Magical Technology

by David Dennis


A twitter acquantaince made the following statement recently: 

He may or may not have realised it, but he's acutally paraphrasing Arthur C. Clarke. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I'm sure we've all heard this statement quoted or misquoted countless times. It's even seeped quietly in to Apple's marketing of their 'magical' devices - their marketeers are too savvy not to have been fully aware of the reference they are making.

The twitter comment suggest that this is a change, that it's an oncoming phenomenon. I think that in a way this is right.

Perhaps for the first time in a very long time, we've had more parity between the level of education amongst the general populace and the technology that enables every day life, specifically computers. Many of us understand quite well how they work - not necessarily the quantum devices that enable the construction of the electronics inside, but the principles and methods involved in software and our interfaces with the devices is pretty high. So many of us use computers at work, are familiar with troubleshooting problems (the best way to gain an insight into the operation of any system is to be in a position where you have to fix it). Operating systems, peripherals, the upgrade process all require that we have a level of operating knowledge, despite the best efforts of manufacturers and the software industry computers have never really been plug and play.

Now though we're seeing a change, devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs are integrated systems from which we expect a much higher degree of simplicity of operation. If you can't take it out of the box, push the on button and immediately use it to it's full capabilities then we rightfully deem it unfit for purpose. I think we're going to see this trend spread back across all our devices, from our desktop, workplace PCs to internet television. In effect, for the needs of most people, computers will become magical again - the necessity to understand removed (perhaps unavoidable as devices become more complex).