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September 6, 2006 / D.F.Dufty

technology… magic… what’s the difference?

Arthur C Clark famously said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Hence, planes, telephones, guns, watches, and so forth could all be passed off as magic if introduced to a primitive tribe. The problem is that when you’re using magic every day it becomes banal. But some of the most wondrous dreams of our ancestors have come to be. One of my favorites is telepathy – communicating directly from mind to mind.
There are lots of variants of ‘telepathy’, but the one that seems to be closest to being true is the telepathy in John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. Some children are born into a village with a mutation that allows them to communicate in secret, wherever they are. Well, if they had cellphones with text messaging, I don’t know that they would have bothered with all those thought waves, because text messages can achieve the same thing. I can be anywhere at all, even in close proximity to other people, such as in a meeting, for example, and compose a secret text message to my wife. She will be the only one who can access it, and she can privately reply. I don’t know what the kids in that book could do that we can’t.

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