Magic and Technology (and Science)

Most of us are familiar with Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

However, there are a number of corollaries to that, one of which is: Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science

which makes a lot of sense.

This leads straight into my forward to my trilogy, asking what is magic?  If the magic can be analyzed, then is it scientific?  Since science is eminently practical: being about what theories and methods work, and not about an externally imposed “correctness”, this begs the whole question yet again: what is magic?  Another way to understand this: science is nothing more or less than a systematized attempt to understand the natural world around us (humans being part of that world). If magic is part of the natural world (and don’t invoke the word “supernatural” until you can give a better definition than “something that isn’t natural”) then one could, in principal, try to study magic with science.

However, if you can answer the question of what is magic, then you have analyzed the magic, so it isn’t magic any more but belongs to scientific understanding.  So, this means that being “magical” is not a property of a phenomenon, but a property of the observer.  Something is magical because I don’t understand it, rather than from an intrinsic property of the phenomenon. Like beauty and the beholder of it, the “magicness” of the object or event properly belongs to the person making the statement.

There are those that might say that magic cannot be analyzed, that there are just some things in the world that are intrinsically inscrutable.  In that case, we can never know what magic is, by definition.  That means again, that claims of magic can always be refuted, because the lack of understanding can always be due to insufficient study.  Why have we never found the elephant in the cherry tree?  We just haven’t looked hard enough.

It is possible that there are things in the world that are inscrutable, or perhaps humans just don’t have the brain-power to understand everything.  Personally, I suspect the latter is more likely to be true. So where does that leave magic?

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