Corporal Anuraro showed me how to get into the canoe without swamping it. As they paddled me ashore, I thought about how silly the situation was.I was being paddled in a canoe, a device invented at least ten thousand years ago.The convoluted way that tech advances influence each other was the entire premise behind James Burke's documentary series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed, which you should watch if you haven't already. The tabletop boardgame Civilization popularized the use of tech trees in 1980.And pretty much every 4x game uses tech trees, with the items accessed by investing in tech research."Technological advance is an inherently iterative process.An alien world with "Renaissance-era" technology (ignoring for the moment that the Renaissance spanned four centuries and giant changes in technology) in, say, firearms will also possess lenses, ships, building materials, and mathematical principles identical to those that Earth (read: the inter-continental trade powers of north-western Europe) possessed along with said firearms.It's only rarely that a civilization will break off the path, and usually as a result of external forces providing them with something outside their capabilities (intentionally, accidentally or incidentally), such as a 1920s planet with fusion power, or a 1700s planet with radios.However, mastering this technology does not actually give them an understanding of related concepts, or even concepts which would be required to use this technology in the first place (thus averting Possession Implies Mastery).Remember, don't think path, think , just as with the evolution of biological lifeforms.
Often, this takes the form of people not from Earth creating exact replicas of Earth technology right down to the last detail — such as interface panels ripped right out of the Apollo missions on an alien space station.Broad technology schemes cover centuries or millennia, and they describe a whole suite of interrelated technologies and social structures.This usually implies that cultures develop along a similar path.Technology classifications tend to either be very broad or very narrow.An example of a broad schema is the notion of “Ages”: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Age, Information Age, Post Human Age, and so forth.Contrast Schizo Tech, Aliens Never Invented the Wheel, Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology, Alternate Techline, Anachronism Stew and/or Fantasy Gun Control.This has some actual reference in the real world Kardashev Scale (Note that when an interstellar colony is established, the tech levels can become scrambled due to the colony infrastructure problem (e.g., horses make more sense than automobiles if the colony has no oil wells to produce gasoline).One does not simply take sand from the beach and produce a Dataprobe.We use crude tools to fashion better tools, and then our better tools to fashion more precise tools, and so on.Steam power seems less technologically advanced than nuclear energy.So naturally historicaly-minded people tried to codify this into a scale of technological advancement, to conveniently classify various cultures at various times in their history. Since many early researchers were regrettably Western-centric, they tended to visualize tech levels as a linear path (that is, the path followed by Western civilization). Latter researchers studying a wider range of cultures (such as China) realized the linear path was a poor model.