Created By: Gringodingo on April 13, 2011 Last Edited By: FastEddie on April 14, 2011

Inconsistent Technology

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Typically in sci-fi, this is where technology is insanely inconsistent.

Examples:
  • In The Matrix, the characters are capable of inserting themselves into a perfect virtual-reality world from a distance; but they are incapable of controlling their robot-suits weaponry by remote control, but must man them directly, leaving them vulnerable to the robots.
  • Avatar has similar inconsistency: i.e. they are capable of projecting life humans into the bodies of live Avatars, but can't remotely control attack-helicopters or attack-robot suits.
  • In Star Wars, the ships wield rather primitive lasers and rocket-engines, but also have antigravity technology and hyperdrive technology that seems thousands of years more advanced.

Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • April 13, 2011
    Glucharina
  • April 13, 2011
    Ghilz
    ^ Not the same thing. Schizo Tech is when technology present differs from a work's historical setting

    ^^ I am on the fence. On one hand, pretty sure we don't have this. And I can provide like 2 dozen examples. On the other... I feel this trope could become a huge Natter fest. A dumping ground for people to complain about "Oh why don't they have the tech to do X if they can do Y" For example, the Avatar example is somewhat justified: It's outright told the mercs are using outdated military hardware because it was easier to transport and maintain than the complex gear the actual military uses.
  • April 13, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    Did you even read the OP? Last I checked, a reason for the screaming meant there was a purpose.

    And don't ever screw around with someone's ykttw. That's bad manners here. And even with discarding, you give people time to respond.
  • April 13, 2011
    halfmillennium
    If this is going to be used, it should be limited to current technology where there's clearly a difference (for example, the Internet being invented before newspapers, or spaceships before motorbikes). We can't say for certain which sci-fi concepts will be possible in the future or in which order they will be discovered. Let's not forget that a few decades back, many people would have thought putting a colony on Mars by 2000 was more likely than the Internet.
  • April 13, 2011
    Blork
    • Star Trek has the replicators (which convert energy into matter in a specified form) which were invented long after the transporters and are less advanced, despite the fact that the final stage of transportation is essentially using it as a replicator.
    • In the science-fiction campaign of Civilization II: The Test of Time one of the aliens' earliest technologies is "circular supports", which they copy off the humans. Apparently they developed interstellar travel before the wheel.

    And I agree with halfmillennium's point that there needs to be a clear reason why one technology should come before the other. It's also worth noting that just because you have a technology doesn't mean you're always going to use it; for example remote-controlled vehicles have drawbacks, not least of which is the danger of the enemy jamming your signal.
  • April 13, 2011
    Cidolfas
    This could be incredibly subjective and end up with a ton of arguments about whether or not a particular technology really makes sense. Bellisarios Maxim will inevitably be invoked. We're talking about sci-fi most of the time; deciding that one kind of technology requires the use of another kind (which isn't there) is a leap of faith and very difficult to argue.

    I don't think this should be launched.
  • April 13, 2011
    ccoa
    I'm going to agree with Ghilz and say this has the potential to be a huge natter magnet. If launched, it will need at least one curator checking it constantly.
  • April 13, 2011
    robybang
    • In Surrogates, everyone in the future uses a robot replicant, but the replicants use cell phones.
  • April 13, 2011
    henke37
    Protip: All the pilot issues can be blamed on bad vision from cameras, unreliable communication links and/or latency issues. And of course there is also the cost of using a remote control system. And there is also the risk that it gets hijacked/jammed.
  • April 13, 2011
    Ghilz
    @DQZ What ..... ?

    At best, this would have to be an Audience Reaction Trope... But yeah, I have very mixed feelings about this one. Heck, look already we are collecting natter!
  • April 13, 2011
    EternalSeptember
    I agree with halfmillennium, that this can be a fine trope, but for such a definition, all of the OP examples would be incorrect, and we should limit it to examples that either seem to be intentional, or the difference in their levels is objectively proveable (e.g. one is logically based on the other).
  • April 13, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
  • April 13, 2011
    dalek955
    Note that this trope doesn't apply if the low-tech solution works better for certain applications, such as when Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better. If it ain't broke...

    Also, nitpick: Star Wars ships don't use rockets (what they have are "fusial thrust engines"), and just because we have lasers now doesn't make them primitive.

    See also Technology Levels and Tech Tree.
  • April 13, 2011
    Ghilz
    ^^^ I'd have to see a definition first though.
  • April 13, 2011
    RodrigoVega
    I think this is a good trope if used properly... it is kind of a mild version of Schizo Tech though, but I think used in a sufficiently different way to be considered a trope of it's own. The disonance between technologies is not so obvious and more often than not, not intentional. But much like there can be justifications for Batman being able to breath in space, there are still some quite solid examples for this. The size and function of electronic devices, such as movile comunication (massive and used only for talking) and computers, like Beeping Computers and how in futuristic settings videogames are often Pac Man Fever style. Have you noticed how computers in the future are often bulky, gray and ugly and with calculator-like letters appearing on black background? Those are all examples of this, no one can argue those are a little bit funny.
  • April 13, 2011
    batgirl1
    Could this arguably be Truth In Television? Once a new technology is invented, it isn't usually immediately mailed to everyone on the face of the planet, free of charge. An given house in the present day might theoretically have an ipod sitting next to an Apple II, for example.
  • April 13, 2011
    LeeM
    ^ Likewise, remember the days when everybody had a CD player and a VHS machine?
  • April 13, 2011
    Ghilz
    ^^^ The computer thing is covered both by Tech Marches On and Our Graphics Will Suck In The Future.
  • April 13, 2011
    BuckRivera
    The titles Inconsistent Technology and Schizo Tech do nothing to distinguish the two tropes. The The Matrix and Avatar examples could be perfectly described by the word schizo tech. I believe the defining distinction is that this is about one field of technology with schizo applications while Schizo Tech is about combining technologies that shouldn't co-ocurr. Call it Schizo Gear?
  • April 14, 2011
    Aegeus
    If it's a technology that's used for one thing when it could be used for many others (schizo applications), that would be Misapplied Phlebotinum. The Avatar and Matrix examples fall under this. If it's a technology that's advanced in some fields and backwards in others, that's Schizo Tech.

    I could see another trope for developing technology "out of order," but that would be subjective as hell (what's the "proper" order for tech development?), and it would almost certainly fall into one of the above two.

    Can we get an example that's Inconsistent Technology but not Schizo Tech or Misapplied Phlebotinum?
  • April 14, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I think there needs to be more description in the Trope page, I propose something like this:

    When the portrayal of technology in a Sci-fi work is insanely inconsistent in one of the following ways:
    • Advanced technology and primitive technology are used side by side when the more advanced tech suggests the society's technology level is such that they are capable of better technology that the primitive. This is without any explanation or justification being given, to the extent that it appears to be a mistake on the creators part. On the extreme end this can become Schizo Tech, which is usually purposefully done, while this may not be.
    • Explanations given for how technology in the world works, or how it's used are extremely inconsistent to the point of blatantly conflicting information and portrayals. This can happen in works with multiple authors and frequent RetConning.
  • April 14, 2011
    BuckRivera
    I wasn't aware of Misapplied Phlebotinum. I think that and Schizo Tech really cover this.
  • April 14, 2011
    Frank75
    I suggest Future Schizo Tech.
  • April 14, 2011
    BuckRivera
    The Schizo Tech article explicitly includes sci fi settings.
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