LOST KNOWLEDGE

I tend to like tropes. There’s nothing wrong with a well-written trope, especially if the author gives it a unique twist. Tropes, used well, are not the same as cliches, which are things that have become so overused they have lost their meaning. A trope, on the other hand, is a convention or a device that is common enough that a writer can assume their reader will understand.

However, there are a few tropes that just don’t make sense to me. It’s not that it’s cliche… it’s that it just. doesn’t. make. sense.

Curious?

The number one trope I just can’t accept/abide/suspend my disbelief for is that of Lost Technology, or “Lost Knowledge.” (You can read more about it here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LostTechnology) yes, it’s an actual trope. Yes, I looked it up. Yes, tvtropes.org is a fun website to waste time do research on. Yes, I’m a nerd… that post is coming on Tuesday.

Lost KnowledgeBasically, the idea is that the world is going along fine, and people are creating more and more technological advances (such as in our present world), and then catastrophe of some sort strikes, laying waste to civilization as we know it. Maybe there’s a nuclear war. Maybe the moon falls out of the sky. Maybe zombies attack… whatever the case, civilization is kaput.

We pick the story back up hundreds to thousands of years in the future, and mankind is… dwelling in caves?

Yep, that’s what happened. All the libraries were burned, you see. The power failed. School teachers were eaten. Nobody had time to save books, or write anything down, or pass stories along to their children… they were all too busy fleeing/fighting/dying. You understand, right? People just went into hiding, they had their hands full trying to survive. And… and once the danger was over… well then they still had to survive. They had to learn to live off the land, feed their families… fend off wild animals… with sticks… because all the knives were… um… broken. And all the metal… er… melted. The guns all blew up… and… and… the people had to survive, doggone it!

And to this day, centuries later, all that the people have of the past is a vague sense of foreboding. They have decided to build tree-houses, live off the land, in harmony with nature, and not interest themselves in anything that was lost in the apocalypse. That stuff our ancestors had was dangerous… and besides… we LIKE the way the cold air leaks in through the gaps in our siding, and being unable to brush our teeth, or take a shower… or heal people when they get really sick.

Because that’s a reasonable, human response.

Not.

From the dawn of creation to the present day, when has humanity ever been less than insatiably curious? When have we gone backwards in discovery and innovation? I mean, does this proposition make any logical sense to you?

Now, there is one show that started up this year that actually uses the “Lost Technology” trope quite well, without all the gaps and unanswered questions. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it. It’s called “Revolution.” Very well-thought out premise… so apparently this trope can be done well… it just usually isn’t.

~ jenelle

6 Comments

John Wiswell

This made me think about that qualm in a different light. There are many people today who are not insatiably curious about technology or science, and if that was the dominant mindset of the individuals who survived, then yeah, the car battery might forever remain a mystery. Survivalists, for instance, would only find it a luxury to stock up on Physics papers.

John at The Bathroom Monologues

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Liesel Hill

I agree! I don’t see it as realistic that society would backslide so far, or at least not for long. I’m good with lost knowledge, but not with the human race sitting on their rumps not trying to recover it. Great post!

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Kern Windwraith

This one has yanked me out of more than a few stories too, and I’ve either had to stop reading or finish the book trying to pretend I haven’t noticed.

I haven’t seen Revolution–will give that a shot.

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