Why would people want magic to exist? If it did it would turn the world into a nightmare.

P.K.Acredon

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Miracles, karma, luck and magic still happen in this world but they're words we use even in 2021 for things that happen that we don't understand why.
This is precisely why I don't believe in the phrase: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." everyone seems to treat everything as nothing more than a label. "This is just that but with a different aspect." "These things happened so they are this or they are that"
Let me ask you something: how does the label of something change its behavior? If I were to say: "Freedom is just a happier version of chaos." how does that change these concepts' nature? Chaos is destructive and confusing. It has no laws. Freedom is choosing whatever path you like. How do I know this? Because their natures are different based on their actions. Despite whatever philosophical argument anyone has about chaos being the same as freedom, it doesn't change the fact that these concepts have different actions. Chaos causes destruction because of its lack of laws. You can imagine a building being burned by anarchists. Freedom is choosing whatever path you desire. You can imagine someone going through a white door rather than a black door.
As I said, ignorance is not magic. Because the outcome of ignorance gives you confusion and frustration and a desire to gain knowledge. Ignorance is part of a process of understanding that everyone goes through. It's a sign that your mind is not as developed and the only thing to do is to develop with knowledge. I doubt every fantasy writer wrote magic as a cheap mechanism that was solely used because they didn't understand how scientific mechanisms work. The best fantasy stories are extremely symbolic and have layers upon layers of meanings that represent what the fantasy writer is trying to say or show that readers can dive in and study. Being a literary art with places, characters, and conflicts with hidden meanings is a big difference of nature compared to: "We don't know what these powers are, so they're magic." kind of nature.
Let's say there is a seed that can grow into a tree and a fantasy book. That fantasy book isn't going to plant the seed. It has a bunch of words that tell a story about things that don't exist and will never exist. What's going to plant the seed is someone who knows how soil works and how water works. Including their observation on a process that is a scientific law about how a certain aspect of the universe works. That law being, if you plant a tree seed, it's going to turn into a tree. Does that mean the fantasy book is worthless? Not at all. Because what if the person planting that seed was inspired to do that based on what they read in that fantasy book. The meanings and characters of that fantasy book could have made the person use their imagination in their head. Seeing the story internally, feeling the emotions that the author tried to convey, and being inspired by it.

You see what I mean? I don't believe science and magic are the same because science's behavior is an external process of observation on the structure of the world. While magic behavior is more of an internal imagination that lets us explore ourselves and be inspired by our creativity. Keyword: ------>Different behaviors.<------- You can label lots of things whatever you want, that's not going to change its nature. Saying: "Clouds are just lakes in the sky" isn't going to change the fact that clouds behave like clouds. And a cloud's behavior is different from a lake's.

That's why I don't believe that phrase. Because whatever label we make doesn't give something its nature. Its actions do. And its actions are far beyond what label we personally think it is.

I'm not trying to say: "I know what science and magic are and everyone who says they're the same is wrong and stupid!" I'm just saying there is a different aspect that we usually fail to see because we usually are too used to what's popular.
There are still many different things to wonder about the nature of science and magic other than magic is just science we don't know about. Just saying.
 

Wayne Mack

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I propose that a general differentiation between science and magic is that both involve manipulation of physical elements and for either, the governing rules may or may not be known, but use of science is available to all while use of magic is restricted to a subset of people. A teleporter is science and available to all while teleportation is magic and is only usable by a select few.
 

KGeo777

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CAST A DEADLY SPELL--everyone used magic except the private eye HP Lovecraft.
He had car trouble--gremlins were in it.
Literally.
 

G.T.

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This is precisely why I don't believe in the phrase: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I think you focus too much on the generality of that phrase rather than its specificity. It could be true that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," without taking anything away from either science or magic. It would depend on the observer.

Clarke is saying the observer would not be able to tell the difference, the observer isn't necessarily everyone. It is the person who is sufficiently distant from the technology that they might believe it to be magic. He isn't pointing his finger at you or me but some observer who might believe that.

