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File:Decades 3954.jpg

"Worth enough?", by radoxist


Not Invented Here: Trade of technology will not exist. One place in the world will have all the techno-gadgets while all the others will be harvesting dirt.


A large-scale form of Schizo-Tech.

Every country is different thanks to culture and geography, and no two cities in any one country are alike either. However some worlds can take this to extremes, making two side by side cities as different as night and day. The differences can be purely cosmetic or go all the way to lifestyle, architecture, and even technology. You can have a Utopia city made of Crystal Spires and Togas sitting smack dab next to a ghetto...sorry, "quaint hamlet" that never left The Middle Ages.

The reason, if any is given, is that there's no technology trade between the countries, so any discoveries a country makes (from Agriculture to Zoology) never leave it. Other times it's a question of societal values, where the "savage" village has chosen not to develop technology in favor of peaceful agrarian lives; however you can expect them to have copious and advanced magic if it's a Magic Versus Science setting. It's almost never purely stylistic, like Gotham City and Metropolis. Both exist in the same year and country, but one is firmly entrenched in 1920's Gothic and Noir style, while the other is an Art Deco optimistic future.

More plausible is Used Future, where one area is able to maintain a relative level of sophistication After or Just Before the End where others are reduced to tent villages. In these cases, advanced technology is known of by most, but becomes uncommon away from the advanced areas.

See also: Crystal Spires and Togas, Advanced Ancient Acropolis and Ludd Was Right. Compare Low Culture, High Tech, where a backwards culture uses technology it doesn't understand.

Examples of Decade Dissonance include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Windaria, the coastal city-state of Itha runs on windmills and admittedly sophisticated dams and waterwheels, and its military has hot-air balloons, crossbows, Molotov cocktails, and some kind of unarmoured hovercraft. The nearby mountain kingdom of Paro is a dieselpunk dystopia with monoplanes, assault rifles, and tanks. Somehow they fight a war on equal terms.
  • In Kino's Journey, cities are separated by great distances and form separate countries. Also, travel is dangerous and most people never leave their hometowns. Thus, there are vast differences in technology and culture between cities, which vary from medieval to futuristic in nature. This is made even stranger by the eclectic technology.
  • In One Piece, Vivi explains that the difficulties of mass travel among the islands Grand Line, which include sea monsters, needing place-specific compasses, and dealing with extremely unpredictable weather, means that culture and technology can vary widely from island to island. The end result are islands that range from existing in a Pre-Historical Stasis to a sprawling desert kingdom to a city of shipbuilders that was able to build a Cool Train that could run on the ocean to a society where bionic technology is common and most animals are cyborgs. The only people shown regularly traveling from island to island are pirates who acknowledge the risks and take them anyway, and government officials such as the Marines who possess the technology to mitigate the hazards.

Comic Books

  • Gotham city and Metropolis both reflect the style of their hero: Dark for Batman and shiny and optimistic for Superman. A common saying about the two cities within DC was that Metropolis was New York City in the daytime, while Gotham was New York at night. The Animated Series for both these shows even cross over, however Superman ended up visiting Batman at night (and Bats usually took the night with him to Metropolis).
    • Mind you, there is some overlap. For instance, Metropolis has a rough area called Suicide Slum where a few street level superheroes keep themselves busy with small time crooks.
    • Gotham also contains Decade Dissonance within itself - there are TV studios, computers and modern guns (right alongside Tommy Guns, mind), but everyone drives 1930s cars and TV shows from maybe 10–15 years ago are in black and white.
  • Gyro Gearloose makes this possible in the Scrooge McDuck universe. The comics are set in a vague, 1960s-esque world, but the Mad Scientist is able to bring any and all technology that would otherwise not be available for the stories.
    • And this even applies when the comics are clearly set in the present, as they tend to be if not by Don Rosa. It would apply even if they were set in a realistic far future. Gyro Gearloose can create any kind of plot device invention with no regard to whether it's actually possible.
  • Bone takes place in a magic-fueled, monster-roamed medieval land, yet the three main characters come from a town that reportedly has an education system, advanced economy, industry and even nuclear power. In order to, presumably, avoid distraction from the story, the technological differences between Boneville and the Valley are only used for side-jokes and don't play any role in the course of events... save for one major plot point.

Fan Works

  • In Aeon Natum Engel due to many circumstances, the defenses and general technology level of the Order-controlled Iceland consists mostly from the stuff dating back to the first Arcanotech War, when the fic takes places during the Aeon War, which itself was formerly known as a Second Arcanotech War.


