Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Quest for Magic

The Magic we achieve can never be appreciated...

In our world we have two ideas: one is that everything is ultimately explainable and thereby controllable, including all natural phenomena. We have been able to harness many of nature's forces for our own use, and it is likely this will continue.

The second idea is that there are unexplainable things, magical things, events which go farther and deeper than any simple explanation can touch.

As scientific discovery advances upon these magical ideas, it causes the phenomenon to seem mundane. For example, at one time static electricity seemed like a magical force, drawing two things together or repelling them under certain conditions. We understand this force today, so it seems there is nothing magical about it.

Seeing in the dark, using invisible rays to heat things, sending all kinds of information through the air, even something as basic as a thermometer would have at one time seemed like witchcraft or god-like powers.

Today, as we continue to advance, the magic dissipates even further. A mere twenty years ago, a thin electronic tablet that could "somehow" communicate with computers around it and display information was a work of fiction, today it can be owned for as little as $200. I recall marvelling over Penny's computer book in Inspector Gadget, thinking how amazing it would be to have such an object and here we are today with precisely those tools at our fingertips.

Yet how often do we stop to think how purely magical this object in our hands is, as compared to 1000 years ago? Even 100 years ago most of our technology would have been mind-blowing. We take advantage of it, or are confused by it, or just accept its existance. Here we are, holding amazing tools, and what do we worry about? How we are going to pay the bills and why-oh-why do we have to go to work tomorrow!

I think that the reason behind this is because we learn all the little bits and pieces on the way to creating these "magical" devices. Start with no computers and suddenly have an iPad, and it is shocking. Work your way through decades of development of electronics, owning various electronics as they become available, and the iPad becomes nothing more than the next logical step. Other technologies we are excited for, that we can see coming down the road, at this moment they may seem novel and fun to us, but I can assure you mere years after they are achieved they will be commonplace, mundane, and we'll be focusing on something else.

We achieve the seemingly impossible over time, and we have yet to be satisfied with our achievements. We always want more, we always want better, we crave the magic.

Magic is the one thing we can never achieve, because we must go through method to get there, and method breeds mundane.

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