The Coming Age of Magic

The Coming Age of Magic, by Richard Fernandez.

Can the common man cope with the esoteric? Two hundred years ago the average person probably understood virtually everything he encountered in daily life. Today the average person is surrounded by objects far more complex than the Apollo 11 guidance computer. Under those circumstances, as help desk workers all over the world will attest, technical ignorance is the rule rather than the exception.

Modern smart devices are purposely designed to be operated even by an idiot. Technology has allowed the burden of intelligence to be shifted away from the user to the machine. As a result people routinely use tools they barely understand implicitly believing they will work. It works but there’s a danger. As Arthur C. Clarke famously observed, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. In our high technology present an increasing percentage of the global population must relate to their world in terms of magic. …

Political ramifications:

Things should simply just work. The politically correct solution is to create sunscreen that YOU CAN apply to your eyeballs so you can watch the solar eclipse in safety. The morning after pill, the eat all you want but never get fat diet, the bottomless credit card, “affordable healthcare” despite accepts all preexisting conditions are applications of this principle. The preferred solution to today’s problems is no longer to intelligently avoid injury but to abolish its consequences.

This idea we should be protected from our own choices may have taken deeper root than commonly realized. The right of everyone to be stupid AND avoid the consequences has become mainstreamed as the equality of outcomes. Liberation from causality is the cornerstone of “compassion”, consequently it is the fundamental positive right offered by all paternalistic states.

It is also a perfect definition of magic. The recent war on statues and the media obsession with formulaic speech recalls the magical principles of similarity and contagion. As every believer of magic knows enchanted objects and special words are the key to changing reality. One destroys white supremacy by toppling statues of Stonewall Jackson, just like a voodoo doll. To use “hate speech”, like an infernal spell, risks resurrecting Nazis from the dead.