  • The movie version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street does this (kind of) with style. Most of the film is set in Tim Burton's dark and bleak Victorian London, but when Sweeney has a flashback, the atmosphere becomes a bright and sunny 19th century version, and when Mrs. Lovett fantasizes about going to the sea with him, they are dressed in Edwardian outfits and stroll along a sunny beach.
  • Batman Begins is almost a carbon copy of the Philippines example under Real Life - glittering modern skyscrapers coupled with dark and steamy shanty towns/dirty back alleys in the same city. The sequel averts this somewhat due to the slums being torn apart in throes of madness and essentially written off.


  • Oryx and Crake (by Margaret Atwood) is set somewhere late in the 21st century, and shows present day trends of inequality taken to the extreme. The privileged few live in gated communities in comfortable settings, the majority live in the "Pleeb Lands" which are disadvantaged, violent (or at least perceived by the privileged as such), drug fueled and dependent on mass-produced technology that trickles down from the upper echelon.
  • In Old Kingdom, people are using swords and riding horses while in neighboring Ancelstierre they're using guns and shooting bombs at things. This is because most technology fails in the presence of magic (this also means that the Perimeter Guards have guns and swords, because any magical creature that gets close enough will make their guns fail).
  • Invoked deliberately in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. In the year 2194, Resthaven is an independent country within Zimbabwe that was designed to emulate tribal African culture. Outside of Resthaven people use hovercars and all sorts of futuristic technology, while inside they herd livestock on foot and don't use technology much more advanced than a saddle.
  • In Time Scout‍'‍s depiction of Victorian London, neighborhoods of opulent wealth are right next those of absolute squalor.
  • In The Pendragon Adventures, the Milago and Bedoowan live within spitting distance of each other: the Milago live in small huts and shit in holes in the ground, while the Bedoowan castle has running water and uses naturally glowing stones to provide artificial light.
  • Wheel of Time: implied in in Towers of Midnight, in Aviendha's vision: the descendants of the Aiel are reduced to little more than savages, while the Lightmakers, descendants of the Seanchan, have "high-tech" equipment (they are building a railway through the desert and have some kind of shotgun). Justified because the Seanchan could benefit from the technological improvements that were popping up in Rand's academies, while the Aiel were almost hunted to extinction.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: Enterprise is a bit of a confused setting in this regard. The producers made a mighty effort to make the art, style, technology and costuming designs evoke a "Pre-Zeerust" feel much like that of The Original Series while being "modern" and Twenty Minutes Into the Future enough for contemporary audiences (while not breaking the Pre-Zeerust feel). Whether this tightrope act succeeds or not depends mostly on the viewers' tastes.
  • Buck Rogers is also a bit confused. In the pilot, New Chicago and other major cities were protected by domes, and a Mad Max atmosphere reigned outside them. That seems to have been dropped later in the series.

