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Things that were invented at the wrong time and in the wrong order

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
In alternate history, we frequently, either as reader encounter, or as writers create, situations were certain technologies or concepts develop far earlier than when they "ought to". The Romans developing a printing press or the Victorians developing a functioning analytical engine would be two very suitable examples. At other times, we see certain development "wait a bit longer". Thus, in Look to the West, for instance, we see the science of electromagnetism lag some fifty years behind that of our own timeline.

What I would, in this timeline like to discuss and seek examples of, however, are developments, discoveries, and innovations that in some sense developed at a much earlier date than they by all rights "should" have developed. As my go-to example, when I was at UCL, one of my lecturers, when treating special relativity, commented that it is truly bizarre that general relativity was developed when it was developed. That special relativity was developed in the early 20th century, that was straight-forward. The implications of the forms of Maxwell's equations, the failure of the Michelson Morley experiment to detect aether lags, and many other things, were indisputably hammering home that something was deeply wrong with our understanding of light and its propagation, and there was a deep urge to come up with a viable new model that could explain all our observations. Indeed, Einstein was far from the only one working on this particular problem, and many others had come very close to working it out when he published his paper. If, by a sad accident, Einstein was to have died in a train accident a few months before his great breakthrough, it is unlikely that it would have taken much more than an additional two or three years before special relativity would have been formulated. It might even have been merely a matter of months.

General relativity, on the other hand, now that is an entirely different matter altogether, since really, by the dawn of the 20th century, there really was only one observation we knew of that suggested that, in as far as the sphere of celestial dynamics were concerned, Newton's grand framework was not perfect. And this was a very, very tiny observation, an observation so tiny that unless you were actively looking for it, most people would never have noticed it with a telescope, which was why, for hundreds of years, it hadn't been noted. The orbit of Mercury was ever, ever so slightly off.

When you consider how much more sophisticated mathematics that is necessary to understand general relativity than special relativity (Einstein himself would later in his career sadly remark to the mathematician Tullio Levi-Civita how he envied him, who could actually discuss general relativity "in his native language"), it's actually somewhat astounding that it merely took us a decade to go from the special to the general case. After all, it was all done only in order to explain one very small and obscure detail!

However, the moment that the first satellites went up, and we began to communicate with them back and forth from Earth, suddenly then, on account of how radiowaves act, general relativity suddenly became highly relevant for practical purposes. As my lecturer would put it, it would to him have seemed far, far more plausible that it would first have been in the 1950s, when we began to see an avalanche of instances that showed that something more was wrong with our theories, that such a development would have been made.

So, hence my question to you is, what are similar developments that occurred in our timeline at a certain date, but which by all reason, "ought to" have occurred at a later, if not much later, date?
 

Thande

UP THE WORKERS & Ukrainians
Published by SLP
Good thread idea.

Not sure if this quite qualifies, but one obvious one is that moveable-type print was invented first by a civilisation whose written language used thousands of logograms, and only later adopted by a civilisation that used an alphabet of ~26 letters - when the latter kind of script seems much more more like the one that would encourage one to develop such a system.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
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I don't know how similar this really is to what the OP wants, but I have examples from war and peace:

1: Infantry fighting vehicles. There is no technical reason why you can't build a "BMPRadley" armored box with a medium autocannon and a compartment for several dismounts with any kind of technology developed after the introduction of tanks/tractors themselves. However, when most armies aren't even fully motorized and when the jump from "nothing" to "basic APCs" is a lot more dramatic than the jump from "basic APCs" to "more heavily armed IFVs", it'd be trying to run before you walk.

2: Mixed martial arts under the current rules. Once you get good timekeeping, there's nothing technological in the way of MMA-which in some ways goes full circle back to bare knuckle fighting, which involved a lot more legal grappling than gloved Queensbury boxing.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
Good thread idea.

Not sure if this quite qualifies, but one obvious one is that moveable-type print was invented first by a civilisation whose written language used thousands of logograms, and only later adopted by a civilisation that used an alphabet of ~26 letters - when the latter kind of script seems much more more like the one that would encourage one to develop such a system.
Brings to mind the fact that Tokugawa Era Japan had a surprisingly high degree of literacy for a feudal, preindustrialized society. At the collapse of the Tokugawa in 1868, it was estimated to be at 40%, which is very close to what England had in the late 18th century. By comparison, Russia in 1897 was estimated to have a literacy rate of 25%.

I have yet to understand fully how this came about. In Europe, the growth in literacy was not solely linked with the invention of the printing press, but the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counterreformation both played significant roles, urging people to study the word of God. The Scots Presbyterians, who placed particular emphasis on private devotional reading, for a very long time had the highest literacy rate in Europe.

Shintoism, by contrast, has no holy books, while Buddhism has its sutras and tantras, these do not occupy the sort of central role in the religion as the Bible in Christianity and the Koran in Islam. For the most part, actually studying those texts was the domain of monks. Confucianism certainly have its share of important literature, but Confucianism never developed the same kind of religious dimension in Japan as it did in China. A visiting Chinese diplomat to Japan in the 18th century wrote angrily that while the Japanese bureaucracy certainly was well-versed in all the Confucian texts and their canonical commentaries, there were no shrines to Confucius or any other sages at which the Japanese bureaucrats would pay them homage, and neither did the common people.

