A.C. Clarke’s 3 Laws, Part Deux #tech #amwriting

In part 1, I took a look at Arthur C. Clarke’s first two laws. Here, I’m hitting on the oft quoted, used, abused, and has a number of derivatives and variations.

#3 – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

When I was in college lo those many centuries ago, this used to come up pretty frequently in some of the IT courses. I’ve always been intrigued by this thought, and over the years, I’ve seen many instances of this coming true.

In my writing, I use a mixture of modern tech and old world magic. Sometimes they play well together, and sometimes they don’t. The protagonist, Grey, has had most of his power stripped from him, and through the story arc, he will regain what he lost, and more. But through it, he is using and encountering a mixture of both modern and ancient technologies in a world that otherwise ignores magic.

Most of us will have read stories that include magic not playing well with modern electrical devices, and act if it’s the arcana of two different worlds. I do some of that as well. But I also see it as an allegory for something else.

If you could bring someone from even the 1960’s to today, and stream them an episode of the Original Star Trek series on a tablet, after they got over the shock, would be to ask where the flying cars and starship port were. At least I would.

I love to go back and read speculative fiction from pulp novels, and its always funny to see what they got right, and what they got wrong, or at least hasn’t happened yet. I wonder what they thought when they projected themselves into creating a future world, and the technologies around them. This brings me to two questions. What tech is coming that if we saw it today, would we think of as magic, but also, what old school tech have we lost that would be just as much like magic if we were to rediscover it today? And would anyone but a very few notice?

This brings me to my contemplations about this law, working in technology, and my writing into one world. Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, and I’m a part of that world, but it still surprises me even after almost thirty years working in it. Are we progressing so rapidly, that we have come to expect so much magic from our modern alchemists that its wiping out the sense of wonder and appreciation for the efforts that bring such wonderful toys to life?

I ask for one simple reason. If we don’t appreciate it, some day we will stop being imaginative. We will stop creating. And the modern alchemists will fade away, and the toys we have now will be just as much like magic because no one will remember the magic it takes to build them, or innovate on them. And if we don’t appreciate it, if it doesn’t make us dream and wonder, is it still magical?

But there is good news too. I look at what this technology manifests. Maker’s Faires feature mixes of bleeding edge technology available to anyone who wants it next to organic honey. Our future will continue to be in the hands of those who dream and build, and deliver the new wondrous generation of magic to us.

Go forth, participate and create!

Clarke’s 3 Laws, in writing and tech #amwriting #amediting #tech

I haven’t shown the blog much love in a while, but it’s been a little crazy. New editor, Book 1 has been re-edited, and will hopefully the 3rd edition will be out by the end of next week! Book 2 is at the editor, and right now the target for release is late April! Finally!

And in the next few weeks, I have a few other projects finally coming to light all about the same time.

But I digress….

Arthur C. Clarke was one of my favorite authors. Yeah, some of his style could be a little sterile, but he wrote stories I’ve reread so many times.He had an ability to look at things with such a forward viewing eye, and make fantastic stories feel… possible.

I was reading through an article on predictions for 10 years out in tech, and they quoted the oft quoted third rule. But you rarely hear about numbers one and two. Here’s your refresher:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

There are so many variations of the third rule… but I digress. I’ve been doing a lot of work in the last few months, but writing and the stuff that pays the bills. Joy. I’ve been in tech for a lot longer than I want to admit, and I’ve been working on a couple of books related to technology, and it’s a lot of fun to bounce between mythology and professional topics. I’ve been editing and providing feedback on one for professional development for Business Analysts, and a lot of the time, these same laws keep popping up in my head.

I think that if we taught kids these rules, they would start to return to a world of critical thinking and drink a little less of the pablum poured out in school today. I come from a long family line of teachers in multiple disciplines, and have a lot of friends in the profession. And none of them are happy with the state of things.

So I’m drafting this little piece in the hopes that whether you are a teacher or student, writer, developer, tester, barrista, electrician or telemarketer, I hope you take a little something away and jump start your passion.

Especially the telemarketers. Stop calling me. Really.

#1, I believe that anything is possible, and when someone tells me it’s impossible, there is almost always a way to prove them wrong. That goes for the grey hairs (of which I have more than a few) and those damn kids that won’t get off my lawn. Why does it matter? This is a glass half empty or half full kinda argument. I can be a bit of a curmudgeon, but at least a smart assed one. I’ll never say something can’t be done, and neither should you. The question is usually one of asking if they are willing to do what it takes.

In tech, we live inside of the Iron Triangle. Time, Money, and Quality. Writing is pretty much the same way. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, we usually want stuff cranked out, and we want it cheap. And guess what comes out of the end of that…

If you’re putting your work in front of the public, no matter what it is, you aren’t going to make everyone happy. So make yourself happy. Sometimes you have to kick the bird out of the nest before you think it’s ready to fly. Then suck up the good and the bad.

#2 – Push not only your limits, but those around you.

Don’t get comfortable, It makes you lazy and complacent. In the BA book, a lot of the story is a friends personal story and her career development. And I’ve pushed her to tell some rather uncomfortable truths in the process. But she is laying out her personal and professional life to help others develop their own careers, and learn how to grow and persevere. I just don’t think she necessarily understood how writing was going to help her do the same.

For some of what I write, it’s hard to tell what will work, and what won’t. I have built a good group of Alpha readers, but its still sometimes hard to wait and see what people think. Just because something sounded good in your head, doesn’t mean it makes it that way to paper. Or sometimes, it’s just not that good. Have people around you that support you, but also challenge you.

And don’t be afraid to be yourself. If they don’t like something, that’s their issue, not yours.


#3 – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Look for this one next week…

And go out and do something new.