Tabletop Games

  • The Warhammer Fantasy Battle fantasy setting has this big time with Bretonnia (read Medieval France in a fantasy setting) and The Empire (the Holy Roman Empire in a fantasy setting). Bretonnia is typical Medieval fantasy fodder with a feudal system, knights, archers, etc... The Empire, on the other hand, has Renaissance era level technology that borders on the early Industrial Revolution era level with elements of Steampunk thrown in for good measure; including things like steam-powered tanks, primitive machine guns, ironclad warships, flamethrowers, and a few other things as well. This can make for some interesting battles in the series.
    • Of course, Bretonnia is justified...
      • And not much justification is needed at that. Poland was still using what amounted to knights and irregular horse archers (admittedly supported by more modern contingents) by the mid 17th century. See the battle of Warsaw for a good example.
      • Well, it was a well-oiled fighting force, and usually matching their "more modern" opponents. And obviously, these opponents did not field clockwork horses or rocket artillery.
    • The other races vary; the Dwarves are on about the same level as the Empire, but with more efficient technology, while the Skaven have even more advanced technology, but it doesn't work right very often. The rest of the factions are less technologically advanced to the point of making the Bretonnians look modern, but make up for it with magic and natural strength.
  • The BattleTech universe applies this concept across a couple hundred worlds, with technological and industrial infrastructure destroyed by massive wars. Major worlds enjoy the use of starships, giant robots, cybernetics, faster-than-light communications, and worldwide computer networking, while many other planets fell to 19th-century lifestyles, with a starport or two and a FTL communications array somewhere on the planet so they aren't totally cut off.
    • Traveller does this too, but as an analogy of the Truth in Television example above: the low-tech worlds still have access to more advanced technology, but the local industrial base isn't equipped to produce it so it has to be imported at extra cost. It's a similar situation in Firefly, which was not inspired by Traveller but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was.
    • In Warhammer 40,000 different planets within the Imperium can have massively different technology levels and cultural views. Examples range from "feral worlds" with mostly medieval technology (save what's imported from other planets), to planets with fairly modern-looking cites (except with more skulls and statues) to dystopian hive worlds where the entire populace lives inside enormous plasteel towers surrounded by uninhabitable wasteland.
      • They actually stated in one White Dwarf that they'd created a fictional universe where you can have rock-waving barbarians and antigravity tanks on the same battlefield.
  • Ravenloft can be bad for this, with domains ranging from the Classical Era to Psuedo-Victorian era. Granted it makes more sense when you realize each domain is snatched up from a different world, and some of the Dark Lords tend to isolate their populations from the influence for multiple reasons.
    • The Hollow World CD&D setting has a similar patchwork feel to it, for pretty much the same reason: it was designed by the Immortals to preserve favorite cultures which were dying out on the planet's surface, and they used really powerful magic to make sure these cultures would neither mix nor change.
  • There's plenty of this in Rifts, where a rural community with no technology to speak of (save for a laser rifle or two gotten from somewhere else) can be less than 50 miles away from a large city full of people with mass communication, hover vehicles, giant robots, and other futuristic gear. Not to mention communities built on magic. The "no tech sharing" angle is implicit with the Coalition States; they use their superior technology to lure in other communities, either through force, coercion, or more subtle methods. But it doesn't explain why benevolent places like Lazlo aren't sharing the wealth.
    • This tropes makes sense because travel on Rifts Earth is extremely dangerous. The vast majority of people from low tech/low magic communities never travel more than a mile or two from their home town. In a lot of cases, they probably don't even know there's a massive city full of magical and/or technological marvels only 50 miles away, and vice versa.