Add to it that it is a lot harder to learn how to read Japanese kanji than to read Latin script, and you cannot help but wonder how this odd state of affairs came about.
 

Meadow

Monthly Kulak
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My specialisms (if they can be called that) don't go far enough back in history to really participate, but here's a very odd example of a similar phenomenon: as many know, looking at the floor in GoldenEye 64 means you get a higher frame rate, because you are rendering fewer objects. This is integral to GoldenEye speedrunning. What fewer know is how that discovery was made, and I for one was stunned that it wasn't something made obvious by playing the game within weeks of its release.

But no, that isn't what happened. I won't spoil it, but this story bears a watch:

 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
My specialisms (if they can be called that) don't go far enough back in history to really participate, but here's a very odd example of a similar phenomenon: as many know, looking at the floor in GoldenEye 64 means you get a higher frame rate, because you are rendering fewer objects. This is integral to GoldenEye speedrunning. What fewer know is how that discovery was made, and I for one was stunned that it wasn't something made obvious by playing the game within weeks of its release.

But no, that isn't what happened. I won't spoil it, but this story bears a watch:

I never play these kinds of video games, partly out of me just not having the hand-eye coordination skill to be particularly good and partly because they just don’t really appeal to me for whatever reason.

Oddly enough, I’ve always found these sorts of youtube videos thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
 

OwenM

The patronising flippancy of youth
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Colwyn Bay/Manchester
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I suppose you could argue things like the steam devices of ancient Alexandria are this, but I don't think that's what you're going for exactly?
Good thread idea.

Not sure if this quite qualifies, but one obvious one is that moveable-type print was invented first by a civilisation whose written language used thousands of logograms, and only later adopted by a civilisation that used an alphabet of ~26 letters - when the latter kind of script seems much more more like the one that would encourage one to develop such a system.
In fairness moveable type found it pretty hard to find a niche with logographic systems because it has much less of an efficiency advantage compared to block printing in that situation (though it didn't go entirely unused once they had it).
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
As for another aspect from mathematics and physics, I have in the past year become very intrigued by how the history of how group theory was even invented in the first place. If you're a physicist working in the fields of particle physics or solid state physics, you know very well how useful group theory is, since group theory fundamentally is the study of symmetry, and (albeit subtle) fundamental particles and (much more obviously) crystals exhibit high degrees of symmetry. Thus, while I realized of course that group theory predated the development of quantum mechanics and so couldn't have arisen in that particular context, to me it always seemed clear the group theory must have come about because people were thinking in terms of physical constructs that you could easily visualize in your head that exhibited symmetry, say, Plantonic solids and other things.

But, well, nope. Turns out that group theory has its origins in mathematicians trying to prove Fermat's theorem in the 19th century. Exactly how group theory even enters number theory is very much a convoluted mess that I still only very vaguely understand in a very qualitative and qualified sense. It all basically comes down to this one French fellow, Galois, the great prodigy who got himself killed in a duel at the age of twenty-one. And after his death, it would take another few decades before this Norwegian fellow Lie actually was able to realize the importance of Galois' insights and constructs.

One of my many ideas for overarching themes for the Swedish Strangerverse is to have science and mathematics develop in a fashion that is much more in line with how I think that it "ought to" have developed. And so, since I have electricity make a leap early on with the identification of electricity with phlogiston and the electric field with the aether, so I suppose I now must make group theory lag behind a little.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
As for another aspect from mathematics and physics, I have in the past year become very intrigued by how the history of how group theory was even invented in the first place.

One of my many ideas for overarching themes for the Swedish Strangerverse is to have science and mathematics develop in a fashion that is much more in line with how I think that it "ought to" have developed. And so, since I have electricity make a leap early on with the identification of electricity with phlogiston and the electric field with the aether, so I suppose I now must make group theory lag behind a little.
As a possibly interesting note, I understand that several of the ideas now thought of as "group theory" were also developed (and proven, for certain values of proven) independently in the context of English change ringing (which is quite concerned with the order bells of different notes ring, and hence the permutations of those orders), beginning in the late 18th/early 19th century. There isn't much evidence of cross-pollination between the different traditions until the early 20th century (at which point formalized group theory, which was much more developed by that time, became the preferred way of thinking about these things in bellringing circles). There is a minor academic industry of undergrad thesis which re-prove bellringing theorems to this day.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
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Derbyshire
My specialisms (if they can be called that) don't go far enough back in history to really participate, but here's a very odd example of a similar phenomenon: as many know, looking at the floor in GoldenEye 64 means you get a higher frame rate, because you are rendering fewer objects. This is integral to GoldenEye speedrunning. What fewer know is how that discovery was made, and I for one was stunned that it wasn't something made obvious by playing the game within weeks of its release.

But no, that isn't what happened. I won't spoil it, but this story bears a watch:
That feels like a story that somebody who hadn't been in the community (or hadn't reacted in the same way) would frame in a completely different manner.

Pretty incredible mind.
 
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