, France and Italy (which are warm in
summer) and Britain (which is damp all year with frosts in winter). There
aren't any in use in continental NorAm, regrettably, or we could make a
fair comparison.

K. Laisathit

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6dhpe3$d...@newsstand.cit.cornell.edu>,

David Joseph Greenbaum <dj...@cornell.edu> wrote:
>
>Then why not include the Chinese in the category of "cultures that
>almost cracked the productivity problem" ? There's a iron mining and
>smelting complex in Northern China that put out a million tons of
>processed iron a year in the late eleventh century - why didn't the
>primitive blast furnaces at Tientsin move China into th machine age?
>
>Hint - production for consumption, rather than production for investment.
>Lack of primogeniture probably didn't help.

Why? I have often wondered that myself. Apparently, bits and pieces
of advance technologies (for their time, that is) were scattered
in China throughout the centuries. Yet, the Chinese never managed
to put these innovations together and built a technological
empire before they were beaten by the late-comer Europeans.
Quite frankly, if you want to make a case for production for
consumption being bad, and production for investment being
good. Then, you have to also argue, why this is so?

Even if production for consumption is strictly 'inferior' to
production for investment, shouldn't the desire for ever
expanding consumption compels people who would otherwise
prefer to consume to invest instead? Look at the US as a
case in point. An epitome of consumerism, yet you can't
fault the US for not making sufficient investments.

Later...
--
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
K I R A T I L A I S A T H I T kir...@u.washington.edu

K. Laisathit

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6djoe7$c...@dg-rtp.dg.com>,
Bob Goudreau <goud...@dg-rtp.dg.com> wrote:
>
>: We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After

>: well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
>: roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
>: decades, or even two years, ago.
>
>I'm not so sure that's a matter of "lost technology", but rather a
>conscious cost/benefit tradeoff. You may argue about whether it's
>the right tradeoff, but it's clear that modern paving technology
>can produce pretty strong and smoothed paved surfaces (e.g., airport
>runways) if you're willing to spend the money.

Not even that. I doubt that Roman roads had to contend with
25-ton trucks running over them every 15 seconds or so. Then,
there is the weather. Freezing water under the road surface
does wonder if you're into a road repair business. ;-)
Then, there is the issue of riding comfort VS resistance to
wear. Asphalt provides for a relatively smooth ride, I bet
you that a stone road doesn't come close in this category.
The draw back? Asphalt surface is only good for a couple
of years.

Arthur Green

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Andrew C. Lannen wrote:
>
> On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:
>
> >The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
> >organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.
>
> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
> well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
> roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
> decades, or even two years, ago.
>
Speaking as a (retired) civil engineer, his is a bit of a misnomer:
Roman roads (a) in many cases have been somewhat buried for several
hundred years and (b) never had to sustain the axle loads which modern
roads have to carry (axle load is a good measure of how much damage a
vehicle will do to a road). In this country at least, semi-trailer
vehicles (known locally as artics or lurries) are carrying 40+ tons on 5
or 6 axles. I don't think Roman carts and chariots managed to do that.

Better examples of durable Roman remains are large structures like
aqueducts and amphitheatres. There's a lot to be said for using masonry
in a building which you want to keep standing ...

> --Andrew
> --
> Andrew C. Lannen and...@ix.netcom.com
> "God cannot alter the past, that is why he is obliged to
> connive at the existence of historians"--Samuel Butler

--

- Arthur Green
IONA Technologies Tel: +353 1 662 5255 Fax: +353 1 662 5244
E-mail: agr...@iona.com

Graydon

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6djctp$1b1$1...@shell3.ba.best.com>,
Jonathan Evans <jeme...@shell3.ba.best.com> wrote:
>Jerome Bigge <jbi...@novagate.com> wrote:
>>We have the same problem here in the "West" over cloning, over all
>>sorts of work with human genetics.
>
>You really don't think there are ethical issues regarding cloning and
>genetic engineering that need to be resolved?
>
>Read _Cyteen_ lately?

Well, in the last year.

_Cyteen_ is interesting becuase a technology - tape - quite distinct from
cloning.

>> Any major technological change
>>will produce both "losers" as well as "winners"
>
>Does this include medical care and advances in food supply?