It is not saying that all magic is unknown technology. All it is saying, is that if the science is advanced enough, it might appear to be magic because of a lack of understanding. That doesn't make magic less than it might be and it doesn't make science less than it might be. It is simply a way that science might be interpreted.

Imagine tomorrow aliens arrive on earth, they have no spaceships, they just pop into being at the UN (or wherever). They talk their gibberish alien languages but we hear our own language in our heads. Do you think anyone on earth will assume they are magical? Only the foolish.

Because of science, we are more likely to assume some unknown science is at play than to assume it is magic. That is because we are in an age of science and have access to it in our daily lives and can imagine strange and obscure future uses of that science. We are not the observer that Clarke imagines with his phrase.

To get back on topic to your original post, and given what I've said above, I think if magic did suddenly appear in the world, no one would believe it was magic, they would assume it was some unknown science.

So I guess in this day and age, "Any form of magic is indistinguishable from a sufficiently advanced technology."
 

Teresa Edgerton

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For thousands of years people did believe that magic existed, and that they could work it, in small or in large ways. In some parts of the world it was accepted. In Europe, of course there were types of magic that the Church and the government would try to suppress and that people would fear to practice openly or at all, but just about everyone was making use of various folk magics, using them without much thought, because that was part of the rhythm of their lives. Subjectively, they lived in a world full of wonders, of supernatural forces, but it was not a comic book super-hero world that they imagined they lived in. That could only be conceived much later by people who knew next to nothing at all about magic.

And the vast majority of these people throughout the entire world using their magics large and small did not indulge in power trips or become flamboyant villains or act violent or dangerous. Mostly they were concerned with things like assuring a good harvest, keeping their stock healthy, healing their sick, warding against bad luck, etc. Yes, there was a few who tried to use magic for malicious purposes because that is the kind of individuals they were; if they hadn't believed that magic was available to them, they'd have found other means to express their malice. People did terrible things to each other back then; people do plenty of bad things to each other now.

So, no, I don't think that a world filled with magic would be any more—nor any less—of a nightmare than the kind of world we live in now.
 

psikeyhackr

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Did you even read what I said?
Yeah!

I went to college for Electrical Engineering.
I was a Customer Engineer for IBM.
I built my first computer in 1978.
I don't have a problem with regarding the smartphone I am texting on right now as magic.

It has exceeded my expectations of 30 years ago.

Now we have planned obsolescence in smartphones like in automobiles 30 years ago.
 

AnyaKimlin

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T

I'm not trying to say: "I know what science and magic are and everyone who says they're the same is wrong and stupid!" I'm just saying there is a different aspect that we usually fail to see because we usually are too used to what's popular.
There are still many different things to wonder about the nature of science and magic other than magic is just science we don't know about. Just saying.

Kind of making the point that magic is simply uninformed mob mentality.

Or have some of those of us with STEM qualifications considered Arthur C Clarke's view and simply come to the same conclusions? As I said I wasn't aware it was a particularly popular opinion. It was doing a study on the Wizard of Gordonstoun in the 90s that formed my view.

He was hit by the pitchfork mob for the flashes and bangs or "witchcraft" coming from his home.

He was probably an early example of experimenting with electricity (late 1600s).

In Salem they hung witches but about 280 years later we discovered the ergot theory.

Magic is merely a matter of perception. I am absolutely sure that in the world I created for my books that in that world their science would one day explain how the magic works - they just don't fully understand it yet. Really good fantasy stories have a magic system that has a consistency and possible scientific explanation for the magic. In our world it wouldn't come to pass or make sense but it does in the world you have written.

When magic in our world receives a rational explanation it becomes less widely called magic but some people do think of it as such. I mean how many are incredulous that in a world were people are isolating, opening windows, using masks and washing their hands - that colds and flu aren't as virulent. It doesn't matter that Grandmother born in 1907 and left school at fourteen had enough scientific knowledge to explain why because that's how they combatted most of the plagues in hers and her mother's lifetime.

I have a mechanics qualification or two but when I go to the races it's the magic that gets me, pulls me in and transfixes me. I don't even need to go, watching a TV show with a £4 million supercar can be mesmerising. I understand how they are built and the work that goes into them but it requires a different knowledge to understand their magic.
 

