How do you imagine society would develop if dragons existed?
Stories involving dragons tend to be in medieval periods so maybe we can try to extrapolate forward in time a bit. Dragons could be from any mythologies or fictions of your fancy!
For my take, a dragon is a flying fire-breathing giant lizard with the size and toughness of a big building. I believe a critical factor is how tamable dragons are. If not at all, they'd go from something humans fear and run away from, then being hunted for glory and materials, then being protected in conservation areas to prevent going extinct. If they can be fully domesticated (like dogs), they could expedite for warfare, transportation and industrialized metalwork. The most interesting scenario imo is the in-between where they could only be partially trained. Maybe a skilled trainer can get them to behave 80% of the time but there's a low but significant chance that they get agitated and wreck havoc. How do we make use of them while ensuring safety and intervenability?
On the cultural side, we might not have as many myths and legends about dragons anymore. We might find the idea of giant flying fire creatures utterly mundane (phoenixes might be less interesting by relation even if they still don't exist in this universe). What would we mythologize about instead?
If dragons existed as animals within our biosphere they would have gone the same way as elephants. Large, intelligent, creatures pushed to extinction and the fringes of their habitats by human use.
At some point we would have tamed a subset of them and introduced them into warfare, likely within the Ancient communities along the 20-45° latitudes. One particularly militaristic and engineering focused culture (Hello Rome) would have discovered a way to neutralize them, while also realizing fielding dragons in battle is too resource intensive and not worth the effort due to their inflexibility in comparison to human troops.
The dragon focused nations would continue to field these beasts in battle for the next few centuries resulting in the depletion of the dragon population within whatever region, eventually resulting in their extinction similar to the North African Elephant. In the meantime tame dragons would become show pieces, sports animals, and royal pets/vehicles, further depleting their populations due to the lack of conservation sense in ancient civilizations.
By the modern day there may be a few small pockets of dragon populations scattered throughout the planet but they'd largely be a zoo animal outside of specific cultures. Presumably they'd have some highly sought after biologic commodity resulting in unregulated poaching of their population further diminishing their populations.
We destroyed mammoths. We destroyed whales. We destroyed elephants. We have destroyed almost all of the megafauna that has coincided with human existence. There is no indication we wouldn't have destroyed dragons as well.
I would enjoy this version of the Punic Wars.
Quite a few of you guys seem pessimistic that we would inevitably drive dragons toward extinction. Maybe we could take this opportunity to commemorate the importance of this species for our ecosystem. What do you think were some of the positive roles dragons had for the local wildlife?
One thing I imagine is that if dragons were like dinosaurs, they might also migrate long distance so I could see plenty of other animals hitching a ride.
There are a surprising number of benefits to wildfire. I can see dragon fire playing a ecological role similar to wildfire with whole species of flora and fauna becoming depending upon it.
Dragons, presumably being the largest predator on the planet, could also play an important role in the balance of megafauna worldwide. Borrowing a bit from another of your replies, their sheer danger (size, fire, aggression) might be enough that they play a role in limiting human over population and expansion for Millenia until science and technology give humanity the leg up.
Dragon lairs may also play some part role in symbiotic pairings for birds, burrowing animals and other dwelling creatures that don't attract the dragon's attention.
Realistically, we would have killed them all a long time ago out of self defense. As soon as we developed sufficient technology, we would destroy them.
And then we’d all be lamenting the loss of dragons like we do with the dodo.
Yep. Dragons are way too dangerous to be of any use to us. We should end them if we had the chance.
Dragons would seem too conspicuous that I doubt we could accidentally hunt them all without anybody noticing the decreased sighting. They'd also be too awe inspiring that I don't think we'd willingly want to get rid of every last one of them.
We likely killed off all the Procoptodons (giant kangaroos). We likely killed off all the Megatheriums (giant ground sloths). We likely killed off all the Mammoths. We likely killed off all the Smilodons (saber-toothed tigers). Megafauna had a habit of going extinct around early man, either by being hunted by us directly, simply being outcompeted by us for resources, or having its habitat destroyed by us. So sadly I don't see why Dragons would have been any different unless they lived in extremely remote regions.
The problem here is that there are many kinds of fictional dragons with varying degrees of intelligence and unique behavior.
That includes dragons as dumb as lizards and dragons smarter than any human.
Let's assume we're talking about the dumb variety.
Humans are exceedingly competent at hunting, and I can't imagine a flying animal of that size could easily hide. If we can hunt whales, I'm sure we can hunt dragons.
Why would anyone care about the extermination of a species that pose a real threat to our safety? We have successfully extinguished a number of species for much less. And flying lizards wouldn't be capable of any kind of coordinated response.
Ah, man, I sure wish that was true, but we are still killing very "awe inspiring" whales.
We'd notice, but we wouldn't care. Look at how we treat the planet. There would be some complaints and groups trying to stop them from being hunted to extinction, but in the end we'd just kill them all.
(I realize this is a very pessimistic take but... gestures wildly around at the world)
If the dragons were intelligent it might be the case that they would use humans as pets or workers instead. Then our legends would be about the humans who got away and lived free.
