Thursday, 28 May 2015
Worldbuilding Rambles: Names, Technology, and Socio-technic maturity
One quintessential desire that lies at the heart of Humanity is a desire to give things names not entirely factual. One example is in the naming of historical periods. The 'Dark Ages', the 'bronze age', 'iron age', and 'information age', are preferred over a statement of dates being considered, even when a more specific descriptor might be better(one reason is probably that it is easier to remember names than dates).
Now, the naming of historical periods is somewhat haphazard, but is often associated with a skill, technology, or trend specific to that time; each representing a level of technological maturity. Thus we have the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Machine Age(Industrial Revolution), Age of Electronics, Space Age, Age of Information, and many more. It appears that Human history on a global scale can be outlined as stages of technical progression. It happens on a smaller scale with individual countries and cultures, although faster and with less consistently.
For the author or worldbuilder this has interesting possibilities. Suppose a Species/Planetary Civilisation had to pass through mastery of given technologies in order to profess to a certain level of social/cultural/economic development. To become more than hunter/gatherers humanity needed to master stone, giving them better hunting and building tools, and weapons with which to defend their group/tribe against the less civilised(although it also implies that the uncivilised have a better method to attack). Metal was needed to take the step toward technology, a material lasting, strong, and workable with reproducible results. Without the steam age their could have been no Industrial Revolution, without that their might never have been global transport and communication, and practical science would have foundered for decades. Some ages have died stillborn; the Atomic Age that was epitomised in works such as 2001: A Space Odyssey with its ubiquitous nuclear technology. Some had no end, and are his widely unrecognised; it could be said that an Age of Mathematics began at the end of the Enlightenment, one that has continued to this day.
Currently we have the Age of Information, connecting Earth's children together in a way never dreamed of before. It was born out of the Age of Computers, and might help to give birth to a true Space Age, since manned starflight seems unattainable without global cooperation. Dawning is the Age of Carbon, as we begin to master the manipulation of carbon allotropes.
Anyhow, that is enough rambling for one time. Not very clear, I'll have to make a timeline graphic showing the progression of civilisation through the mastery of materials and technologies. Anyone has ideas of what 'Ages' humanity has yet to pass through, please comment.