Montero

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@AnyaKimlin
Gosh yes you are right. The magic of things that transcends their mechanics - as it happens I've just been re-reading Pratchett's Raising Steam and he is commenting both on the magic of stream trains and re-visiting his idea that if enough people believe in something then it takes on its own reality - from the locomotive Iron Girder to Annoya the goddess of things stuck in drawers.
I had to read a poem at school that was an artistic person expressing their opinion that if you understood how a rainbow was formed then it lost its magic. Already a scientist by that point I strongly disagreed as I thought that understanding how was a bonus and its own form of magic.

Also regarding grandmothers' approach to infectious illnesses. Mine used to talk about how she was sent to a fever hospital for scarlet fever. (Her younger brother and sister who were babies at the time of the epidemic died of it.) I've also read nursing autobiographies from the time before antibiotics and the barrier technique they learned for nursing highly contagious diseases - to avoid catching the disease themselves or passing it on to other patients.
 

W Collier

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Seems like this thread has branched into a couple of threads.

Definitions of Magic: Aren't debates over definition a bit pointless? If we stipulate that the definition of magic is any technology or science which most people can't understand or reproduce, then that word "magic" is useful for conversations about that. If we stipulate that the definition of magic is manipulations of the universe which defy the laws of the universe, or at least defy those laws which are demonstrated scientifically to exist, then that just gives us a different word "magic" for a different conversation. Both conversations are valuable, and both styles produce interesting, thought-provoking fiction and discussion, so neither definition is better than or preferable to the other; they're just different words. Different concepts, maybe related but significantly distinct from one another. If a word is a symbol for a concept, then we're using the same symbol to represent vaguely-related but separate conversations. Maybe it's like "love." They say the Ancient Greeks had a bunch of different words for "love," and we've lost that nuance, but maybe we haven't. Maybe people just get a little lazy about using precise labels for what they mean. Or, maybe, in this case, precise labels don't exist yet in English, and we need to invent words or codified label phrases (or borrow a few loan words from Ancient Greek or Chinese or Sumerian) to identify what we're actually talking about.

The actual effect of magic, and superpowers, in the world: There's a couple of nice sub-threads in this one going on...
Power corrupts: I see two sides of this debate in the thread above, and I think both have merit. (First, a definition: "power" here we seem to be using to mean "the ability to impose one's will on other people, regardless of their will, such that they must obey or suffer.") Side A says that power corrupts. If you give any human being power, no matter how moral he was, he will become less moral and more abusive. Side B says that the primary corrupting influence of power is that it attracts immoral, abusive people who are prone to use power corruptly. The latter is definitely true and self-evident throughout history. The former I think rests on a grain of truth: It's not that power corrupts, but that no man is perfect. All human beings are corrupt, and therefore not capable of wielding power over other human beings justly. Any person who holds power will sooner or later impose his inner evils on the people around him, and if he does that without consequence, he will keep doing, and will escalate, because a human being is not strong enough to regulate himself. The two Sides above both seem to imply the same conclusion, though: the only person whom you should ever promote to a seat of power is a person who has the expressed and demonstrated agenda of reducing the power of that seat or elevating the power of all other seats to match it. Only people who don't believe in kingship should be made king, and then only long enough to destroy kingship.​
Exclusivity: A founding premise of almost all fantasy fiction about magic (or superheroes) is that of exclusivity. Only a small, select few are gifted with these gifts. But while that always seems to be a part of magic/super fiction, there's nothing about magic/super concepts that necessitates it. It's like... just because every beef you've ever eaten was seasoned with thyme doesn't mean that thyme is a part of beef. The exclusivity part comes from the human nature of the writers, not from any fundamental component or necessity of magic theory. Reality is very different. In reality, traits are either heritable or learned. The two work differently, but in one respect they are the same: if a trait is beneficial to the individual, then it will spread, and the more beneficial it is, the more powerful it is, the faster it will spread. Whether magical/super capability was genetic or something a person can learn, in the real world it would spread like wildfire. Within a couple of generations, it would express in the normal (bell-curve) distribution across the whole however-many-billion of us, and it would be just like physical strength, intelligence, or technology. At that point when it had mostly taken over, the shape of civilization might be radically different, but human nature would still be the same, so the overall prevalence of evil and good would be the same. During the transition, the great evil would clash with the great good, and people would be forced to choose sides and do battle. There would be a lot of violence. Once the bell curve was reestablished, though, you'd have what you always have: 1% good, 1% evil, 98% of the population just following whichever side is most willing to do violence (usually the evil), most of the world would live under oppression as they do today, not happy but satisfied, convinced that any greater freedom would be scarier than the "normal" evils their governments impose on them or their neighbors each day, and that would last until the next upheaval.​
But in any case, the idea that magic/super powers would appear in and remain, for any length of time, the exclusive domain of a select few is probably more unrealistic than the notion of magic/super powers itself. That's a pure writer's conceit, a convention which defies everything we know about how the world works.​
We/They/People: The other thing that a debate like this sees a lot of us the use of collective words. One says, "People would abuse their powers," because "we humans aren't capable of wielding power justly." That might be true, in some sense, but no one ever defines "people" and "we" precisely enough to get to any meaningful sense. All these words really serve to do is distance the whole thing from "I". A much more interesting question to me than "what would the world be like" is "What would you be like?" If superpowers or magic appeared in the world, there's just as much likelihood that it would be you stuck with them as anybody else. How you would feel as a normie caught in the crossfire between two supers is an easy question, ripe for cheap cynicism. Anybody can write something cynical. All you have to do is blame everything but the protagonist for the problems and never solve any of them. That's how you get "The Boys."

