What circumstances are required for Arthur C. Clarke’s “magic”?
In 1961, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the following:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I was reminded of this recently while catching up on my blog post reading. Back in mid-March, Jake Kuramoto went on an adventure – namely, the export of information from a private Posterous blog. If you know both Jake and myself, you know that Jake is more advanced in technology matters than I am. However, even Jake was eventually stymied by the steps that had to be taken to export his information. Despite changing default storage locations, ports, passwords, and performing a number of other tasks, Jake still couldn’t get things to work.
Then Jake read one additional suggestion:
I finally got lucky after even more search keyword string refinement. The key piece: clear the browser cache.
Things were fine after that, but it should be noted that clearing the browser cache didn’t solve the problem; it merely revealed that the problem had been solved. Jake concluded:
We’ve all been there with technology problems.
Yes, we’ve all been there. We’ve cleared a cache to fix something, or we’ve turned something off and on to fix something, or we’ve taken a walk around the building to fix something. But at the end of the day, the system in question is so complex that we don’t know exactly how we fixed it…and we probably never will know.
Chalk it up to magic.
We laugh at the people from thousands of years ago who thought that magic fixed things, but are we any more “sufficiently advanced” than they were?