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ASOIAF/GoT Tech Upgrade Stories - Can they be good?

Discussion in 'Other Fandoms Discussion' started by Andrela, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Invictus

    Invictus Heir

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    You are ignoring the fact that the europeans didn't started from zero, they got the hand cannon and cannon and the gunpowder formula from the chinese, who in turn spent hundreds of years to develop those.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Flintlock_ignition_animation.gif
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Musketparts.jpg
    You are saying that someone could literally create this kind of gun with nothing but his memory, find a way to mass produce it, develop the gun powder formula, all by himself, in ten years. That's a fifth of what it takes to build a decent sized castle in medieval times.
     
  2. Tasoli

    Tasoli Headmaster

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    Does Westoros even have large scale steel production beyond what castle blacksmiths makes?
     
  3. ray243

    ray243 Seventh Year

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    How do you train craftsman to work with materials they are completely unfamiliar with? Craftsmen and smiths were specialists. Training a swordsmith to craft a rifle is no easy task.

    It's not like you can give him the specifications and he will be able to build everything on his own.
     
  4. Puzzled

    Puzzled Professor

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    Most likely no, large scale production of nearly everything, including steel, was a result of the industrial revolution. Of course there could be some magic lurking around just to make steel, Martin hasn't explicitly disproved it therefore it's true. You know, like D+D=T.

    Edit ray243 I think that getting a craftsman to make a short tube of steel won't be beyond their skills. Worst case scenario they could forge a block and spend weeks drilling it out. Again, I'm not saying it's easy, I'm just saying that it can be done. People back then were just as smart as us, they just lack ideas and concepts we take for granted. To a large degree I think you could give a craftsman specifications and they could build most things on their own.

    Will they have guns in a week? No. Primitive cannons in a year or two? Definitely. That also ignores the other uses of gunpowder, they could easily use it as a siege weapon in its own right, flinging barrels of it via trebuchet or sapping beneath the foundations of a castle and detonating it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  5. ray243

    ray243 Seventh Year

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    Yes, they probably could create a metal tube. However, that does not mean it could function as a gun. Unless you could remember the exact technique to mould and shape it, you and the smith will be going through a trial and error process just like the people in the past.


    How do you ensure the gunpowder won't blow up the cannon? What is the thickness of the bore? What is the length of the tube? Unless you can answer all these questions without googling it, recreating a primitive cannon will not be easy. Especially when there are multiple formulas for gunpowder.


    Your modern day average joe probably knows less about making gunpowder than an alchemist in Westeros.
     
  6. yak

    yak Moderator Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I'm not an expert on economics, historical agriculture, trade, grain farming, or logistics, but I've been peripherally involved in them and used Wikipedia to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. Fair warning, this is a small post that got terribly out of hand.

    The deal with crop farming is that it needs manpower at seeding time and at harvest time only. Outside of those two occasions, your men aren't doing anything anyway and are already free to build roads, serve in your levies, etc. So, the agricultural revolution that's under way hasn't really freed up the workforce at all, because for 10 months out of 12 they were already free. All you've done is taken their harvest time money away from them which they were relying on for the year.

    It's worth noting that before mechanisation, one quarter of agricultural labor was dedicated to threshing alone. It took one hour to process one bushel of wheat. That little factoid helps to understand the labor impact of the mechanical thresher that the author is introducing to the Reach.

    Without regular annual seasons, I was curious if perhaps Westeros' crops were grown year round with staggered planting and harvest times so that farm workers could stay busy all year, but a bit of research shows that not to be true.

    Despite Westeros' magically induced weird seasonal patterns, they still have a regular planting season and all harvest their crops at the same time. There's a lot of small pieces of evidence for this in the books, such as harvest feasts and references to harvest dates, but the best is probably this:

    Cat expects that they've lost thousands of men because its harvest time in the region. Westeros' has fixed planting seasons like we do.

