Technology Level

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Technology Level or Tech Level, commonly abbreviated TL, is a measure of technological capability.


Please refer to the following AAB library articles for related information:


Description (Specifications)[edit]

Technology level (abbreviated tech level or TL) is a rating. It rates the capability of typical equipment used by the average citizen on his world.

The tech level of a star system has a significant effect on its economy and the extent of its interstellar trade. Technology can be a tremendous multiplier for economies of any size as well as a source of enormous prosperity. However, while many technologies have the capacity to bring great prosperity and economic wealth to planet, technology also has the capacity to be tremendously disruptive of local cultures, societies, and peoples.

Generally, technology tends to increase the quality of life for the average sophont, but it is not a guarantee. It is very possible for a sophont on a very low-tech world to have a higher quality of life than a sophont in a high-tech star system.

Epochal Technological Periods[edit]

On a very broad level, Imperial historians, scientists, and scouts have divided contemporary history into technological epochs and periods. This chronological periodization also projects where future technological trends might be found as evidenced by Ancients technology and that of other Precursors:

Epochal Technological Periods Overview
Period Name

(Multi-Epoch)

Periods (TL's) Technology (Kardashev) Scope Key Technologies General Period Remarks
Proto-Sophontic

(Emergent Period)

TL-0 Proto-Tech

(K= Type n>0) [Hemisphere Mastery]

Very early societies with basic "found object" tools and a planetary (world) scope. Tools, mysticism, proto-science, proto-culture, proto-art, band societies, caves, etc. Alpha Period These species have made the jump from creature to sophont. They are new to technology, and are beginning to use it to develop new societies and civilizations.
  • Some call them Stone Age.
Low Sophontic

(Foundational Period)

TL:1-9 Ur-Tech

(K= Type 1)
[World Mastery]

Foundational technologies with planetary-systemic (intrastellar) scope. "Tools making tools or made objects." Steam engines, celestial navigation, urban sanitation, factories, interchangeable parts, ICE engine, electronics, spacecraft, fission power (nuclear), etc. Ur Period Minor Races frequently establish successful civilizations in this range, often with very capable spaceflight programs and sleeper ships.
  • Some call them Space Age.
Meso-Sophontic

(Interstellar Period)

TL:10-18

(A to J)

Stell-Tech

(K= Type 2)
[Star System Mastery]

Interstellar technologies with an polystellar (intragalactic) scope. FTL, fusion power, advanced manufacturing (Makertech), advanced medicine, cloning, lethetic robotics, early nanotechnology, advanced artificial intelligence, etc. Stellar Period All of the Major Races possess interstellar technology within this range, with the current vanguard at TL-15.
  • Some call them Interstellar Age.
High Sophontic

(Ultra Period)

TL:19-27

(K to T)

Ultra-Tech

(K= Type 3) [Galaxy Mastery]

Galactic technologies with a polygalactic scope. Transgalactic FTL, antimatter power, highly advanced biotechnology, advanced nanotechnology, true artificial intelligence, etc. Galactic Period Some believe that the Kursae, despite their lack of a Jump Drive were able to achieve many of these advances.
  • Some call them Galactic Age.
Transcendent

(Astrodeific Period)

TL:28-30

(U to W)

Dei-Tech

(K= Type 4) [Universe Mastery]

Astrodeific technologies with a universal scope. Planet-bending, geneering (sophont creation), nano mastery, etc. Transgalactic Period Most technological researchers believe that most of these technologies were within reach of the Ancients.
  • Some call it the Age of Space Gods.
Ascendant

(Bhodhisattivan Period)

TL:31-33

(X to Z)

Omni-Tech

(K= Type 5) [Polyuniversal Mastery]

Bhodhisattivan technologies with a polytemporal, trans-dimensional scope. Chronotaxis (time travel), dimension-hopping, reality mastery, etc. Omega Period Most technological researchers believe that most of these conjectural technologies were beyond even the Ancients.
  • Some call it the Age of Elder Races.
Singularity

(Post-Technological Period)

TL-34+ PTP

(K= Type 'Post-Omega') [Unimaginable]

This sort of technology is beyond imagination. This sort of technology is beyond imagination. Post-Omega Period This sort of existence is beyond imagination. Often known as the hypothetical Post-Technological Period (PTP).

Average Tech, Mastered Tech & Research Tech Levels[edit]

Average technologies in common use within the Third Imperium are very often considerably lower than the high end of (TL-15 or TL-F).

Tech Levels 0 through 21[edit]

This TL table is a list of technological levels and short descriptions. The descriptions correlate TL's to periods in history or alternately, future technology.

