AHC: Alternative Industrializations?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Kerney, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    I wonder about what methods could be used to output the amount of brick or concrete needed to build electrical dams in sufficient volume and how viable they'd be for a society stuck in an agrarian paradigm.

    Mechanization had been slowly building since the dying days of the Roman Republic so my feeling is that eventually even without coal and oil a "machine and scientific revolution" would occur. Proving such a hunch would take more detailed knowledge than I possess however. ERoI is pretty fiendish to calculate given how complex even the simplest supply chain is. Also, I hesitate to call such a revolution "industrial" since I am not sure how far capital would replace labour in such a scenario.

    fasquardon
     
  2. Jürgen Well-Known Member

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    I know in Denmark traditional windmills stayed competitive into the early 20th century, while homemade (non-fancy) pottery produce by individual families ( the so-called Jydepotte) was exported until the WWI. Traditional manufacturing stayed somewhat competitive until rising wages killed them.
     
  3. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Well, we have historical examples of fairly large dams being built by pre-industrial peoples, e.g. the Jawa Dam; of course, those were earthen dams, mostly, but I'm not sure you couldn't adapt an earthen dam to produce hydropower if you were sufficiently clever. And, of course, you don't actually need a dam to produce hydropower, just large amounts of hydropower. The way I see it, hydroelectricity would initially be an upgrade to existing mechanical hydropower systems, replacing all the complex gearing and drive shafts with electrical wiring. Hence, at first it would not need any new dam construction.

    The obvious value of hydroelectricity would probably, however, drive development of better hydroelectric locations and the development of new manufacturing techniques using electricity to create larger amounts of concrete and other materials for building specialized hydroelectric dams. You might also see the development of wind power to bring electricity to places where there's no real hydroelectric potential. Probably this would kick off the "iron and coal" phase, to the extent that it hasn't happened already, since you can use electricity to manufacture iron and steel in an electric furnace...
     
  4. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Well, earthen dams require more repairs, with means less energy surplus available for the rest of the economy. Wooden working parts similarly are less efficient at transferring energy and also burn up more resources due to needing more frequent replacement...

    I think a dam-fed revolution would require some fairly effective forestry techniques, since it seems to me that a minimum for this would be enough charcoal production to supply some amount of steel.

    I wonder if New England and Scandinavia could manage that?

    fasquardon
     
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  5. Windows95 Well-Known Member

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    Why do you think the Arab Golden Age is the alternative candidate of industrialization?
     
  6. Hassan-i-Sabbah Well-Known Member

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    Industrialization based on hydropower is a good possibility.
     
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  7. Windows95 Well-Known Member

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    But don't you need coal and energy for industrialization, or machines?
    I don't think the Abbasids have the vast amount of hydropower resources to power their machines, and plus, what about electricity.
     
  8. Hassan-i-Sabbah Well-Known Member

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    Not really. Energy can be gained from other sources. What do you think alternative energy is?

    You just need energy which can be gained from hydropower and hydropower just needs rivers and other bodies of water. Electricity is a by product of energy production.
     
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  9. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    It's still a significant advancement over using manual or animal labor. More importantly, remember that this would come after the development of textile manufacturing along the same lines as IOTL in the 1700s and early 1800s, which already relied on run-of-the-river or simple dam-fed hydropower transmitted using mechanical shafts rather than electrical wires. Even if you can't build concrete dams or afford steel machines, hydroelectricity is still far more flexible and capable than that.

    I'm also skeptical that considerations of "available energy surplus" or "energy efficiency" or "EROEI" have any actual utility in the real world. In principle, yes, higher EROEI is better. In practice, it seems to me to be virtually impossible to come up with any kind of sensible figures in these areas, much less use them to predict which technologies are more or less effective.

    I think steel turbines would be a later development. Think waterwheels with generators attached, at least at first.
     
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  10. Windows95 Well-Known Member

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    I just didn't think it is possible to industrialize from scratch with alternative sources other than fossil fuels.
     
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  11. Hassan-i-Sabbah Well-Known Member

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    Coal isn't a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are oil.
     
  12. Jared first one to PM me gets a bonus chapter of LoRaG

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    Eh? Coal very much is a fossil fuel, produced from fossilised organic matter (mostly plants). Natural gas is a fossil fuel too, not just petroleum.
     
  13. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Coal is absolutely a fossil fuel.

    Oh yes, it is most certainly an improvement over muscle power. The question is not "is this useful", the question is "does the provide the surplus value to allow re-investment into improvement for enough iteration cycles to result in something that can support serious industry".

    Have you ever looked closely at how GDP is calculated? Lemme tell you, that's one messy sausage inside the neat casing, and if what goes in is too different, you end up in a sausage that cannot be usefully be compared to another sausage (not to mention if the two sausages are minced up via different techniques). I think ERoI is similar. It is a useful idea, but the big benefits will await the time when all ERoI sausages are made to the same standard.

    fasquardon
     
  14. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Well, if you want to phrase it that way...obviously yes. But of course phrasing it that way hunting and gathering provided sufficient "surplus value to allow re-investment into improvement for enough iteration cycles". It only took about a million years or so and several bootstraps up past hunting and gathering...but I never said that hydroelectricity would be fast (indeed, I specifically said it would probably be slow) or final. Just that textile mills and other water-powered industries could eventually transition to electrical transmission of power, then others could utilize that power for other industrial purposes (transportation, steel production, etc.). That could very well lead to hydroelectricity becoming obsolete once better methods are developed using it as a staging point, much the same way that IOTL mechanical hydropower became obsolete (or, indeed, how hydroelectricity, despite initially being the primary source of electrical power everywhere, is now rather a secondary source in most places).

    I never said that GDP was better.
     
  15. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Well, yes, this is my own feeling as well. But it's just a gut feeling. It would be a difficult thing to demonstrate.

    Fair enough - I happen to think GDP is a useful sausage.

    fasquardon
     
  16. Hassan-i-Sabbah Well-Known Member

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    Nvm
     
  17. Hassan-i-Sabbah Well-Known Member

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    @Workable Goblin

    This may not be the right thread for this but would permaculture mitigate climate change.
     
  18. Kerney defender of low probability atls everywhere

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    I want to say, I really like the level of thought people are putting into their answers.
     
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  19. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    I don't know? I'm a physicist, not a botanist or agronomist, so I'm really not the best person to ask. But based on what I know some permaculture practices could be beneficial in climate change scenarios by sinking carbon into the soil at enhanced rates or by producing food ecosystems with somewhat more resilience to climate change effects than conventional agriculture. These are not likely to be especially large, though.
     
  20. Albrecht Well-Known Member

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    Continuing the Arab Golden Age and the fuels needed, its possible for Hydropower to drive industries powered by electricity. But you first need to discover Electricity and Thermodynamics for that. One way or the other, you need some heat related fuel. See, even today 75+℅ of energy we get come from thermal sources including the renewable Solar Thermal power?

    So that puts them at a requirement for a fuel. That's not an issue, if they kick off an Age of Enlightenment by staying in that trend during the Abbasid era, they could have used Oil to fuel the Industrial revolution. This Abbasid Empire could stretch from Atlantic to almost the Western China.