    This brings up some major logistical issues, such as needing huge amounts of manpower twice a year, but then your field workers need to find something else to do until the next harvest. I don't know how medieval Europe dealt with that, but I'll assume that Westeros solved it similarly. Perhaps the smallfolk pursue trades or labor or just subsist on what they can for the rest of the year.

    However it's done, the system in the Reach works, and has been working for many centuries. Now you introduce new farming techniques that increase your crop yield. The fic in question introduced the seed drill, amongst other things, with crop rotation soon to come. Wikipedia tells me that the seed drill alone can increase crop yields ninefold. I'm going to assume that the Reach aren't complete idiots when it comes to cropping, given it's their speciality, and for purpose of discussion conservatively guess that we're looking at a fourfold increase for them.

    Let's say that the Reach usually produces 1 million tons of cereal crops. Now it produces 4 million tons of cereal crops on the same land.

    You've got two major problems here. One is economic: supply and demand. People can only eat so much and afford so much. Your consumers still only have the same amount of gold to buy your products that they had last year while you've got four times the product. Massive market glut. That means pursuing new markets or have your price tank, making your crops worth a fraction per ton of what they used to be. Also, with the incredibly cheap Reach cereal prices, their neighbouring realms won't be able to afford to harvest their own crops. It'll cost them more to sow and harvest than they'll be able to sell them for. Fields of Crownlander barley will rot in the sun, untouched, because the Reach is dumping its market excess on them.

    Intentional or not, market dumping is economic warfare.

    The second issue is logistical. The Reach has organically grown to handle its one million tons of cereal crops. One million tons to be harvested, threshed, winnowed, and transported to the lord of the land it was grown on. You store it, set some aside for the winter, and sell/allocate the rest to your subjects [bakers, brewers, etc.] and other markets. I'd guess grain merchants and lords with less fertile land would be your major customers.

    Now you have four times as much grain. So does every other lord around you.

    Storing the grain is solvable. There are some ingenious temporary grain storage sheds/stockpiles that can be built. The key word there is "temporary". You'll want to get the grain out before mould, insects, and rats ruin it.

    The transportation issue is more difficult I'd expect. You're still relying on horse and cart to transport your grain to the lord, and then from him to other market destinations. You need to move four times the quantity, but still only have the same number of carts and horses that you used to have. You can build more carts if you need, but you and every other Reach lord needs four times as many ponies/mules/horses as you used to have if you still want to get that harvest in and out before you run out of time and it rots in the field, etc.

    The same horse issue rears its head when your grain needs to be transported to grain merchants, other lords, export facilities. The entire realm will need large numbers of beasts of burden for one month of the year. What they do with them for the other eleven months, I don't know.

    If you're exporting your grain by ship, then again you're going to need four times as many ships, which means larger wharfs, more grain storage on the coast, etc.

    There's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built and improved to handle the fourfold increase in crop yields. And the Tyrells need to control the situation economically so that the cereals markets don't collapse in ways that they aren't prepared for. They're de-valuing the products that are the key source of wealth for their realm.

    This post has really got away from me. I'll end with how I might handle things if I was the Tyrells.

    I'd employ the seed drill immediately in Tyrell lands only. Highgarden can safely have bumper harvests, bringing in plenty of gold, without upsetting the market too much. It strengthens the Tyrells position in comparison to their vassals.

    The harvester and thresher are more difficult. Use the profits from the bumper harvests to soften the blow to the mass unemployed that will result, perhaps with construction projects for the extra infrastructure you're going to need to efficiently store, move, and trade vast quantities of grain when your new grain tech eventually goes Reach-wide.

    Then release the harvester and thresher in Tyrell lands. Hopefully you've already prepared the cities to swell in size from the newly unemployed and impoverished agricultural families.

    I would not sell or give the seed drill to any lord. I'd lease it under onerous terms. The seed drill leaves High Garden for the sowing season and then returns there immediately afterwards, under lock and key. The more we can retard its spread beyond our control and borders, the better.

