Magic and Tech

This was originally posted on crayfisher a couple of months ago but it still seems to get randomly liked. It’s an interesting topic.

FairyPhoto Image via Card Cow on Amazon

I promised klown I would post this, and it’s still unfinished, mainly because I have no idea where it goes next. But I hope it’s a fun thing to ponder on a three day weekend. Give me ALL your thoughts on it.

The Question of Magic

Part 1:

Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

It’s easy to see how modern tech resembles magic – we have magic mirrors of all sorts (tv, mobile devices, etc), magic wands (remote controls), thunderbolts (guns), etc,

Now think about this – since tech resembles magic, it follows that magic resembles tech.

Corollary: Magic, an allegedly mythical and supernatural phenomenon, resembles technology, a very real human creation.

Astonishingly, this is actually very true. For example:

1) Names.
In magic, names have power. If you know someone’s true name, you have power over them. There are many example of this, starting with being able to control and cast out demons, the story of Rumplestiltskin, often in legends of djinn and afreet.

In today’s world, technology has made anonymity a valuable defense against bad people taking advantage of knowing your “true name.” There’s identity theft.  There’s social media – if you have your real name out there, people can do terrible things to you if they mob you on social media – people have been harassed, “doxxed”, lost their jobs, etc. Even on the very technical level, if a hacker (who would be the equivalent of a magician in the magical world) knows your ISP or email ir other identifying “names” they can launch digital attacks against you.

2) Bits of a Whole
In magic, a common theme in spells is that parts or effusions of a person’s physical person – blood, nail clippings, hair, saliva, etc, can be used to target magical attacks. This is sometimes called the Law of Contact (Contagious Magic) which falls under Sympathetic Magic. (See The Golden Bough, Chapter 3).

For centuries that seemed like pure silliness, until recently when science discovered DNA. Now we have whole fields of study devoted to studying DNA, using it in forensics, in medicine, in archeology – in everything.

There is an even more striking resemblance to Contagious Magic that can be found in particle physics, known as quantum entanglement. Two particles can be “entangled” so that even when they are physically separated, action on one particle still affects the other particle. Einstein called it the “spooky action at a distance”

So clearly, not only does technology resemble magic but magic resembles technology.

What are the possible causes for this?

a) Coincidence. Nothing to see here, move along.

b) Magic is a theoretical blueprint that humans subconsciously modeled technology on. An attractive theory, similar to the question of does art imitate life or does life imitate art. But it does not explain similarities on the quantum or DNA levels of science, which are discoveries rather than inventions.

c) Ancient Aliens – stories of magic is the dim memory of actual tech that humans had or observed in the distant past. Always a fun theory to play with.

d) Magic is (or was) a real phenomena and thus followed similar universal rules that tech follows, although perhaps in a different physics branch.

This last possible cause is the most intriguing. Or, some might say, the most ridiculous.

But how far-fetched is it really? The rejection of magic is something that is a very recent modern phenomenon.  Arthur Conan Doyle, in the early 20th century, believed in fairies. It’s unclear to me how our attitudes towards magic (or superstition) changed so quickly in such a relatively short time.

Which is something we can discuss next time.

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