Video Games

  • A goal for many experienced players of the game Civilization was to reach the industrial revolution while leaving opponents in the bronze age. It is not uncommon to see your tanks getting attacked with spears. And losing.
    • Forget that. On easy difficulty with the Aztecs, you can easily get Space Flight before 500 BC!
      • "You have invented Space Flight! What would you like to do next?" "Actually find one of those other three nations I'm supposed to be competing with."
    • Of course, your own units can also get left behind technologically if you leave them, say, guarding a city or something, and never bother to upgrade them.
    • Same with Rise of Nations. It's not impossible to find yourself using missile cruisers to screen your battleships from incoming fireships. Or rolling out tanks to take down a band of hostile musketeers. Or even reacting to your opponent inventing the petrol engine with an atomic strike on his capital.
  • The entire premise of Project Eden for the PlayStation 2 is descending from the utopia on the top floors of the city, miles down to the slum. This is an example in a single city. The opening FMV shows a young child on the top floor balcony at a party dropping his teddybear and the fall is followed as the teddy falls through areas that are ever increasing with rust and tramps.
  • Arcanum deconstructed this. The reason that cities like Qintarra and Dernholm (the capital of Cumbria) have no advanced technology is because they rejected them in favor of using magic. Magic and technology do not work well together, so focusing on one or the other (or, as in Caladon, maintaining a careful balance between the two) is a choice a society needs to make. (For humans, focusing on magic to the exclusion of technology is a bad call; for elves, it's a necessity.)
  • This is seen in many parts of the Golden Sun universe. That large monkey robot Gabomba stands out...
    • This is actually a major theme in the Golden Sun series, especially the second game. Lots of areas feature the dying remnants of an ancient culture living near (and in some cases, trying to harness the power of) an ancient monument or city left over from before the World Sundering. The Champa and the leftovers of the Ankhol civilization, Lalivero and Venus Lighthouse...
  • Subverted in Guild Wars in that the African Elona and Nordic Norns is actually just AS advanced as the south American-seeming Krytans and European Ascalonians. Same with the Asian Cantha, and some even have their own technologies similar to others.
    • In the case of Elona, the designers specifically tried to imagine what the old north African empires would look like had they existed for another few hundred years, and had magic. The results were fairly badass.
  • Arguably the Mushroom Kingdom in the 'Super Mario Bros. series. You've got towns and villages like Toad Town set firmly in the middle ages equivalent, then shiny futuristic cities like Mushroom City, Twilight City and various cities from the Wario series games with modern technology equivalents.
  • Also, Wario Land The Shake Dimension arguably does this. You've got the basic settlements shown in the first world and the intro cut scene that the Merfles lived in, then right in the middle of the wild west themed area, you've got Glittertown/Neon City which is basically some Las Vegas equivalent complete with modern technology, electricity and slot machines.
  • Played extremely straight in The Spirit Engine. On one end of the country, you have Homestead, a very rural area stuck in Medieval Stasis. On the other end, you have Silthea, which has tanks, high-tech copters, sentient A Is, military-grade robots and a hundred levels tall skyscraper. Semi-justified in that the Frontier Corporation, which is responsible for pretty much 100% of technological progress, is seated in Silthea, employs all known scientists and doesn't care one whit for anywhere else. And that it's run by a scientist who used to live in our world but was dimension-shifted due to an accident with a particle accelerator.
  • The Warcraft universe, in which the Orcs and Tauren live in huts made from animal hides, while the gnomes have fled their homes due to radiation poisoning from their nuclear reactor. At least some of it seems to be by choice, however. The Tauren, for example, have access to gunpowder but otherwise prefer to live closer to nature.
    • Warcraft is actually a major aversion: Until recently, many of those diverse cultures used to be isolated from one another. With the rapid exchange of knowledge and technology, many races managed to catch up with their modern brethern while those that did not have suffered massive cultural upheaval.
  • FFX has an example fitting the page quote: You have one group of people, the Al Bhed, who take pride in salvaging and making use of the local Lost Technology, while the rest of the world lives in small villages who actively shun such technology. Of course, this one's justified - the Al Bhed are the only ones who don't worship Yevon, and the Yevonite religion condemns technology because Yu Yevon, the extremely angry entity who runs it, saw his country destroyed by it. After Yevon is dealt with, the sequel shows technology becoming increasingly wider-spread.
    • Yu Yevon doesn't run anything, moreover Zanarkand - his home - was extremely technologically advanced except in it's military, where it relied more on summoners.
    • The idea behind the condemnation of technology comes from the fact that Sin would destroy all major cities and the superstition of Sin being punishment for technological hubris came from there. Note that this doesn't stop the Yevon religion itself from hoarding technology, including rifles and giant killbots of doom.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has Esthar. The rest of the world is slightly behind the real world in most respects, with cars, machinery and television, but Esthar (besides looking very futuristic is much more technologically advanced, with floating public transit, advanced spaceflight, and the ability to cloak the whole city from the rest of the world... which helps explain why this technology never spread.
  • Jade Empire has a fairly extreme version, if believable. Towns out in the countryside look like ordinary ancient Chinese villages; at the Capital City, though, everything is far more modern, down to having power lines. Seems that the Empire just doesn't care about its outer provinces.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series suffers from this. In Sonic Adventure 2 the main city is clearly based on San Francisco with modern buildings and ordinary vehicles. Meanwhile in Sonic Heroes and Sonic Riders there are extremely futuricistic locales with flying cars, anti-gravity transporters, and buildings that'd look at home on Coruscant. And there's even tribal villages too. Whether the series is supposed to be set in the twentieth, twenty-first, or twenty-second century is a matter for debate, given that building a city-sized space station wasn't an obstacle 50 years before the series' present.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, this is justified repeatedly by the enforced Medieval Stasis. Tethe'alla, as the flourishing world, has higher magitechnology levels than Sylvarant, and anything backed by Cruxis, in either world or on Derris-Kharlan, is even higher still on the scale, since they're the greater power that's keeping everyone else locked down.
  • In The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure, many of the people and locations in Saxton seem stalled in some previous decade. Antique radios and a blacksmith's workshop exist side by side with interactive video exhibits at the museum and loudspeakers at the faire. While several of the people turn out to be ghosts who don't realize they're dead, others' status is left ambiguous. Lampshaded when Nigel asks the barkeep what year it is, and never gets a straight answer.
  • Used deliberately in Red Dead Redemption, which is set in The Wild West - in The Edwardian Era. The final taming of the West and the death of the culture it supported are the game's primary theme.
  • In Terranigma, there is in fact tech sharing, but if you don't grow certain towns, you can end up with strange situations, like having the American town Freedom as a bustling metropolis, while certain European towns remain as rural as they were the day you freed them from their oppressive king. In addition, certain towns begin extremely differently. Apparently, at the same time you were helping Thomas Edison discover electric power, Japan and parts of China have had television for quite some time.
    • Somewhat justified in that everything on Earth was destroyed and recreated, starting from the continents themselves from stored templates. It's possible China and Japan were stored as more advanced versions than Europe and America.
  • In Chrono Trigger the earthbound live in caves and look as though they're just a step or two above actual cavemen. Whereas in the same time period the Kingdom of Zeal is a Floating Continent powered by magic where there exists modern philosophy, advanced architecture and Magitech on a Crystal Spires and Togas level.
  • Though you never get to travel to Zzyzx in Rune Factory it maintains a presence in several of the games (especially the first) and is mentioned to be highly technologically advanced, even running an army of tanks against the town of Kardia, While all signs point to the fastest transport in Norad to be a horse drawn carriage. Word of God is that Zzyzx focused on technology while Norad focused on magic.