  • Note: GURPS: Traveller uses GURPS scales for tech levels. The table shows the mapping from GURPS TL's to Traveller TL's.
Technological Level Table
Traveller TL Historical Era GURPS 3e TL GURPS 4e TL
0 Stone Age (fire) 0 0
1 Bronze Age (3500 BC) 1 1
1.3 Iron Age (1300 BC) 2 2
1.6 Medieval Age (600 AD) 3 3
2 Age of Sail (1500 AD) 4 4
3 Industrial Revolution (1730 AD) 5 5
3.3 Circa 1800 AD 5 5
3.6 Circa 1850 AD 5 5
4 Mechanized Age (1900 AD) 5 6
5 Broadcast Age (1930 AD) 6 6
6 Nuclear Age (1940 AD) 6 7
7 Space Age (1970 AD) 7 7
8 Digital Age (1990 AD) 8 8
9 Early Stellar (2050 AD) / Fusion Age 9 9^
10 (A) Early Stellar (2120 AD) / Gravitic Age 9 10^
11 (B) Average Imperial (Year Zero) 9 10^
12 (C) Average Imperial (Year 1105) 10 11^
13 (D) Average Stellar / Geneering Age 10 11^
14 (E) High Stellar 11 12^
15 (F) Imperial Maximum (Year 1107) 12 12^
16 (G) Artificial Persons Age 13 12^
17 (H) Personality Transfer Age / Republic of Regina (Year 1902). 13 12^
18 (J) Exotics Age 13 12^
19 (K) Matter Transport/Antimatter Age 13 12^
20 (L) Skipdrive Age 13 12^
21 (M) Stasis Age 13 12^
  • The table used this symbol "^" to indicate superscience according to the GURPS understanding, which differs from the Traveller understanding of the term.
  • In Standard GURPS 4e, each TL above your own is -5 Penalty to current TL skill with TL four levels beyond your own being "impossible" without actually learning the skill (G4 Basic Set pg 168). Since early 21st century Earth is at TL-8, TL-12 would be impossible to understand without a teacher and so the GURPS 4e TL scale caps out at 12. GURPS 4e also has its own superscience category for technology that that violates our current understanding of physical laws (relativity, conservation of energy, etc.).

Tech Levels 22 through 33[edit]

Levels above 21 are the Accelerating Tech Levels: each of them tends to be of shorter duration and each leads at an ever-accelerating pace to the next. The technologies addressed by TL's above 21 are frighteningly powerful and exceptionally susceptible to disaster. As a society progresses to each new Accelerating Tech Level, the focus shifts to a different technology.

The Singularity (TL-34+)[edit]

When the society moves beyond TL-33, it reaches the Singularity. The technologies focused on for the past eleven TL's are strong indicators of the fate awaiting the culture. A focus on more warlike technologies points the society towards destruction, while a focus on engineering disciplines tends to point the society towards survival. A balance of the various technologies available may result in ascension.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

The Third Imperium's most advanced technologies in common use are (TL-15) technologies. Some cutting-edge worlds have achieved an unsustainable, theoretical (TL-16) rating, but are not yet in wide usage. The Darrians or Daryen are a prominent example of such a society with access to TL-16 technologies.

Technological Epochs[edit]

The scientists of Charted Space have, more or less, agreed upon a vision of the future outlined below. Who knows if the future of Charted Space will resemble these projections?

