Clarke’s Third Law

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

Arthur C. Clarke is probably my favorite science fiction author. I love him because his stories all betray a cool, rational, non-alarmist stance and often present a positive, desirable future for us human beings. He has also written three laws which are meant to Clarke’s Third Law is a saying about the way advanced technology will appear to primitive civilizations. In my own predictions, I’ve often wondered how things like virtual space, neural interfaces, and mind uploading will appear to us.

If we took a person today and unknowingly stuck them in a virtual environment with other people who were accustomed to technology, everything they did would obviously appear god-like. They can teleport to any destination at will, create anything out of thin air, fly.

Neural interfaces will also appear to be magic. People will be able to share information and communicate with electronic devices telepathically. Have access to enormous volumes of information. Be able to remember perfectly everything they’ve ever done. Even exhibit remote viewing, if there’s a camera around where they want to view.

What I find interesting, though it that much of today’s technology would also appear to be magic to an older civilization. Take cell phones. With a cell phone, I can talk to any one else on the entire planet instantly. Even only one hundred fifty years ago, communication was limited to the speed of a horse.

The computer brings the library into the home. Television and radio also lets you get information, entertainment, music, etc. We use the “magic” of radio waves to transmit information, and they travel at the speed of light (because, duh, they are light). The world is powered by a strange material called electricity.

People think that the future is when technology will be amazing while forgetting that we already have a lot of fantastic, inexplicable technology. It just doesn’t seem so to us since A) we are used to it, and B) most of us understand the basics of how it works.


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