Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My 21st Century Scrying Glass


Yesterday I read most of Cunning Plans by Warren Ellis as I was flying home from Orlando. One of his talks in the book went on and on about the parallels between magic and science/technology. I've read several things by him where he has gone on at length about technology being like magic, and phones being this magical piece of glass. This of course isn't anything new. Arthur C. Clarke has a law that says "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", which has been quoted over and over.

Ellis described using his iPhone as drawing arcane symbols on the face of a piece of glass to make things happen. He's absolutely right on that. If you were to show the thing you can do on your phone to someone 20 years ago, they would be amazed. If you go back much farther than that, they'd probably say it's a trick, or just plain lock you up.

As these devices get more and more advanced, the word "phone" gets more and more meaningless. Phone, of course is short for telephone, and telephone is a french portmanteau that means "far voice". Sure, I hear voices from afar on my phone... sometimes. I do so much more with it though, that it just isn't a very descriptive word for it. Heck, if you took the telephony out of it, I wouldn't miss it that much. This magical device (and it really is magical, because I don't 100% know how it works, and that's what magic is: science that you can't explain) is really a 21st century scrying glass.

I can look up the current weather in China, or even see a picture of the current weather in China. I can pull of a live image of my wife, and talk to her. I can pull up just about any piece of knowledge that I want. I'll never again be lost as long as I have signal. If you have an iPhone you can say "Siri Siri on the Wall, Who is the fairest of them all?" and she'll respond appropriately. (someone try this on Android and let me know what happens).

If you're reading this, then you probably know that I teach Computer Science in a rural High School in Wyoming. What I'm really teaching students is a little bit of the secret behind the magic. I'm also teaching them how to create their own rudimentary spells and not just use the ones that they've purchased. This is my great work, to create wizards for tomorrow.

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