Technology Level

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Technology is the ability to use tools to make other tools. [1] Technology Level, or Tech Level and commonly abbreviated TL, is a measure of technological capability and sophistication. Technology Level is a rating of several interconnected ideas regarding the understanding and use of technology by a species, population, or government.

The Technology level index varies on a scale from 0 to 33, based upon current understanding of the physical laws of the universe. Most worlds in the Third Imperium have a TL between 7 and 12, with a maximum of 15 and a few rated at 16. The other major races have a similar ratings for worlds within their sphere of influence. Worlds outside of the major empires have somewhat lower TLs, though with some known interesting exceptions.

The TL assigned as part of the Universal World Profile is the Common or Base TL, characterizing the level of technology commonly available on the world. [2] This is the level encountered near the starport and in most urban areas. [3]


Technology Levels
TL Approximate Era or key development
0 Primitive/Stone Age
1 Bronze Age
1.3 Iron Age
2 Age of Sail
3 Industrial Revolution
4 Mechanization
5 Polymers
6 Nuclear Age
7 Semiconductors; Early space age
8 Superconductors; Early communications
9 Gravitics; First Jump Drives
10 Practical Fusion power
11 Fusion+; Imperial maximum year 0
12 Sophisticated Robots
13 Cloning; Imperial maximum year 550
14 Geneering; Imperial maximum year 900
15 Anagathics; Imperial maximum year 1105
16 Artificial Persons; Black Globe Generators
17 Hop Drive; Permanent Personality Transfer
18 Disruptor and Stasis weapons
19 Limited Matter Transport; Antimatter power
20 Skip Drives; White Globe Generators
21 System-wide matter transport; Relativity Rifle
22+ (Beyond current technology extrapolation.)
23 Planetary core energy tap; Rapid terraforming
24 Portals; Rosettes
25 Psionic engineering
26 Stasis globe
27 Ringworlds
28 Reality drive
29 Dyson spheres
31 Pocket universes

Technology Level measures the degree of technological expertise, and thus the capabilities of local industry to manufacture and repair or maintain items. [4] It serves as an overall economic indicator of the society to produce goods. [5]

A Technology Level is roughly an order of magnitude increase in capability across the three measures of technology: labor enhancement, quality improvement, and achievement of impossibilities. [1] Worlds (societies, cultures, civilizations, stellar federations, interstellar empires) are classified by their available technology. Each is evaluated on the available technology and assigned a Technology Level, indicating the common capabilities of the world in the creation of and use of technology. [6]

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.

Technology Level determination

A world which has developed an independent technology maintains its common tech level for the majority of its territory. Some regions (typically near the starport) may have slightly higher tech levels based on the availability of imported goods.

The Tech Level for an interstellar society is based on the TLs of its significant worlds. Determinations are made for defined regions (usually a subsector). If the interstellar society is larger than a subsector, it is divided into subsector-sized regions, with higher tech subsectors dominating their lower tech subsector neighbors. The TL of the subsector is determined by the highest TL for an Industrial World within the subsector. This TL governs the construction of the military and naval forces of the society. The highest generally available TL within a society equals the highest TL for its most important world.

Fractional technology levels

Because each technology level can span many years there is, in some cases, a need to discuss the different sections of the advancements. These can be described within the single technology level as part of the early or late development. In other discussion the technology may be divided into an early, middle, and late period.

In some discussions the technology levels are noted with a decimal fraction like 1.3 or 1.6. The implication being a technology level can be divided into 10 separate parts. This is rarely, if ever, done and only for specific discussions. In general the X.3 indicates an early stage of the technology level and the X.6 indicates the late part of the technology age.

Technological advancement

Technological advancement is a process of development of a new level of technological achievement beyond that currently possessed. As such, it is an uncertain process: spending and research may bring critical breakthroughs quickly, or prolonged efforts and continued funding may fail utterly to achieve the desired results. In addition to the costs and time necessary to develop such technology, a certain level of automation is required indicated by minimum infrastructure and population requirements. [7]

Technological uplift is the process of raising a world's Tech Level by the transfer of technical knowledge from another world with a higher Tech Level. Naturally, this limits uplifting to the current maximum available Tech Level. Technological uplifting is not a function of developing new technology. It involves developing or modifying a world's existing infrastructure, political climate, cultural norms, etc. to incorporate the existing technology of another world. Such uplifting must consider not only construction of the new technology but also education on its usage and provisions for maintenance and repair. Since the research and development necessary to develop the level of technological achievement has already occurred, the adoption of this technology on subsequent worlds will be much cheaper, and more easily attained. [7]

Technological stagnation

Not all technological societies continue to advance. There are a number of reasons why this occurs.

Scientific: The core of a technological advance requires an understanding of the science underlying the technology. This in turn requires research into these understandings, the ability to communicate the research to others, and education of the next generation. Lacking the ability to do research and blocking communication of ideas will stagnate the advance of technology.

Cultural: A society may adopt only enough technology to meet its needs and then content itself with a static stability. Some cultures value social stability: technology that disrupts society may be banned or suppressed. An oppressive society may depend on technology to maintain its domination of the population. It may embrace cultural restrictions that prevent technological advancement. [8]

Resources: Technological advancement requires access different kinds of resources. Food to supply an increasing population required for maintaining a technological society. Access to metals and other minerals for construction of devices. Sources of energy, especially an low and mid technology levels to power the technology. Lacking the access to these critical resources will block advancement of the society.