    If the seed drill increases crop yields fourfold, then the lord gets to keep 1/4th of the newly drilled crop [the same as he'd have harvested without the seed drill], and the rest is sold to a single desk at a dictated price. The single desk manages all transportation, storage, domestic sales, and exports of the collective 3/4th crops from all of the seed drill leasers. Those lords can do as they like with their 1/4th, including selling their excess to the single desk at the same dictated price.

    The lords can have their fourfold crop increase, but at the cost of regulation. They'll hate it. So much. But they can't call it unjust. If they don't want it, then they can just say "no".

    The single desk answers to the Tyrells and can influence the market in such a way that it doesn't crash too badly, and acts as a single point of contact for foreign buyers seeking large amounts of grain, thus simplifying trade and controlling the Reach's brand, so to speak.

    I have no solution for the excess labour issue. They can't all be employed in the breweries springing up from our excess grain. The problems of the agricultural revolution aren't so easily solved.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  7. Rache

    Rache Headmaster

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    There is only one possible character insert into Westeros who can change things and revolutionize technology-Sheldon Cooper inserted into a child Joffrey Baratheon.:sherlock:
     
  8. Erandil

    Erandil Headmaster

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    I can assure that (medieval) farmers don't sit around for 10 our of 12 months... Not only is farming is a lot more work than simply planting and harvest but you have a thousand other jobs to do during this "off" - time.

    The climate and harvesting in Westereos makes little to no sense and I doubt you can come to any realistic conclusion.

    I think that you overestimate the immediate economic effect to quite a large degree (and the agricultural revolution depended on a few more factors), for example if the price of grain drops many farmers will simply switch to something else (like meat...). I can also tell you that large scale transportation of grain on anything besides rivers/open sea is quite unlikely to happen (especially if you take into account how massive Westereos is according to G.R.R.M (it also depends on how you decide to handle tolls etc..))

    Given enough time you may

    And in regards to up-teching Westereos in general. I agree with most of the people here that it not nearly as easy/possible as many SI seem to think but I also think that one shouldn't underestimate the capabilities of pre-industrial production. Even ancient China or Rome were capable of impressive feats of mass production.
     
    yak
  9. yak

    yak Moderator Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Hmm... maybe that's just my experiences with modern day farming families shining through. There's a hell of a lot of work at planting and harvest time, but outside of that they often leave on holiday for months. Whether the rain falls or it doesn't, there's nothing they can do about it. No amount of hard work will help their crops grown any better, so why hang around stressing about it? And even if the farming family themselves are still busy [fencing, other crops, livestock], the large amount of extra people that they need at planting, harvesting, [or shearing, birthing, stock round up] times... those people aren't doing much of anything outside of those times, which is why there's such a large need for itinerant farm workers, shearers, and pickers.

    I've met a lot of people involved in seasonal ag labour. Perhaps it's like you said and there wasn't that seasonal labour during medieval times. Dunno what they were doing once they'd helped the farmer sow his crops though. Can't really do anything except make sure you're ready for the harvest which is months away.

    I deliberately made no assumptions or even inferences about the climate. That way lies madness. I don't know why they have a singular harvest time, I only know that they do. Or at least the Riverlands shares one, as Cat alluded to, and other regions also have specific and known "harvest times" and "harvest feasts" which are mentioned by characters in the books. Whether that harvest time is dictated by climate, maesters, custom, royal writ, or whatever isn't something I care to speculate on. If you dig too deep into a fictional world then you're going to see its seams.

    I haven't paid much attention to the agricultural revolution except in its broadest brushstrokes, so thanks. That's informative.

    I'm not sure that it's so easy for farmers to switch to livestock, because it is implied that the crops are owned by the lord of that land [I can dig up the reference if you need]. Switching to livestock may be up to him. Still, your point stands: If farmers want to switch then the lord will likely reach the same conclusion.

    I wasn't aware of that, though it does make sense that pre-industrial age overland transport is comparatively slow, laborious, and expensive. The Reach does have a major river with large tributaries, The Mander flowing right through the center of it though. The river runs from one end of the realm to the other, straight past the capital High Garden and out to the sea.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  10. ray243

    ray243 Seventh Year

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    Well, a number of them would be used as soldiers. It's why there's such thing as a campaigning season.
     
