Arthur C. Clarke surmised that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ It was intended, perhaps, as a criticism of magic as a concept, but applying standard mathematical properties of equality, we can also discern that magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology. That’s the world I choose to inhabit, where magic lives, hidden in the technology.
By choice of perspective, then, I see magic every day. Cognizant computers? Here today, tucked into the errors of memory that perplex the most logically sound circuit and software designs. Here also are the mischievous spirits, gremlins and sprites that stalked the dark woods of antiquity. They are anonymous flittings upon the internet. They foul essential systems, destroy data, reveal hidden troves and exploit minute vulnerabilities so obscure that they seem incomprehensible. Anonymous? I think not. Amorphous, more like.
When my electronic devices die I don’t curse the vagaries of planned obsolescence. I blame spirits, trapped within, released by my trespasses against the dark powers of technology and visible as tiny sparks, wisps of smoke and foul odors. Aye, they can only be contained for so long.
So next time you snicker at the inanity of a fantasy novel, or scoff at the outlandish intricacies of dime store science fiction, take a moment to look around you. Magic surrounds us, if only we are lucky (and dull) enough to perceive it.
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