Technology Evaporation

A peculiar StarTrek phenomenon. In many, many episodes, a startling new technology is discovered, only to be forgotten when it exceeds the show's popular dramatic context. Examples include:


I feel something similar when dealing with VisualStudio at work... some weird compilation error will come up, that I know I've seen before, and yet I can't figure out how to clear it. It's usually something along the lines of clearing out a CRT #define jammed deep into the project options dialog.

Usually when that happens, I close VisualStudio and open it again and the problem is fixed...


Larry Niven stopped writing KnownSpace stories because he wasn't willing to allow TechnologyEvaporation, and he had introduced so many solutions that there were no technology-amenable problems anymore.

You've got teleportation, impervious ship's hulls, human race bred to have unfailing good luck, organ regeneration, RingWorld made of mysterious extremely strong stuff, a race of superhuman ultraintelligent Protectors looking out for humanity, ...

I don't know. It seems that no matter how good one thing is, you should always be able to invent something stronger. That said, I'd rather a book series come to an end rather than drag on after the author feels it is exhausted.

What's that law that states, roughly, that no matter how easy life is, how many problems you solve, humans will find something to kvetch about...

Of course. Haven't you seen TheMatrix? The AI created the perfect world for humans, and humans died because they couldn't cope with perfection.

[They didn't die from the matrix or the perfection, they woke up, because the perfection was to good, they knew it was a dream. They needed imperfections to accept the dream as reality. When Smith said "we lost whole crops", he meant they killed whole crops for waking up, same as they tried to do to Neo when he woke up, they just dumped em to be recycled, we're only good to them asleep.]
Technology Evaporation actually happens in cultures throughout recorded history. When a society changes the nature of its existence and dependencies, they do so because something has changed in the status quo. Forced to abandon things that no longer seem to work in favor of what they propose will work better, or that seems more appropriate or convenient.

Sometimes technologies are throw-aways, intermediates, or phases. The development of hardware and software bears witness to this in the using and then discarding of versions of hardware and software every six to eighteen months.

You may argue that the technology or knowledge is still there, but in reality it is more like ice, as long as it is cool, it lingers, but as the "heat" of "change" is applied, it evaporates and new ice must be added to take its place.


I've heard that the technologies and expertise developed to put men on the moon soon evaporated when going to the moon was no longer a priority. Maybe TechnologyEvaporation is about a knowledge falling out of a culture?

Admittedly, that wouldn't really excuse Voyager...


See PlotEnablingDevice

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