  11. Rhaegar I

    Rhaegar I Unspeakable

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    The way I see it, too many people think a modern person thrust in a medieval setting (like ASOIAF) would end up like "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", and end up with a freaking Gatling gun in just a few short years. If anything, the average person would end up more like the guy from "The Man Who Came Early", an utter failure at producing any changes or getting political power, hunted down as an outlaw.

    When it comes to this kind of story, I think the key is to find a way to balance it out between the two. Don't give an instant and easy win, but show some realistic development. Phantom of the Library's story idea would be an excellent example of such a story.
     
  12. chaosattractor

    chaosattractor Groundskeeper

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    The thing is that ASOIAF itself is very tech-inconsistent. Logically speaking (as in, if we're using Earth human history as a benchmark) they're a society on the brink of if not already in the European Renaissance, from things like their armor and the Iron Bank. Yet the image most readers seem to take away is of a ninth or tenth century society.

    Or maybe it's just that lots of people aren't versed enough in history to tell that Middle Ages =/= "Dark" Ages

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  13. Jarik

    Jarik Chief Warlock

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    This is a concept I've mulled over and discussed at length before. It's certainly a fun concept to think about - what would your own little SI do if he was put into a society like that? How could he make that society better using modern ideas and knowledge?

    The problem is, every single story I've ever read that has tried to do this has been shit and I think I've managed to narrow down some reasons why.

    The author's presence in such a story is overbearing. It's very hard to immerse yourself in the events and characters without feeling like the story is a vehicle for the authors ideas and thoughts. You can see the guy/girl, imagine them sitting there smugly in their armchair arrogantly waxing their ideas that are not even their own and have been handed to them with the benefit of hindsight.

    This puts the reader into a critical, combative mode. Rather than accepting the decisions of the protagonist as their own personal journey - both mistakes and achievements made as a result of their own personality, skills and knowledge - you find yourself thinking thoughts like "This isn't realistic", "The author has no clue on materials science", "As if it'd be that easy" and so on. The biggest conflict however, comes from criticism of the author's opinion on the best way to implement a modern society and it is very unlikely that this aligns with the reader's own. This is a poor state for a reader to be in to be able to enjoy a story.

    The other main issue is how this concept is actually worked into the story and what its role is. I've seen two types of implementation in this category.

    One is where knowledge of the future is the character's "power". Very little effort is put into actually exploring how the author goes about implementing their efforts, but the benefits of them doing them easily. A good example would be Dresden inventing steamboats and the printing press in A Song of Ice and Fires that Weren't My Fault. It overpowers the character, with something so world-changing apparently coming so easy, and cheapens the concept - if it was so easy to pull off, everyone else in the world is clearly a moron.

    The second implementation is a story that focuses predominately on enacting changes. These stories are dry as fuck and almost read like a half arsed essay on the author's thoughts of how a superior culture should be set up. The issues mentioned above are more prevalent in this sort of story.

    So I've been convinced this was impossible to pull off in an engaging way. At least, until I read Phantom of the Library's concept earlier in this thread. That concept is fantastic and could work. Implementing modern ideas and culture becomes the entire plot and end goal, rather than the skills used to overcome the obstacles of a different plot. Watching the main character struggle and struggle could make for a story that is emotional and intimate enough to remove the author's presence, and watching the author make mistakes, regularly fail, etc would make it feel as if this was the protagonist's thoughts, not the author's. Love the idea and someone should totally attempt it.




    Since the rest of this thread seams more about feasibility than story concept, thought I'd pipe in about that too.

    I'm an electrical engineer. Give me the Schneider/ABB/GE catalog and I'll design you a fucking power grid. Give me a bunch of carpenters and blacksmiths and all that ability is next to fucking useless because my knowledge is too specialized and relies on a certain level of technology to work.

