ON TECHNOLOGY (PHILOSOPHY)

Magic is the art of concealing the mechanism.

An action produces a desired result, while the mechanism involved is disguised. In witnessing this or that feat of magic we become fascinated with it. Our minds naturally try and solve the enigma by considering many possibilities as to how a trick may have been done. We are fascinated by the playing card disappearing and reappearing elsewhere until the method employed is revealed, at which point the fascination involved is instantly lost.

An explanation that satisfies us eliminates all other possibilities, hence our sense of wonder is dissipated.

High technology seems to us magical today as we have no idea of the processes involved in, for example, pressing a microwave button and two minutes later having hot food despite there being no actual heat involved. A theory is presented to us involving invisible radiation and water molecules vibrating but this leaves us largely unsatisfied. It is simply a miracle in the kitchen to the untrained observer.

And so with all such technology we must have an abstract acceptance of the various theories presented to us as to the mechanisms involved. These explanations are simplified for us and don’t quite satisfy the inquiring mind but do so just enough to quell our sense of wonder. Certain tribal people are known to retain such fascination, and thereby fear, of modern technology. It is to be regarded as both mysterious and dangerous. A photograph may capture part of the subject’s soul, for example.

Electricity seems to be the key to this mystery. We can understand that it is governed by fixed laws, and that it is necessarily present in order for our gadgetry to work. As we have blood flowing through our bodies as a prerequisite to living, so too these magical items in our home must have electricity flowing through them in order to work their magic.

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ Arthur C. Clarke

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