Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
– Arthur C. Clarke
Actually the quote above was the last of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous three laws of “prediction”:
- 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.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Long ago my quest into philosophy, materialism, and the worlds of the sciences emerged from life experiences that converged in the late 1960’s era of Viet Nam, Psychodelia, and street activism in the United States. Having been raised in an isolated conclave of security and cultural conservatism in Odessa, Texas, where the world of Oil and country music were King (although Buddy Holly, Elvis, and other southerners managed to keep to the air waves) I lived in a bubble world of ideological ignorance. Can I blame my parents, grandparents, etc.? Not really. Part of the general ideological passivity of the era that was still in the aftermath of WWII, the 50’s fear mongering, and the culture of religion ( West Texas being on the edge of the notorious Bible Belt). Luckily for me my Dad was pretty much an agnostic, my mother a reserved Methodist who’d abandoned her Church because of its new turn toward apocalypticism. All part of the fare of that world. Hell for me it was all about sports, football in particular. If you’ve ever seen the movie Friday Nights Live or the tv series by that name you’ll know that it was based on a specific High School in Odessa, Permian High School. I admit that I never got to play there because my family just on my cusp of entering that institution moved to Houston (another tale). But I grew up in its culture having had cousins, second cousins, etc. who did go there. Odessa was still a bubble community where everyone new about, of, or personally everyone else. It was a racist town with segregation that took a while to change – if it ever did?
Sadly it was from this closed ideological village of stupidity and ignorance that I emerged during the Viet Nam draft era. Realizing I had two options: 1) run away to Canada; or, 2) join the Air Force or Navy rather than allow the Army to enslave me. Being a Son of the South and engrained with all its ideological colorings I chose the supposed honorable path of joining the Navy. What a mistake! Not that the Navy isn’t a great way to escape the tedium of that West Texas desert of mesquite, sulphurous oil fumes, clichy, tumbleweeds, etc., but I had no real idea what I was getting into at all. (Another tale… )
You may be wondering: Why the hell is this guy baring his personal bullshit online? It’s not some confessional believe me, it’s actually to show how each of us are the fruit of certain epigenetic environmental pressures. Our lives are not whole cloth as some of us would like to assume. I think it was Emerson who once spoke of the long shadow: “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”. For me life itself is that shadow in the personal. We are born in ignorance with brains that have evolved over eons to meet the pressures of our external environments, to grapple with the materiality of existence, to be selective toward all things in our environment for certain reproductive and survival reasons. Yet, over time something happened, something changed in the animal called humanity: we developed that ability to speak and to reflect upon our speech thereby producing strange anomalies in our brain that evolved into what many unknowing philosophers now want to call the Mind. They talk of the Mind as if it were something different, unique, separate from the brain itself. There are so many notions concerning the mind and its child, consciousness, that it might fill an encyclopedia like Britannica many times over.
That is not my subject.