Yes.

Take a look at the 'plight of the small farmer' and what happened to
Samelweiss. (sp?)

>Furthermore, the "why spend $75 billion on space exploration when we
>can spend it on eliminating poverty?" question does demand a certain
>amount of attention.

Poverty isn't a thing.

Next question?

--
goo...@interlog.com | "However many ways there may be of being alive, it
--> mail to Graydon | is certain that there are vastly more ways of being
dead." - Richard Dawkins, :The Blind Watchmaker:

RobXXVIII

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <6djsg6$i...@examiner.concentric.net>, Kne...@cris.com (Kate Nepveu)
writes:

>
>Pratchett has said that he wanted to explore a society held artifically on
>the brink of industrial revolution, where all the trolls and dwarves and
>things didn't fade away but stuck around and demanded their share of the
>economic pie.
>
>

He has said they know how to build printing presses, but
the wizards stop it, for sound magical reasons. The
wizards also suppressed film, and in combination with the
patrician probably anything else too dangerous.

Robert

Graydon

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:

>Andrew C. Lannen (and...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
>> On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:
>
>> >The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
>> >organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.
>
>> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
>> well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
>> roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
>> decades, or even two years, ago.
>
>I don't think it's a question of *recovering* technology. We could make
>roads out of stone. (They used stone, right? I'm not embarrassing
>myself?)

They used a stone wearing surface; the whole thing is what you might call
thick, and is dug down far enough not to heave.

We make better roads by any measure I can think of; roman roads with
anything like a modern divided highway's load crumble.

>We choose not to, for various reasons, all of which are money.

Well, not all money; think of traction on sawn granite cobbles, and the
vibration.

Charles Meigh

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

Sorry Dan, my server has missed your post, so please forgive me replying
'through' Jo's reply.

It may be that a surviving Western Empire would have carried on the
decline found in the history of the Eastern Empire. My point is that
as the Empire destabilises and fragments in to parts, (the mere fact
that the Empire split into two power blocs show that they were both in
decline) it loses the 'critical mass' of economic stability that would
have allowed sufficient technological innovation. That could have in
turn allowed the Empire to consolidate, expand and continue it's growth
technologically and imperially.

To give an example, suppose that all international trade suddenly stops
across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans tomorrow. The entire world
economy would nosedive into an almost irreversible decline. In some
areas of the world the level of technology would stop growing and may
even decline.

>
> In article <2E_K.40$U75.1...@ptah.visi.com>
> dsg...@visi.com "Dan Goodman" writes:
>
> > Then _why_ didn't it? Why didn't the Eastern Roman Empire advance beyond
> > the barbarians of Western Europe?
> >
> > It seems to me that the evidence shows that a surviving Western Roman
> > Empire would have retarded progress.


--
Charlie Meigh - charle...@diamond.co.uk

"It was 97 degrees in the city and no hope of improvement. Not bad if
you're a lizard. But two hours earlier I was drinking Acquavit with an
Eskimo lady in North East Alaska. That's a tough change to make. It
was so good, I didn't want to leave, so I left a day early."


Julie Stampnitzky

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

On Wed, 4 Mar 1998, Andrew C. Lannen wrote:
>
> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
> well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
> roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
> decades, or even two years, ago.

How much traffic is there on the Roman roads, compared to a highway?

--
Julie Stampnitzky Keeper, http://neskaya.darkover.org


Dan Goodman

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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98
to

In article <34FDD42B...@diamond.co.uk>,

Charles Meigh <charle...@diamond.co.uk> wrote:
>Sorry Dan, my server has missed your post, so please forgive me replying
>'through' Jo's reply.
>
>It may be that a surviving Western Empire would have carried on the
>decline found in the history of the Eastern Empire.

_What_ decline in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire? It was pushed
into a corner eventually, and then conquered. But to the best of my
knowledge, while it was in relatively good health, it did _not_ decline
technologically. It even advanced a bit. But it did not advance nearly
as much as the northwest of Europe.

