Alternate History

Timeline of Ideas (Superpowers)

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This timeline of science and philosophy is a distinct but contiguous timeline for the Superpowers alternate history. Discoveries from before the points of divergence are described before presenting a categorization of discoveries from the last two millennia.

Region of origin is indicated in parentheses: Roman Empire (R), Maya Conglomerate (M), Far East (E), or Islamic world (C). Only novel discoveries or inventions are mentioned, leaving the dissemination of ideas to the imagination of the reader unless the idea is important enough to events to merit describing its spread.

Before the Common Era

Dates prior to the common era are inaccurate and highly imprecise. An uncertainty of about 20 years around the given year may be useful to assume but even that may be insufficient, especially for the events in deep antiquity. Each entry is either a description and name of a discovered idea/technology/technique or a statement about a person presenting an idea.


  • ~3000: Code of law according to principles of impartial judgement and tradition.
  • ~2000: Code of law according to principles of casuistry (if..., then...).
  • ~1800: Maxim of reciprocity as a guiding principle for how a person should act.
  • ~1800: Code of law according to principles of retributive justice, i.e. the maxim of retaliation.
  • ~1800: Prime numbers are singled out among the counting numbers.
  • ~585: Thales of Miletus rejects mythological explanation of nature in presenting a materialistic explanation.
  • ~585: Geometrical theorems are first derived by deductive reasoning.
  • ~550: Mechanical model of the solar system is first proposed, with the Earth at its center.
  • ~530: Proof that for a right-angled triangle the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of squares of the other sides.
  • ~500: Heraclitus of Ephesus argues that the only constant is change (panta rhei).
  • ~500: Heraclitus argues for the unity of opposites and for change as a succession of opposites.
  • ~500: Parmenides rejects experiential knowledge (a posteriori) for rational knowledge (a priori) from first principles.
  • ~500: Parmenides argues that change and a void (perfect vacuum) are impossible.
  • ~500: Siddharta Gautama argues that suffering is caused by desire and ignorance.
  • ~490: Confucius rejects a mythological basis for morality and virtues in presenting a humanistic basis.
  • ~490: Confucius presents a sense of justice as the ideal source of political virtues as opposed to deterrence and threats.
  • ~470: Leucippus argues that nature consists only of atomoi (indivisibles) moving within a void
  • ~450: Reductio ad absurdum as a form of deductive reasoning, used in presenting paradoxes of motion.
  • ~450: Empedocles argues that nature is composed of four elements: fire, air, water, and earth.
  • ~400: Hippocrates rejects a mystical explanation of disease in presenting a naturalistic explanation.
  • ~400: Medicine is formulated into a professional craft based on rigor, observation and categorization.
  • ~380: Plato argues that abstractions are independent of their concrete instances in nature.
  • ~380: Knowledge as justified true belief.
  • ~380: Hypothetical code of law according to justice as harmony, where each person does what is expected of him.
  • ~370: Flourishing (eudaimonia) as the purpose of virtue (arete).
  • ~350: Semantic paradox of self-referential sentences (Liar's Paradox).
  • ~340: Aristotle presents a systematic explanation of nature (geology, mechanics, optics, astronomy, biology, psychology).
  • ~340: Aristotle argues that change is an actualization of the potential in the changing object, where a thing's potential is in its matter (hyle) and its actual state is its form (morphe).
  • ~340: Aristotle identifies four types of explanation: efficient (causal), formal, material, and teleological (purposeful).
  • ~340: Aristotle argues that motion is either caused by an external mover (forced motion) or by an internal drive to move toward that object's natural place in the universe (natural motion).
  • ~340: Aristotle argues that gravity is caused by the natural motion of the element earth.
  • ~340: Syllogistic logic as form of deductive reasoning.
  • ~340: Formal logic as a systematization of the rules of deductive reasoning.
  • ~340: Knowledge is subdivided into practical (moral and political) and theoretical (natural and theological) domains.
  • ~340: Goodness as excellence (e.g. virtue as human excellence).
  • ~340: Virtue as a habit of acting in neither an excess nor a deficiency of some type of conduct (doctrine of the mean).
  • ~300: Geometry according to a deductive system based on first principles (axiomatic-deductive method).
  • ~300: Herophilos uses dissection as a source of knowledge about the human body.
  • ~250: Method of exhaustion as a procedure for approximating irrational magnitudes (starting with π).
  • ~250: Zeno of Citium rejects the possibility of knowledge in non-evident beliefs (epistemological skepticism).
  • ~250: Peace of mind (ataraxia) is attributed to emotional control and suspension of judgement.
  • ~250: Circumference of Earth and Earth-Sun distance are calculated using observations of the Sun.
  • ~230: Archimedes invents the lever, screw, and pulley.
  • ~220: Propositional logic as an interpretation of syllogistic logic through logical connectives and atomic propositions.
  • ~210: Apollonius of Perga discovers the parabolaellipse, and hyperbola as cross-sections of cones.
  • ~180: Geocentric model according to a geometric description of observed planetary and stellar motion.
  • ~140: Unit circle for defining geometric relations within triangles (trigonometric relations).