A possibility! If humans are enslaved I imagine we'd likely be used for craftmanship rather than physical jobs, since dragons are likely multiple degrees stronger than us but our small hands and opposable thumbs still give us an advantage in tool use.
In that case they probably started enslaving us after human communities developed (otherwise they wouldn't know we could make tools for them, and if they came into contact with us prior we probably not looked useful to them as anything other than food). Certainly tales about a time when human used to live free could have been passed down orally.
Though there's the issue of how communication between early dragons and humans were achieved (they needed to be able to tell us what to make). Maybe there were no communication and the dragons just took what we made and used those as-is. What human-made objects that could have been repurposed for a dragon? Whatever the case, the needs to communicate could have been a strong incentive to keep us as pets, in an effort to observe our behaviors and test out methods for giving us commands.
Forward in time a bit, could a human revolution against dragons ever be successful? Unless dragons were weakened or went extinct due to other factors, I'm a little pessimistic on this. Best case scenario might be human society were allowed to develop as concession to accommodate for our ability to better build and maintain the modern for-dragon infrastructures (e.g. human train networks to transport foods faster to dragon households).
Another interesting thing is how would human usage in wars between dragons look like? We're so weak that a human army would probably be sacrificial and very wasteful. Human might be better suited for intelligence. Maybe someone with more knowledge about warfare can chime in on this.
There's a great comic that touches on some of this, though it's mostly just for laughs:
A lot of difference scenarios depending on how dragons work
Dragons take active interest in the rest of the world and become rulers over the over sentient species (e.g humans). In this case, it's possible that under this external rule humans never significantly develop in technology; perhaps there'd still be human civilizations under draconic rule with primitive development to this day
Dragons do not take an active interest in the rest of world, they stick to their themselves, raid, and hoard things. In other words, DnD dragons. In this case, I think humanity eventually develops sufficiently advance civilizations and technology that masses of humans gather together and pick off the dragons one-by-one, as a matter of survival.
Same as the last scenario, but dragons are social creatures. Probably end up with a war of extinction between humans and dragons. Hard to say who'd win; depends on the exact parameters and how much technology humans have developed
* If dragons are tamable, dragons become tamed
* If dragons are not tamable, and they are highly prized for either their meat, or other materials, they are hunted to extinction or near exctinction
* Dragons have no valuable materials - they probably aren't hunted to extinction, although being large beasts changes to natural environments may drive them to extinction like many other large predators.
Since we're being exhaustive, may I suggest another scenario: dragons are still highly intelligent and social, but their scale superiority could be so great that we don't register as an existential threat to them and the 2 societies ended up coexisting, the way ant colonies exist largely out of view from human society (though given the size difference, we might feel to dragons more like rats). Skirmishes between humans and dragons are possible but they're so often one-sided, together with impassable language barrier, that neither ever consider those as wars, more like natural disaster to us and pest infestation to them.
Similar to how ants are most active in jungles where human activities barely reached or in crevices among human structures but out of view, humans could also develop mostly in areas with little interaction with dragon activities to ensure our safety while dragons mostly ignore us as long as we don't cause them any nuisances. This might be possible if we consider that humans tend to settle in flat plains and dragons might prefer their shelters be near or within mountainous areas. Even when that's not the case, for-dragons structures will be effectively mountain-size for us, so we could choose to build ours around them if pressed for space.
re: your second paragraph.
I think a lot also depends on how climate-sensitive dragons are. Humans can adapt to almost any climate, so I can imagine the world separating into dragon and human domains. I think that dragons are anatomically poorly adapted for agriculture, so they'd largely remain carnivorous hunters with tiny population numbers, while humans develop agriculture, urbanize, move up the technology ladder, and then eventually go to war to dragons to colonize their lands.
All about these opposable thumbs, baby.
First, how dare you, phoenixes are way more awesome than dragons, and dragons existing wouldn't make them any less awesome.
Jokes aside, I think that the existence of mythical beasts wouldn't make non-existing mythical beasts less cool at all. For reference, here are some astonishingly amazing animals, and we still think about mythical creatures all the time:
I could go on, those were just three incredible animals that actually exist, but seem mundane to us.
I think if dragons existed, they would either:
When you describe them like that, I gotta admit that some irl animals do seem almost magical if we don't already know they exist (like that shrimp that can snap its claw so hard that it generates a sonic boom and temperature nearly the surface of the sun).
Though I think dragons (and phoenix too) would still be special, given the importance of fire in our evolution. Maybe early humans didn't master fire by learning how to create it but via learning how to adapt their lifestyles to dragon behaviors. Did dragons eat their meat cooked? If so we might never have had the needs to hunt but preferred instead to pick the scraps from dragon. Our values might look drastically different, being coded not in the language of domination but instead of parasitism. Could agriculture even develop in such a culture?
Those are all interesting questions, and I think would depend on if dragons were numerous or relative scarce.
One of my favorite VR experiences is the Blue Whale scene from theBlu for precisely for that reason. It was my go-to demo whenever anybody new to VR came over and wanted to try out my Vive. And it blew every single one of their minds. It's one thing to see a video or diagram of a Blue Whale, but to see one swimming up beside you in VR really puts it in perspective just how massive they actually are... which is quite a humbling experience.