My point is that
>as the Empire destabilises and fragments in to parts, (the mere fact
>that the Empire split into two power blocs show that they were both in
>decline) it loses the 'critical mass' of economic stability that would
>have allowed sufficient technological innovation. That could have in
>turn allowed the Empire to consolidate, expand and continue it's growth
>technologically and imperially.

And my point was: In real history, technology advanced much more after
the Western Roman Empire fell.

S.M. Stirling has pointed out that it was only technologies which could be
applied on a decentralized basis which advanced after the fall of Rome.
That the technologies such as roadbuilding which required central planning
and direction were lost.

>To give an example, suppose that all international trade suddenly stops
>across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans tomorrow. The entire world
>economy would nosedive into an almost irreversible decline. In some
>areas of the world the level of technology would stop growing and may
>even decline.

Southern Italy went into a decline after the fall of Rome. But it's
technologically far ahead of where it was under the Roman Empire. Why?
Mostly because of technology introduced from north of Italy: technology
refined in the northwest of Europe, introduced from elsewhere into that
part of Europe (a lot of it from China, I believe) and re-transmitted, or
invented there.
--
Dan Goodman
dsg...@visi.com
http://www.visi.com/~dsgood/index.html
Whatever you wish for me, may you have twice as much.

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

On Tue, 3 Mar 1998 03:31:28 GMT, sin...@netcom.com (Joshua Jasper)
wrote:

> L.W.
>Evans mentions technologists in his later Ethshar books. It'd be scary
>to imagine a world where magic and tech progressed in synch and were used
>in tandem (not like Anthony's _Incarnations Of Immortalty_, where it's an
>either/or proposition, you use magic OR tech).

Oh, Ethshar's even more complicated than it looks, but in fact it's
entirely possible to use magic and technology together there.

You'll note that the mention of technologists is (I think; correct me
if I've misremembered) referring to them as a type of magician -- it's
normal Ethsharitic thinking to use the term "magic" to mean "anything
that does something where an uninformed observer doesn't immediately
understand how it works." Herbalists are considered magicians, too.


--

The Misenchanted Page: http://www.sff.net/people/LWE/ Last update 2/12/98

David Joseph Greenbaum

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

In a fit of divine composition, K. Laisathit (kir...@u.washington.edu)
inscribed in fleeting electrons:

: Why? I have often wondered that myself. Apparently, bits and pieces


: of advance technologies (for their time, that is) were scattered
: in China throughout the centuries. Yet, the Chinese never managed
: to put these innovations together and built a technological
: empire before they were beaten by the late-comer Europeans.

The Chinese *did* have a technological empire. The superior equippage
and training of the Imperial Army allowed the Q'ing to keep competitors down.
What the Chinese didn't have was a reasonable way of accumulating and
investing trade surpluses over generations. Primogeniture would have
been one good way - but any inheritance accumulated by one generation was
divided amongst all the sons, reducing wealthy families to penury in a
few generations. This vitiated the capital base. In addition, merchants
were reviled, they were lower on the totem pole than anybody except the
landless sharecropper. And, finally, the way to economic security was in
the bureaucracy, which, since it was ostensibly meritocratic, but in
essence profoundly conservative, suppressed the attempts to liberalize
education and trade law.

China was and is enormously wealthy in absolute size. Think about it - a
nation that was barely entering the Second Industrial Revolution in 1949
built an atomic bomb in 1964. What it didn't have, however, was a means
prior to the Nationalist reforms of insuring investment got made - and
stayed made. Up to and including internal guarantees for security.

: Quite frankly, if you want to make a case for production for


: consumption being bad, and production for investment being
: good. Then, you have to also argue, why this is so?

Whatever surpluses were produced got swiftly eroded by distribution and
population growth. Production for consumption isn't bad (hell, it's the
way we live!), but what is bad is insufficient investment for growth.
Look at China now compared to thirty years ago. Less land is under the
plow, but they are *exporting* grain. Fewer people are working the land,
but more is produced. The surpluses needed to put in the flood controls
and drainage and use fertilizer and sell produce at city prices rather
than to oppressive landlords and send all children to *school* - these
are the things investment made possible. Without it, the lending
societies extract their pound of flesh at New Year for the holiday
dumplings, and the rest of year people starve or eat sandy millet,
*because there isn't anything else to do*.

