Re: retrograde technologies?

Anders Sandberg (
29 May 1999 12:29:11 +0200

Spike Jones <> writes:

> > Lee Daniel Crocker wrote: ... It is idle fantasy to
> > imagine that (1) technology can move backwards, ...
> The latest Star Wars episode made me wonder: can technology
> go backwards? They seemed to imply technology was going
> violently aft. Can anyone think of an example, now or in any time
> past, where a society had it and later didn't? Descended from
> enlightenment to superstition? Would dark ages Europe qualify? spike

Partially. To have a technology, you need to have the supporting infrastructure to make it work. When the Roman empire fell, many technologies such as building techniques were no longer useful or even possible due to lack of transports and materials, so they fell into disuse and were at least partially lost.

Something like this is less likely today due to the wide dispersal of information on how to make (say) silicon chips and everything else. But if we imagine a major economic disaster that for a period of a few decades forces society back to basic farming and industry, bootstrapping chip production afterwards would not be entirely trivial even whith handbooks and old engineers at hand. To make a chip, you need the machines for that, and they in turn require other technology, and so on - it would be very hard to make a copy of a current Intel plant without having to make a copy of much of the current technological infrastructure.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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