I ask you, what would you do? If you were in that first generation, when superpowers were still rare, would you be corrupted by your power? The evil supers would immediately bring violence to the world, an ultimatum that all the rest obey or die. Would you have the courage to fight them? Would you have the courage to kill them? Could you do that without becoming them? Are you different from them, and if so, how?
 

tinkerdan

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There's a book that says something like.
Do not suffer a witch.
It goes on to suggest burning them.
Witches delve in magic of a sort.

Who is to say we don't have magic?
There could be a regulatory committee whose job it is to regulate magic people because; well, for a long time we've been advertising that we're killing these people.

What's interesting is I've read a few science fiction novels recently where Scientist are put to death because science and technology always lead to an imbalance of power and then war and suffering.

I think that this would not be an issue unless everyone had ready unlimited access to all magic. Even then it might lead to a natural deterrent to keep everyone in check.

I think if one person had great power and was inclined to enslave everyone that they would quickly discover that they would have to do something drastic like flood the whole earth to kill everyone; because the rest of normal humanity would not let them rest or let their guard down.

Unless their power made them omnipotent and omniscient they would not likely live long after advertising their threat capability.
 

paranoid marvin

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It does really depend on what we class as magic. A person would gather herbs and plants to make a potion to cure ailments. They may or may not have said an incantation whilst making it that they believed would help. The person receiving it recovers; perhaps it was the potion itself, or perhaps it was a placebo effect, and because they believed the magical potion would cure them they got better. This is magic; no scientific basis to base it on, just a believe in arcane powers.

Even in the Harry Potter movies, magic is more of a skill than it is a mysterious force. It is something that is taught and which is learnt, just the same as learning mathematics or geography. In such a world were it is mundane and part of everyday life, it loses much of what we term as magical.

I think what makes magic 'magic' is when it is only gifted to a few and it cannot be logically explained.
 

psikeyhackr

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Admittedly something indistinguishable from magic is not magic but so many technologies have become so complex that multiple areas of ignorance are inescapable. I have yet to encounter what seems to be a good explanation of quantum computing. I haven't decided whether it is BS or magic.

Daemon & Freedom by Daniel Suarez express this very well.
 