: Even if production for consumption is strictly 'inferior' to


: production for investment, shouldn't the desire for ever
: expanding consumption compels people who would otherwise
: prefer to consume to invest instead? Look at the US as a
: case in point.

Sure, but it is a new thing in the world that law protects producers from
expropriation, and prevents widespread despoilation and takings. It is
also a new thing to realize that savings means greater possible future
gains. (New, as in the last five hundred years). The USA is an
experiment about proving the decreasing marginal gains theory false. Of
course, it isn't over yet.

: An epitome of consumerism, yet you can't


: fault the US for not making sufficient investments.

OH YES YOU CAN. Point: Public education. Point: Public investment in
utility infrastructure.

Dave G.
--
Such fragrance -
from where,
which tree?

Ian

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

and...@ix.netcom.com (Andrew C. Lannen) wrote:

>On 4 Mar 1998 01:19:02 GMT, joats...@aol.com (JoatSimeon) wrote:
>
>>The technologies lost with the Fall of Rome were those requiring large-scale
>>organization -- big cities, waterworks, roads.
>

> We're *still* working on recovering the road technology. After
>well over 1,000 years without maintainance, some of the old Roman
>roads are in better shape than the roads built in the U.S. two
>decades, or even two years, ago.

That has nothing to do with recovering the road technology - building
Roman-style roads would not be hard, just more expensive, and they're
much rougher than a well-maintained highway.


Nancy Lebovitz

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

In article <889038...@bluejo.demon.co.uk>,

Jo Walton <J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>
>If you're ever in Britain and you notice you're on a straight road it's
>a pretty good assumption that it's a Roman road. Everyone else who's
>ever invaded this island has gone in for curved roads, even now. (This
>had the oddest effect on me in Canada, where all the roads are straight,
>and, get this, meet at right angles. Wow.) Part of the A1 is a Roman
>Road, and almost all of the A5 (which runs from Marble Arch in London
>all the way to Holyhead on Mona/Ynys Mon/Anglesey) is Roman.
>
>I don't know what you mean by "the same kind of climate" but there are
>Roman roads in use today in Spain, France and Italy (which are warm in
>summer) and Britain (which is damp all year with frosts in winter). There
>aren't any in use in continental NorAm, regrettably, or we could make a
>fair comparison.
>
OBSF: _The Aquiliad_ by Sucharitkul.

Nancy Lebovitz

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

In article <6djsr9$i...@examiner.concentric.net>,

Kate Nepveu <Kne...@cris.com> wrote:
>
>: This will now devolve into an argument over how much road repair costs per
>: year, versus the cost of paving the US highway system in granite. Oy.
>
>Ack. We don't want to do this, trust me--highway policy is one of the
>most deadly issues known to humankind. Work in Congress during ISTEA
>reauthorization and you'll find this out very quickly...
>
Deadly boring or extremely controversial?

JoatSimeon

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

The Romans overbuilt everything (one reason being contractors got paid in
installments, one of which was triggered if the work was still there in 40
years).

The other reason -- the one we've still got so many Roman ruins -- was that
their engineering was all rule-of-thumb. When in doubt, add more bulk --
particularly of mass concrete, which they invented.
-- S.M. Stirling

Jonathan Evans

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Mar 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/5/98
to

Graydon <goo...@interlog.com> wrote:

>>You really don't think there are ethical issues regarding cloning and
>>genetic engineering that need to be resolved?
>

>_Cyteen_ is interesting becuase a technology - tape - quite distinct from
>cloning.

ISTR that there was both genegineering and tape involved.

>>> Any major technological change
>>>will produce both "losers" as well as "winners"
>>
>>Does this include medical care and advances in food supply?
>
>Yes.
>
>Take a look at the 'plight of the small farmer' and what happened to
>Samelweiss. (sp?)

Fair enough.

>>Furthermore, the "why spend $75 billion on space exploration when we
>>can spend it on eliminating poverty?" question does demand a certain
>>amount of attention.
>
>Poverty isn't a thing.

You know, Graydon, your quest for precision is admirable, but it _is_
irritating, this way that discussions with you tend to hit the swamp
of semantics and stick there.

>Next question?

Why should space exploration be prioritized?

Jon