    People aren't stupid. Even back than, chances are masters of their craft have perfected their art to the best of their ability given the tools, knowledge and ability that was available back than. its highly unlikely that despite your superior knowledge of the world, you could go to a sword smith and tell him how to make swords better. Or go to an experienced General and tell them how to wage war better.

    Hell, some of mathematicians and scientists of the ancient world are probably smarter than you. You may have more knowledge, but trying to prove your knowledge to the scientific elite of the time wood be hard. You can tell them the Earth is a sphere, Newtonian motion equations and all sorts of other things you've learned in your life, but can you actually provide scientific proof of these things to convince them? Probably not easily. And unless you're like, a King, how the hell do you recruit people into investing in your ideas when even the educated elite of the time don't agree?

    As someone from the modern world, the advantage you do have is knowing what is possible, how these can positively impact/change society and perhaps even some high level understanding of how cultures have changed through history. This can define your end goals and the path forward.

    The other big advantage is that you are educated. Unlike everyone else except for perhaps the scientific elite, you went thru 13-20 years of formal education learning critical thinking, the scientific method, economy, history, social studies, management theory, etc. This means that while you may not be able to "invent" all the technology from the modern era immediately, you have an idea of where your end goals are and have the skills to make your own path there.
     
  14. chaosattractor

    chaosattractor Groundskeeper

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    For heaven's sake, that was a centuries-old idea by the mediaeval period. Practically no-one educated thought the Earth was flat.

    I suppose that's another challenge a character dropped in Westeros would have to overcome; figuring what the people around you actually know or don't know.




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  15. World

    World Oberstgruppenführer Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Very true. There's probably more people alive today that believe the world is flat than at any other time in history.
     
  16. Agayek

    Agayek Dark Lord

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    Now that's just not true. There are more people better educated now than ever before. Just because the idiots who refuse to accept the preponderance of evidence are loud and obnoxious about it doesn't mean there's more than a small handful of them.
     
  17. World

    World Oberstgruppenführer Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Well yes, I was being hyperbolic. On the other hand the Flat Earth society boasted 3,500 members, and apparently 1 in 4 US Americans thinks the sun goes around the earth.

    But yeah, it's irrelevant to the larger point that even though people didn't have the same knowledge and tools as we have today, they weren't stupid.
     
  18. chaosattractor

    chaosattractor Groundskeeper

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    The point is that the flat earth theory is quite the recent invention (or rather, re-invention) in the Western world. Humans have known and accepted the world is a globe for over two millennia now, and even its approximate circumference. Yes, there were fewer people who received that education, but in our hypothetical situation it's precisely those educated people you're going to be approaching to set your plans in motion.

    Plus it's not as if the proofs are so complicated as to sound like esoteric mumbo jumbo even to an illiterate peasant. With people in say the Vale or near the border of Dorne your work is already 90% done...or you could just grab the nearest Maester and make *them* explain it. It's stuff like geocentrism that's actually difficult to shake.

    It's a giant case of people wanting to think that they're oh so much smarter than people in the past, and thus pretending that things like imagery and metaphor were only invented last year. You see people pointing at clearly fanciful art as "proof" that people thought the world was flat. It's like people five centuries from now reading Pratchett's Discworld and concluding 21st century humanity thought we lived on a disc.
     
  19. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    I would introduce fast food to Westeros.

    The ingredients are all there to make hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. Perhaps kebabs too. And pizza!

    I'd also try to create some kind of drink which would have the taste of coca-cola, it would be pretty hard but possible. Maybe even a primitive version of energy drinks (but that strongly depends on available ingredients).

    Now, this isn't improving technology, but I don't know anything about engineering or gunpowder and selling food seems like a good idea for getting money.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
  20. yak

    yak Moderator Moderator DLP Supporter

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    The secret to Coca Cola is not in its taste, but in its marketing. If you can nail marketing and public relations in a world whose people haven't developed resistance to those techniques, then you can manipulate society better than any lord.