Web Original

  • The Casus Belli Republic from Lambda has Powered Armour and Humongous Mecha, while Soleil, the nearest up in the tech race, is still in the Age of Sail and muskets. This however, results from the fact that the Bellans as a race have low magical potential compared to the rest of the world, and so use what little they have to advance their technology to the top.

Real Life

  • This is very much present in Real Life. In many developing countries, farming is still done with bulls, and muscle-powered rickshaws are still very much in use. Millions still die from diseases whose vaccines were invented a decades ago; there are millions in the corners of Africa and Asia who are still not connected with the electrical grid; there are tribes in dank jungles of the Amazon, Indonesia and Andaman Islands who still live as hunter gatherers.
    • Interestingly, however, cell phones are literally everywhere; portable technologies have lesser infrastructure requirements, leading to cases of farmers riding donkeys to the rice paddy while chatting on their cell phones. Phones and mobile internet are also used for bill payment and tracking crops in developing nations.
    • One group of Andaman natives, the Sentinelese, actively refuse any contact with the outside world, even resorting to violence sometimes. Nowadays Indian authorities just leave them alone and look around so that everyone else does the same.
  • During the Middle Ages, Constantinople embodied this trope (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Byzantine Empire) with regards to Europe. At a time when Western Europe was still recovering from the fall of Rome and the resulting collapse of infrastructure, they had a teeming cosmopolitan city that maintained and improved on most of the old Roman building traditions. Add in fairly high literacy rates, a university system, a mature legal system, and a stable bureaucracy, and then compare it to just about any other European country at the time. Europe got better eventually - i.e. the mid-to-late late nineteenth century. By then, of course, Constantinople had long-since been raided by marauding crusaders and taken over by the Ottomans, under whom it continued to be rather well-kept relative to Europe until the 'Great Divergence' we mentioned earlier.
  • People living in the deepest parts of the Amazon Rainforest, compared with those living in Manaus. Or the Amish living near New York.
    • Societies like the Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch for example) often do advance somewhat using imported equipment without sacrificing their core lifestyle. You get weird combinations of technology like gas-powered planting machines being pulled by horses, and they will go to a regular doctor instead of relying on older types of "medicine" that you would associate with their general tech level.
      • Amish acceptance of technology is based on the effect it has on their community, particularly if the device would prevent them from being self-sufficient. Running a compressor using purchased fuel and using air power (aka "Amish Electricity") for appliances is fine, but paying a monthly bill for electricity is not. Some tech like solar panels and pay-as-you-go cell phones are accepted on these grounds, while many Amish are happy to pay for a ride to work in a car.
    • Another rather blatant example is the differences between South Korea and its neighbor North Korea. North Korea is sandwiched between South Korea and China, two industrial nations with healthy economies. In comparison, North Korea has literally zero electricity usage and infrastructure, and outside the capital, you'll only find farmland and military bases. To put things in perspective, this is what North Korea looks like at night compared to its wealthier neighbors.
  • This image of Makati, Philippines—a economically booming city just outside Manila—houses shacks next to gleaming skyscrapers, though the image is sometimes incorrectly identified as being Detroit.
  • Inversion along the US-Mexico border; the US side is mostly barren while the Mexican side will have development. Played straight in some places, outright averted in others. In this picture, right side is Mexico.