“What I’m Talking About When I Talk About Magic”

“…What I’m suggesting is that feng shui and an awful lot of other things are precisely of that kind of problem. There are all sorts of things we know how to do, but don’t necessarily know what we do, we just do them. Go back to the issue of how you figure out how a room or a house should be designed, and instead of going through all the business of trying to work out the angles and trying to digest which genuine architectural principles you may want to take out of what may be a passing architectural fad, just ask yourself, ‘How would a dragon live here?’ We are used to thinking in terms of organic creatures; an organic creature may consist of an enormous complexity of all sorts of different variables that are beyond our ability to resolve, but we know how organic creatures live. We’ve never seen a dragon, but we’ve all got an idea of what a dragon is like, so we can say, ‘Well, if a dragon went through here, he’d get stuck just here and a little bit cross over there because he couldn’t see that and he’d wave his tail and knock that vase over.’ You figure out how the dragon’s going to be happy here, and lo and behold, you’ve suddenly got a place that makes sense for other organic creatures, such as ourselves, to live in.

So my argument is that as we become more and more scientifically literate, it’s worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it’s worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there. I suspect that as we move farther and farther into the field of digital or artificial life, we will find more and more unexpected properties begin to emerge out of what we see happening and that this is a precise parallel to the entities we create around ourselves to inform and shape our lives and enable us to work and live together. Therefore, I would argue that though there isn’t an actual God, there is an artificial God, and we should probably bear that in mind…”

— Douglas Adams, “Is There an Artifical God?” (Extemporaneous speech given at Digital Biota 2: Cambridge, SEPTEMBER 1998)

via ekstasis

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