July 28th, 2006


Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology

Over at the Lotus Lyceum, Paul Jessup (a/k/a paul_m_jessup is talking about magic and technology. I brought up Clarke's laws in the comment thread, but it's occurred to me that he may be approaching the question from the wrong direction.

I posit this: technology relies on the external, magic relies on the internal. (Let's ignore singing swords, Rings of Power and whatnot for the moment.)

You can always draw a connection between a piece of technology and some basic science, whether or not you understand it personally. Technology is also independent of the practitioner, in that anyone can in principle be trained to run a given piece of tech.

Magic, on the other hand, both as generally understood IRL (hermeticism, Kabbalah, Wicca, etc) and as generally understood in fantasy, relies on the practitioner having achieved some element of enlightenment, be it through a process of satori or through a course of intensive study and initiation, and that enlightenment imparting some element of Mystery. (Actual students of magic are invited to correct me at length.)

So you can construct fantasy scenarios where all the magic is external at least to the characters. You can construct science fictional scenarios where all the tech is internal, either via nanotech/quantum/other engineering voodoo, or simply by fiat as Alfred Bester did with jaunting.

Now I'm wondering whether this distinction of externalities/internalities points back to a more generalized model of science fiction and fantasy.

I'll think on this more, but I have a child to fetch from the airport and a book to write, in that order, so you all might have to hold up the side in comments for the nonce.

No writing today

Feck and frick. What with the_child's plane being 3 hours late and everything, no writing. I could stay up late and get some word count in on a technicality, but I'll get better work product if I crash now and write first thing in the am, hopefully while she's still sleeping off her journey.

Ah me.

:: yawn ::

And here I was going to make a post regarding bibliothec's insight about the Enlightenment mind and magical thinking.