Low Tech Societies
Low Tech
Image from Kevin Williams (copyright; used with permission)

In some circumstances, various Low Tech cultures and societies may replace each other with little technological advance. Though like typical Middle Tech societies they may have significant inefficiencies and may be vulnerable to resource depletion and environmental problems, their fundamental level of productivity and the population densities they support are orders of magnitude lower, so these problems do not have such a rapid onset, and they may have time to adapt. Occasionally, as happened with humans on Old Earth and in some xenosophont species, Low Tech societies undergo an industrial revolution and evolve into Middle Tech societies.

Stories of Lost Colonies that have accidentally regressed to Low Tech are for the most part apocryphal. Typical Low Tech societies of Terragen origin are those that have deliberately abandoned more advanced technologies, or were created as Low Tech societeums by more powerful agencies.

There are many symbiotic and commensal Low Tech cultures within the Terragen Sphere, but stand-alone "pure" Low Tech cultures are of course not competitive with higher tech cultures. Neither are they stable if their members are exposed to higher tech opportunities, unless their culture's founders or managers specifically designed the society to resist change. With the exception of micro-civilizations living commensally on large ships or mobile orwoods, Low Tech cultures rarely spread beyond a single planet or hab, though sometimes they may be transplanted.

Low Tech cultures often have widespread belief in magic and what higher tech individuals would call "esoteric" practices. This is particularly true if they have some experience of middle, high or transapientech devices, which are all clarketech from a Low Tech point of view. The famous neomedieval "kingdoms" of Oikoumene Dyson (Kiyoshi Sector, MPA) are particularly well known in this regard, and have been able to survive for so long because the swarm ai are particularly strict about regulating contact with the rest of the galaxy. Some Low Tech polities are able to make a living through tourism, although it is almost always the case that unrestricted tourism usually results in the degradation of the indigenous culture.

The following are some of the more common categories of Low Tech civilizations:

Original Low Tech Civilizations: These are civilization that were or are indigenous to a planet upon which sophont life has evolved, but where technology has not moved beyond basic industrial levels. If local resources are sufficiently rich these are much less stable than Primitive Tech societies, but even so they may continue with little technological change for tens of thousands of years. Only two worlds have been discovered so far which include or included Original Low Techs - the pre-contact To'ul'h, whose cultures made occasional excursions into the lower end of the Low Tech range before they were driven back to Primitive Tech levels by resource exhaustion, and the Paulans, who were stable at Low Tech levels for a considerable time. The former have been happily incorporated into galactic society, while the latter remains largely isolated from Terragen contact. Original Low Techs are also known as Primary Low Tech civilizations. All other Low Tech societies are Secondary, having developed from or been created by advanced civilization.

Symbiotic Low Tech Societies: Low Tech clades and societies may be used as symbiotics, though more often Primitive Tech societies are employed for tis purposes. As with prim symbiotics, such Low Tech societies may consist of beings specially tailored, tweaked, or gengineered for the role. Alternatively, there may be a special nano-augmented, cyborged or bioborged priesthood that interfaces with the larger habitat, while the other members of the Low Tech society just live as commensals. Because of their more complex social structure, Low Techs are more diverse than Prim symbiotics, but their much higher resource maintenance requirements mean they are less common in absolute numbers. Symbiotic low techs rarely develop large and complex civilizations, and their development is usually strictly regulated by some controlling agency such as their habitat's AI.

Lo Teks: Lo Teks differ from standard Low Techs in their more rational understanding of the universe, from Prims in their more advanced technology, and from Ludds in their open and tolerant life-style. They deliberately choose reliable low maintenance technology, which may be anything from Prim to High Tech in level. Like Prims they most often live in small tribal groups or clans, or at most in small cities, rather than in large populations or civilizations, though there are some notable exceptions. Lo Teks are widely found throughout the Terragen Sphere in commensal or symbiotic roles, although parawild and wildhu forms are also not uncommon.

Ludds: These are idealistic and typically anti-ai or clade supremacist societies that reject higher tech civilizations and their complexities and anxieties, and the perceived humiliation of transapient overlordship, for a simpler lifestyle. Ludd societies may be at any level from Agricultural Age to Industrial Age. Many are autocratic and unstable, and few last long, especially if they are contacted by higher tech civilizations or attacked by agents of a higher toposophic being, or affected by transapientech elements or swarms. Those that do manage to survive for longer than a few centuries generally tend to develop and evolve in their own various ways, often strongly mythologizing and distorting the original history and establishment of the group, and occasionally (if they have forgotten or abandoned their Ludd ideology) evolving into higher tech societies once more.

Autonomous Low Tech Civilizations: Along with Primary Low Techs, these are the largest and may be found in large and sparsely populated Dyson swarm habitats, such as the various civilizations found in different habs in the Oikoumene Dyson (Kiyoshi Sector). They are extremely diverse, and usually planted by transapients or by organizations of ordinary sophonts for aesthetic or hobbyist purposes. Unlike societeum low techs they are then left to themselves with little or no intervention once established. Often they are ignorant of the rest of the universe. If contacted, they typically undergo assimilation or develop rapidly in some entirely new direction.

Societeum Low Techs: These are low tech societies maintained in societeums.

Immersive Low Techs: These are artificially maintained Agricultural Age theme worlds and habitats in which individuals from higher tech societies can choose to have an immersive existence (during which eir memories of past life in galactic society are suppressed or erased) for a pre-defined period of time, as a form of education or entertainment.
  • Gunpowder - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Explosive powder made from saltpetre, sulfur, and charcoal dust, first invented by the Chinese during the Classical Age of Old Earth. It was used originally for making fireworks (used to celebrate important occasions) and later, early rockets for warfare. When knowledge of it reached the Islamic and then the Western civilizations it was utilized in cannons and early muzzle-loading hand-guns (flintlocks, muskets, etc). Gunpowder continued to be used as the standard explosive charge for projectile weapons until well into the Industrial Age. Even today, many isolated polities, prims, and luddites manufacture and use gunpowder weapons and fireworks.
  • Lo Tek  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Sophonts who choose a lower technology level but retain awareness of and the ability to use higher technologies.
  • Rif - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A ludd, an opponent of ultratech. Sometimes also applied to prims. [From Rifkinite, from Jeremy Rifkin, early Information Age opponent of genetic engineering and nanotech.]
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev; revised by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 22 November 2000.

Additional Information