So I was watching the new Trek (Discovery) and then playing some 40K games on my PC, which got me thinking about how science fiction works that are ongoing address technology over time.
Basically, I think these categories generally summarize how it’s usually handled:
the stat-tweaker (e.g., Star Trek): technology stays functionally the same over time, everything just supposedly gets a little bit better (Warp 6 becomes Warp 7; photon torpedoes become multi-phasic torpedoes). There’s also a fair amount of ret-conning in this approach with “older” versions of later introduced tech showing up in previous eras as the stories turn to those early eras.
the palette-swapper (e.g., Star Wars): this approach doesn’t even try to posit that technology increments. Old Republic, New Republic, all of it has the same technology, just aesthetic differences.
the grumpy-old man (e.g., W40K): this is the dystopian future, with technology actually degrading over time. The current age is a bronze age, with the golden age long past. Technological wonders are dug up from the past.
the data-miner (e.g., Brin’s Uplift Universe): this one is more rare. Here, technology has reached it’s apex. “Research” involves the daunting task of mining a nearly infinite database of technological information to find the ideal/more optimal solution to a technical challenge.
I personally find 1) and 2) extremely lazy, but I get that it’s hard to write stories over multiple settings in a shared universe while trying to keep the “flavor” of the setting. I also get that it taxes the limits of creativity to somehow be able to keep speculating on more stuff and gets you stupid stuff like the current size escalation that marks “technology” in Star Wars. Bigger is more advanced!
So the question: have you seen a different approach, a more interesting approach, than the categories above? Is there a good way to handle the march of future time in a sci-fi series?