Technological Epochs
TL's Hierarchical
Technology
Epoch
Epoch Hallmark Sophontic Period Smelchakian Period Key Indicators Remarks
TL-Negative Pre-Sophontic Period Pre-Sophontic Period Pre-Sophontic Pre-Sophontic Period Pre-Historic Period (PHP) The Rise of Life. Creatures. Pre-technology lifeforms.
TL-0 Proto-Sophontic Period Found Tools Period Proto-Sophontic Proto-Sophontic Period
(Alpha Period)
Stone & Fire. Development of a modern scientific culture, society, and civilization. Made objects. Tools making tools.
TL:1-3 Vlow Tech Epoch Tool Making Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, Early Sail & Steam. Development of a modern scientific culture, society, and civilization. Made objects. Tools making tools.
TL:4-6 Low Tech Epoch Division of Labor Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, High Atom & Factory. Development of increasingly efficient communication, power generation, and transportation technologies. Standardization of scientific method and efficient manufacturing.
TL:7-9 Mid Tech Epoch Processor Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, Late Rocket & Computer. Development of advanced processors allowing for an exponential increase in scientific research and engineering breakthroughs.
TL:10-12 High Tech Epoch Gravitic Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, Early Jump Drive & Contragrav. Practical gravity manipulation and its associated transportation systems revolutionize travel and the movement of goods. The Jump Drive opens up interstellar colonization and exploration to a degree never before known.
TL:13-15 Vhigh Tech Epoch Biologicals Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, High Geneering & Wafer. The High Interstellar Epoch brings about increasingly capable jump drives, fusion weapons, cloning & geneering technologies, and advanced robot intelligences that are bordering upon true artificial intelligence.
TL:16-18 Xhigh Tech Epoch Artificials Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, Late Robots & Lethetic AI The Late Interstellar Epoch brings about increasingly capable artificial intelligence, affordable robotic labor, and increasingly advanced FTL jump drives.
TL:19-21 Uhigh-1 Tech Epoch Matter Transport Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, Early Antimatter & Matter Transport. The availability of elemental matter portals (transporting raw materials across AU distances efficiently) transforms concepts of physical value. The Skip Drive and it successors allows sophonts to finally explore other galaxies.
TL:22-24 Uhigh-2 Tech Epoch Transformations Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, High Postsophontism & Goo. The lines between individuals blur as bodies become customizable, replaceable, and disposable. Post-Sophontism (individualized transformation) and the development of practical nanotech, often called the “Goo.”
TL:25-27 Uhigh-3 Tech Epoch Psionics Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, Late Psionic Engineering & Intertialess Drive. Psionic engineering, practical societal engineering, effective psychohistory and others now allow not only individuals to be transformed, but entire societies and civilizations.
TL:28-30 Dei Tech Epoch Trans-galactic Epoch Hyper-Sophontic Epoch Astrodeific Period Megastructures Technology develops capabilities to manipulate worlds and stars: to move them, harvest them for their matter and energy, and convert them to other large scale objects. The ability to visit other universes changes society profoundly. Entirely different astronomical environments engenders new viewpoints.
TL:31-33 Omni Tech Epoch Pocket Universe Epoch Trans-Sophontic Epoch Omnipotential Period
(Omega Period)
Chronotaxis & Transuniversalism. The ability to create and manipulate pocket universes infinitely expands available resources and turns all but the most adventurous inward. Time travel heralds the Singularity. Technological existence is forever transformed. Multiple possible existences motivates sophonts to seek existence beyond technology.
TL-34+ The Singularity PTP Post-Sophontic (Post-Omega Period) The Singularity & PTP. Society reaches a critical point in its development. Beyond imagination. Beyond technology. Beyond any previous definition of life.

Technological Metrics[edit]

The Technology Levels of the Third Imperium are measured in the range 0-15 (0-F), with 0 representing extreme primitive levels (hunter/gatherers), and 15 the height of Imperial technology.

  • However, there is technology more advanced than that of the Third Imperium as evidenced by ancient sites (e.g. Rosette worlds are TL-21 and Rigid Dyson Spheres TL-27). This kind of technology, more advanced than the present, are represented by TL's 16 to 33.
  • Traveller5 aka T5 has introduced a new theoretical maximum to the TL System of TL-33.

Chronological Periodization[edit]

In proper IISS parlance, the following terms are used. Historians and journalists often use them in a more figurative or extended sense.

Smelchakian Chronological Periodization
Chrono-term TL's Remarks Example/s
Age 1 Synonymous with a TL or a passing paradigm and society. Zeitgeist.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Age of Nomadism → Age of Farm & Village → Age of Town & Market)
Epoch 3 The typical longevity of a mature society before it undergoes paradigmatic change through revolution and societal evolution.
  • An epoch almost always is composed of three ages.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Agricultural Epoch → Industrial Epoch → Information Epoch → Interstellar Epoch)
Period 9 Part of the development of a maturing civilization.
  • In late periods, less than 9 TL's may be involved due to a quicker pace of knowledge acquisition.
  • Typically 9 TL's although some periods may encompass fewer, but a longer chronological span with less technological advancement.
  • This typically encompasses three epochs.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Foundational Period → Interstellar Period → Ultra Period)
Era 28 to 30+ The typical lifespan of a mature, technological civilization.
  • Typically 30 TL's although some eras may encompass fewer or more TL's depending on the civilization and their rate of technological advancement.
  • This typically encompasses three periods and a transition epoch.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Sophontic Era → Trans-Sophontic Era → Technological Singularity)
Eon 31 to 33+ The typical lifespan of several mature and advanced technology civilizations.
  • Typically 33 TL's although some eons may encompass fewer or more TL's depending on the civilization and the Singularity.
  • This typically encompasses one era and a transition epoch.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
[Pre-Sophontic (Creature Existence) → Sophontic (Technological Civilizations) → (Technological Singularity) → Post-Sophontic]

Paradigm & Period[edit]

Each period represents a loose set of standards and cultural mores for a civilization. More than one period ahead represents a severe change of societal possibilities that significantly less advanced societies would probably think of as "magic" or the "work of the gods."

  • One period ahead represents the dreams or near-technology science fiction of a preceding people, what one might call a paradigmatic shift. Significantly more advanced societies will often appear exceedingly strange or difficult to comprehend to peoples with lesser technologies.
  • Higher technology societies and civilizations will very often find lesser technology peoples to be backward and primitive.
  • Please see Detextualized Paradigmatic Problem and Clarkian Postulates for related ideas.

References & Contributors / Sources[edit]

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