Accelerating Tech Levels

Technology beyond TL–21 borders on or achieves the fantastic: it not routinely available to lower tech levels, and it harnesses capabilities only dreamed of by lesser technologies. [9] 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 TLs 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. [10]

Technological Singularity

The endpoint in the TL scale achieves tools that are self-replicating, self-improving, and panscient. Societies reaching the technological singularity choose, or have chosen for them, consequences of their continued technological advancement. Some societies moves beyond technology advancing to metaphysical pursuits which transcend a physical existence, while others retreat returning to earlier levels and begin their process of advancement again.

Technological Profiles

The default Technology scale describes a general advancement of technology. However, few cultures follow the exact pattern of technical achievement in theoretical science implied by the standard TL system. [11] The Technological Profile divides the Technology Level a number of areas (known as Area Tech Level or ATL), each assigned an individual level index.

Technology is spread across a range of Technology Levels. Although the majority of goods on a world reflect its Tech Level, there may be higher TL goods (experimental models, prototypes, or early versions) or there may be lower TL goods (advanced or improved versions of older or more mature technology).

The ATL at a higher level than the base TL indicates the culture has more theoretical knowledge than it is willing or capable of implementing in practical technology. There may well have been recent breakthroughs in the area, but goods, where available are likely to be expensive or unreliable.

Where the ATL is lower than the common TL indicates development in the area has been retarded in that area. This may be a failure of local research and development or the population simply prefers off-world products.

For a detailed description of each of the Area Technologies and their associated development please see the Tech Level Comparison Chart.

Technological Periods

On a very broad level, Imperial historians have divided contemporary and future 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.

The idea of Technological Periodization begins with the Technology Age, the period of time it takes for a society, a world, or an interstellar state, to advance from one technology level to another. Depending upon the starting point, nature of the society, and available resources this time may be a span of years to millennia. Historians both within the Imperium and across Charted Space gather and categorize these ages to facilitate the study and analysis of history.

The next level is the Technological Epoch, a sequence of tech levels to which a society has attached some cultural importance. The most widely used system assigns lech levels in groups of three, assigning a name to each for better historical relevance. There exist other epoch periodization schemes which assign groups of TLs in groups of two to six, sometimes varying in number between the groupings. Given the nature of technological advancements, the border between each epoch is subject to controversy.

The final level is the Technological Period, a much broader scale dividing the entire technological scale into three parts, each roughly covering 9 technological levels based upon the amount of energy the civilization is able to use. The first level is planetary scale, covering TLs 0 to 9, the second a stellar or interstellar scale, covering TLs 10 to around 18 to 20, and the third a galactic scale covering TLs 18 to 20 to the singularity.

These Technological Eras or Technological Eons (the terms are interchangeable), represent the complete cycle of a sophont civilization. The cycle of each period end with the technological singularity.

Technological Age (1 TL) → Technological Epoch (3 TLs) → Technological Period (9 TLs) → Technological Era/ Technological EonPost-Technological Period

The IISS and other groups assigning technology levels to worlds or cultures and equipment avoid the use of technological periods, preferring to assign specific technology levels and using a detailed technology profile. Sophontologists use a combination of Epoch and technology profiles to describe cultures under study. Historians use Epochs to compare societal advancements over history, though there is no broad agreement as to which Epochs are the standards.

Tech Levels 0 through 21

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

Technological Level Table
TL Lvl Historical Era IC CE Remarks
TL 0-9
0 Xlow Stone Age TBD TBD Found Tools, fire, mysticism, village, agriculture, etc.
1 Vlow Bronze Age TBD 3500 BC None
1.3 Vlow Iron Age TBD 1300 BC None
1.6 Vlow Medieval Age TBD 600 AD None
2 Vlow Age of Sail TBD 1500 AD None
3 Vlow Industrial Revolution TBD 1730 AD None
3.3 Vlow Napoleonic Era TBD 1800 AD None
3.6 Vlow Colonial Era TBD 1850 AD None
4 Low Mechanized Age TBD 1900 AD None
5 Low Broadcast Age TBD 1930 AD None
6 Low Atomic Age TBD 1940 AD None
7 Mlow Space Age TBD 1970 AD None
8 Mlow Information Age TBD 1990 AD None
9 Mlow Early Stellar Age / Fusion Age TBD 2050 AD None
TL 10-21
10 (A) High Early Stellar Age / Gravitic Age TBD 2120 AD None
11 (B) High Average Imperial 0 TBD None
12 (C) High Average Imperial 30 TBD None
13 (D) Vhigh Average Stellar / Geneering Age 600 TBD None
14 (E) Vhigh High Stellar 1000 TBD None
15 (F) Vhigh Imperial Maximum 1105 TBD None
16 (G) Xhigh Artificial Persons Age TBD TBD None
17 (H) Xhigh Personality Transfer Age 1902 TBD Republic of Regina
18 (J) Xhigh Exotics Age TBD TBD None
19 (K) Uhigh Matter Transport / Antimatter Age TBD TBD None
20 (L) Uhigh Skipdrive Age TBD TBD None
21 (M) Uhigh Stasis Age TBD TBD None

See also

Technology levels

Universal world profile

§ == ( Please refer to the following AAB Library Data for more information: ) == §

Please refer to the following AAB Library Data for more information:

References & Contributors (Sources)

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GURPS Traveller Notes: An array of notes regarding the similarities and differences between Traveller TL and GURPS TL can be found here: Technology Level/meta
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