My favorite time doing that was one Thanksgiving when we had about a dozen of our extended family's kids over and I demod it for all of them. They all had a blast... and so did I at seeing how excited they were to try it, and how awestruck they all got after experiencing that scene for the first time! :P
p.s. If you don't have a VR headset, there is a Youtube 3D video version of the Blue Whale scene (set resolution to max, skip ahead to 40s, then look left to Port). It's not as mindblowing as seeing it in proper VR, since you don't get the same true sense of scale, but it's still pretty cool! And now imagine a bunch of 5-10 year old kids seeing that in VR for the first time. ;)
I was thinking of TheBlu and also the whale at the Natural History museum in Ottawa. Even the bones are mind bogglingly enormous... unless you don't really think about it and then it's "just a whale".
I think the dragons would be much the same; seeing one in the wild would be cool, but for the most part, we'd ignore them.
Weirdly, I've never actually been to the Natural History museum in Ottawa. I really should go next time I'm there. The ROM also has a Blue Whale skeleton now too though, which I have seen. But the coolest Blue Whale thing I've ever seen was a preserved heart. However, that was quite a few years ago, and I don't know if it's still at the ROM anymore.
I suddenly want a VR set. Seeing a blue whale is a dream of mine.
As awesome as some of the experiences were, and as much as I enjoyed demoing VR for people, TBH I personally didn't really get my money's worth out of the HTC Vive. It was $1500 when I bought it, and all the games were super expensive and not really worth it either. Even the $40-60 games felt more like tech demos than fully fledged games. And even the games I did play a lot of (E.g. Space Pirate Trainer, Sports Bar VR, etc) were pretty simple and arcadey so way overpriced at the time for what they were.
I would hope that's changed now that VR has been around for a while, there are slightly cheaper headset options like the Oculus/Meta Quest 2 and PlayStation VR2, and more competition out there for games. But I haven't been keeping up with VR news/developments or VR game releases so I honestly don't know if that's the case.
I have a few friends that still regularly play games in VR and are quite satisfied with it though, so YMMV.
I wish there was VR in malls. And not like an arcade, just a booth with all the games I can rent for 30 minutes.
I don't know about where you live, but there are quite a few VR centers sort of like that here in Ontario, Canada. E.g. Mirage VR has a few locations near me with another due to open soon. And they're not the only ones. Zero Latency has a bunch of locations all over the world. So if you google around, it's possible there may be something like that near you too.
There's nothing of the sort around here, I'm afraid.
I think it's good business. I might start one :P
If you're actually being serious, let me know. I know someone who might be willing to assist or at least advise you on accomplishing such an endeavor. They were planning on launching their own VR centre, so they have a bunch of the required foundational knowledge, and they have also already done a lot of the required preliminary work needed to accomplish that, including writing up a formal business plan for loan applications. They're also a really good person too. :)
I don't really have the means to start some like that but I do think I would make some money. I'm thinking about it. Thanks I'll let you know if anything materializes!
No prob. And yeah, unfortunately opening a VR Center is a very expensive endeavour. But you could always try testing the waters by renting a kiosk somewhere, setting up your personal computer with a VR headset there, and charging a fee for people to use it. Might be a cool way to help pay off the computer and VR headset at least, and see if running that sort of business is one that really interests you.
This is one of the premises of the Shadowrun RPG setting. Basically, dragons are powerful enough to manipulate people from behind the scenes, and rich enough to own global corporations. It's kind of like when people speculate what a sentient and godlike AI would look like these days.
Interesting, I'll need to check it out then. Did the game gave any details on how dragons went about obtaining controls behind the scene? Were their abilities useful for that quest in any way?
I admit that AI was what got me thinking about this scenario at first, but I think that the fictional question is way more fun with literal dragons.
Edit: removed parts of my comment that were unnecessarily pedantic.
Meta: If you like this thread, I also recommend checking out these previous ones by others (if you haven't already) that are in a similar spirit:
Those are just the ones I've found, there could be more out there.
If possible I'd like to tag them all with a common tag to keep track and keep a series going, but I don't know what's a good tag name. I guess this comment will have to do for now.
hypotheticalsbe a good tag? Or
I've gone with
hypotheticalfor now. If a better suggestion comes along, I'll sub it in.
'hypothetical' seems good, I looked it up and there are some good ones in there already. Thanks to mycketforvirrad too for being so fast.
Edit: I looked again and the old threads with that tag are gone already, @mycketforvirrad you can keep them in I think they're fine too.
Okidoke. Will do.
Probably same as we are living around with Elephants and Whales. But we would be more careful to not piss off the Dragons and their fire breathing.
I like that your scenario is the most chilled so far, no major crisis just need to be careful. Maybe the occasional threat of stuff being burned by passing dragons would be kind of like the occasional tornados or earthquakes, with us developing early warning systems, shelters and fireproof building codes.
We as humans adapt to any kind of shit, so yes I think we'll find a way out to co-exist.