Lostinspace

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Graydon Saunders produced a universe where magic does exist and it does produce a nightmare, generally by making familar things deadly. For at least a hundred thousand years, sorcerers have been creating weapons to fight other sorcerers. Thus "weeds" are designed to drift in as seeds and kill people by a variety of means. I really like how swans have been altered as described in "Safely You Deliver" :

They’re larger now, and what were feathers are not precisely illusion, the follicles make stable structures out of some sort of force. Anything material, up to at least catapult shot, I don’t know if anyone’s tried modern artillery, bounces off. Very brave people have broken big axes on swan necks, just before being brave didn’t keep them alive.
 

P.K.Acredon

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Kind of making the point that magic is simply uninformed mob mentality.
If that were true then I wouldn't have said the value of a fantasy novel. But speaking of pitchfork mobs, how many religious mobs operating under pure irrationality attacked people using science because they were brainwashed into believing in some magical Deity's.

Magic is merely a matter of perception. I am absolutely sure that in the world I created for my books that in that world their science would one day explain how the magic works - they just don't fully understand it yet. Really good fantasy stories have a magic system that has a consistency and possible scientific explanation for the magic. In our world it wouldn't come to pass or make sense but it does in the world you have written.

When magic in our world receives a rational explanation it becomes less widely called magic but some people do think of it as such. I mean how many are incredulous that in a world were people are isolating, opening windows, using masks and washing their hands - that colds and flu aren't as virulent. It doesn't matter that Grandmother born in 1907 and left school at fourteen had enough scientific knowledge to explain why because that's how they combatted most of the plagues in hers and her mother's lifetime.
I have never heard anyone use magic in those terms. You speak of magic as if it is some basic commodity of feeling or ignorance. Why not just call it happiness? Or skill? Do you say to everyone around, "Its magic that pulls me in to things that I want." Do you ever think that maybe people will think you're unusual?
I'm not saying its bad what you're doing. Have whatever perceptive you want. But how bout I share my perspective?
I studied some psychology and things that you're describing like luck, joy, or feelings of miracles are emotions. And based on most psychology research, emotions or all those abstract feelings you call magic are more connected to the unconscious part of you're brain. Unlike your conscious part of your brain which study's and analyzes structures both physical or mental, The unconscious part of your brain just feels. It reacts without you even being aware that its reacting. Heck, that's why they called it the unconsciousness. If people were to have magical powers that don't need any scientific activation, like say a light switch for a channeling an electric current in a lightbulb, and could just be activated on pure emotions. Well, having power that you're not even aware of is bound for disaster. If someone got irrationality angry because a car broke down, the car wouldn't turn on. But If someone got irrationality angry with this magical power, they could destroy a neighborhood in seconds.
But maybe I didn't really get your point because you said something like:
I don't even need to go, watching a TV show with a £4 million supercar can be mesmerising. I understand how they are built and the work that goes into them but it requires a different knowledge to understand their magic.
What are you talking about? Go where? You know how supercars are built but then it requires different knowledge to understand their skills? That doesn't make sense. Maybe you could help understand your point so I can maybe agree with you more.
 

AnyaKimlin

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What are you talking about? Go where? You know how supercars are built but then it requires different knowledge to understand their skills? That doesn't make sense. Maybe you could help understand your point so I can maybe agree with you more.

I don't need to go and see one in person to feel the power and the magic of a supercar. Although in person they are incredible.

Just watching a video of an fighter jet taking off is powerful. Watching it happen never gets old (it's a sight I have seen many times over the years).

I have a pretty good understanding of how both work, why they work and with the car how to fix them when they go wrong. (I actually know more people aircraft mechanics than I do car mechanics)

However, no matter how much I understand mechanics and engineering watching them work is magic. It's a moment that takes us out of this world.

Heck just that moment when the small car engine I have spent hours on starts up is incredible. Why didn't it happen the previous times? Sometimes I know and sometimes it's a secret the universe has kept to itself. There's always that moment when you know it should work but whether or not it does is in the lap of the gods.

There was a famous helicopter crash which was caused by a manual that specified a bolt get fixed in the wrong way. The magic isn't in the one that crashed, it's in the ones that took off many times over the years and didn't.

Similar things happened with Concorde and the Nimrod. They'd had decades of "magic" preventing them crashing before one did.
 

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