Chinese schools of thought at the turn of the millennium focused on the role of the individual in society (Confucianism, Legalism) or in nature (Daoism). The latter regarded ethical conduct as pursuit of effortless action (wei wu wei, 爲無爲) - the embracing of behavior that came naturally and was motivated spontaneously without fixating on desires. By contrast, Legalism criticized the nature of man, as fundamentally selfish and unethical, with the result that ethical conduct depended on subjugation to the state and its laws through an impartial system of rewards and punishments. Confucianism took a more moderate stance on human nature, regarding individuals as improvable and perfectible but only through self-cultivation. Development of Confucian virtues involved the imitation of a human ideal (sageness), broadly characterized by the tightly connected feelings of 仁 (rén, benevolence), 義 (yì, righteousness), and 禮 (lǐ, duty). The virtues themselves included loyalty, filial piety, continence, honesty, sense of justice, kindness, respect, and modesty among others.

Some eastern ideologies distinct from these schools were the various codes of Buddhism. The core tenets of Buddhist philosophy are the alleviation of suffering through the Noble Eightfold Path of having proper views, intentions, speech, actions, lifestyle, effort, awareness, and concentration. Under this worldview, nature is seen as fundamentally in flux (anicca), the individual self is regarded as fundamentally illusory (anatta), and human life is considered fundamentally mired by disquietude (dukkha). Similar to the Daoist ideal of a disattached and harmonious mind (ming), the Buddhist ideal was inner peace (nirvana).

India shared the ideology of Buddhism with China but its society was also defined to a large extent by Hinduism - a sophisticated belief system that defined the structure of society and rules of conduct in many Indian kingdoms. There were broadly six orthodox schools of thought and four religious sects within Hindu tradition.

Graeco-Roman schools of thought at the turn of the millennium stemmed ultimately from the naturalism of the Milesian school. Two broad traditions rose out of this naturalism: materialism, explaining nature by its composition out of concrete matter, and rationalism, explaining nature by the necessity of abstract forms. In these contrasting traditions, materialists would rely on both rational (a priori) and experiential (a posteriori) knowledge but the latter tradition relied on the rejection of empiricism as a source of knowledge. The most prevalent rationalist schools were the Pythagorean school, Eleatic school, Platonic school, Cynic school, and Stoic school, where each one influenced the next school down the line. Meanwhile, the materialist schools started with the Milesians and came to include the Ephesian school, Atomist school, and the Pluralist school (among others).

There were two notable divergences from this trend: the hylomorphism of the Peripatetic school explained nature through a combination of rationalist forms with an underlying matter, and the skepticism of the Cyrenaic and Pyrrhonian schools simply rejected knowledge of nature entirely (admitting only an understanding of our immediate experiences). The former were notable for their systematic explanation of widely-reported observations using a formal system of logic.

In general, the various schools gradually refined a number of methods for arriving at knowledge, namely through the development of deductive and inductive logic. Deduction became more sophisticated over time; the two main forms of logic were syllogistic and dialectical while two main methods were term and propositional, with the latter introducing logical connectives for the basic sentences that were its logical elements. Meanwhile, induction was developed as the means of justifying propositions about observations from the observations themselves, starting with the rejection of mythological explanations for observations and the method of hypothesizing general principles (laws of nature) to explain the observations. Atomists extended this methodology with the restriction of hypothesized explanation to causal laws but Aristotle ensured its co-existence with teleological laws. Both the Atomists and Aristotelians improved upon the act of observation itself by categorizing observations or facts by similarities. This improved process is properly a primitive form of induction but it was limited by the preference for common knowledge as the source for facts rather than detailed and repeatable experimentation. Together, these procedures constituted the intellectual tools for the continuation of Graeco-Roman scholarship, despite the simple nature of the latter.
Map of Erasthothenes

Map of the world known to Rome in 753 AUC

By this time, Western technology had reached an impressive state under Greek geometers and artisans. Masonry and iron working had become widespread crafts but sophisticated mathematics was needed to design the first complex machines and to understand the simple machines of which basic tools were composed. Even after the loss of a great deal of mechanical technology by the death of Archimedes, the Greeks retained technical knowledge for building cranes, winches, pumps, pressurized piping, wheelbarrows, tumbler locks, odometers, air cannons, waterwheels, arches, and repeating weaponry, many of which carried over to Rome from the Greek tradition. Similarly, the medical knowledge and practices of the Greeks - alongside their competing philosophical schools - survived Roman conquest and would provide the basis for Roman medicine.

In the Far East, calisthenics and anesthetics informed the medicine of the day. At the same time, artisans were accustomed to producing paper, fine ceramics, and cast iron, while the various schools were developing their own formal logic (School of Names) and sophisticated mathematics, as with the invention of techniques for solving systems of linear equations. Altogether, the smithing, agriculture, ceramics, and papermaking of the Chinese at this time had outpaced the rest of the world.






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