Asha de Vos

Marine Biologist, The University of California Santa Cruz


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Technology doesn't kill the magic

I had an interview yesterday with fellow TED fellow Sanjana Hattotuwa and he asked me if I thought technology (citing the example of James Cameron's first solo descent) kills the magic. Does finding out more actually take away from the magic so to speak. I don't believe it does because the more technology allows us to delve into the unknown the more unknowns we find and therefore the more the magic grows. What are your thoughts on this?

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    Mar 30 2012: Of course it doesn't kill the magic, the best way I can put this is what Physics world has been having trouble for years. Before we were in space we saw the laws of science as what they were on Earth only. Then we went in to space and the laws would have to be changed or were confirmed but while in space we look up and what we see are other galaxies and systems and black holes and dark matter and etc. The same problem comes in to effect when trying to understand the effects of the law of physics when thought of on the smallest of scales. The moral of the story is when you thought you have climbed the top of the mountain, you see on top of the mountain that there are ranges of mountains some even taller than the one you climbed. Now, in the case of technology recording these feats well it they taped the moon landing and it only sparked inspiration to the greatest minds ever to live so, I don't think that kills the magic either.
    Thank you for your time/space
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    Mar 30 2012: To quote Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    No. It does not kill the magic! It brings the magic closer still!
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    Mar 30 2012: I think my answer is in line with Richard Feynman

    Science and technology only add to the beauty and the mystery.
  • Mar 29 2012: Surely technology gives more people more access to more magic?! I can only just begin to list the things I would never even have known about, seen, understood or (most importantly) got excited about on the world wide web - pictures from the far reaches of the universe and under the sea, music, images, news about amazing human acts, invitations to art exhibitions... And of course the ideas and questions here on TED! My 12 year old son can do things, because of technology, that were only available to a tiny elite when I was a child: create physics simulations with educational software; explore the planet with GoogleEarth; explode things with his home chemistry kit; build and program a working robot... and swim outdoors in winter in his neoprene wetsuit. The magic is always there, and technology enables each sorcerer's apprentice to explore more and spells!
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    Mar 29 2012: Don't you think the magic of the unknown is like a fountain of youth? The happiness and wonderment is what keeps the inner child in place and makes people excited about life and encourages discovery.....and nothing ever needs to be ordinary just because it becomes more known
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    Mar 29 2012: Hello fellow question askerer! Thanks for kicking this off.....I see your point but I it triggered a broader line of questioning in my mind. I guess the response would vary from one personality to another the sense that, I suffer from Peter Pan syndrome in some ways and believe there is an inner child in me that I am quite happy to keep there. So for me, accessibility does not quell the magic in any way or form. The more I discover the more I get curious and yearn to learn more. While technology might make something unknown more known.....I am not sure it makes it more ordinary by virtue of it becoming more accessible. Others may argue otherwise. I argue that while we learn more about something we will never know everything and therefore there is always an unknown that creates some amount of magic. I feel like this is a bit cyclical but do you get my drift? Knowing that James Cameron has conquered the mariana trench solo makes me more curious - what else can we do?
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      Mar 29 2012: Dear Asha,
      No question you will get different responses...we are all different! I also will never grow up totally...guess you call it the "Peter Pan syndrome"...I like that:>) I LOVE exploring life with the curiosity of a child, so there is ALWAYS another stone that can be uncovered, another new place to discover while climbing a mountain, exploring under the sea, exploring concepts with friends and fellow "seekers", and delving into new technology. There is ALWAYS a sunset and a rainbow that I have not yet seen. There is ALWAYS another level of magic to discover, experience and enjoy. Nothing in my life feels ordinary or completely known. You ask..."what else can we do?" EVERYTHING that is not yet done! Yes, I get your drift, and I LOVE it:>)
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    Mar 29 2012: Great question Asha, and maybe you can post the video of your response once it's available on the web. What I was interested in, more broadly, is in the contest between - as you say - technology making the what's outside our immediate experience and imagination that much more accessible, and the risk, as I see it, of making the unknown somehow ordinary. The first compels us to engage. The ordinary makes us disengage. Technology at its best fuels curiosity and learning. Yet how many of us have visited the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive, seen the Google Gigapixel images of the world's rarest art, traversed the most scenic route on Swiss railways through our browser and gone on to read more, check out a book from the library, download content off the web, speak with our children about it, and beyond our social networks, spoken about it? My submission is that technology doesn't necessarily take away the magic of discovery, but that there is always the risk of assuming that access and consumption is the same as engagement and learning?
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    Apr 11 2012: How can technology kill magic when it is the magic?

    I work for a company where we get beta copies of software so we can test it out. Every time, my reaction is "when can I install it so I can play with it?" Some people get annoyed because I say I want to 'play' but that's what it is. It's play; it's magic. Something new that you could never do before, now you can do with the press of a single key. Magic!

    You have to see magic in technology. It's there in every line of code and every press of the button.
  • Apr 7 2012: For me not, technology simply elucidates the potential "potentiated" by something else.
    Too often, we forget that science is not truth, it is generalizing from fact where many of these generalizations are highly useful they'll never get to that primary, singular unknown.
  • Apr 7 2012: Well in my opinion "Technology does kill the magic." For example, Who thinks that lightnings are from Zeus these days? Or why did witch-doctors worldwide stopped brewing their so-called "one-glug-heals-all-elixir" at some point in history? I don't think that the magic was a mere invention to deceive (relatively) stupid people than the super-villian who cited of it. I rather think "the magic" is the "Another try that has failed to be convincing nowadays". Existence of Zeus above, did not greatly differ from our finniest explanation of technological method to people back then. Zeus DID sound logical, feasible and jaw-dropping enough to the audience; the people have reacted just same as we would after TED talks, like "Aha! Now I understand the law behind it! That revolutionary scientific breakthrough saved millions of ignorant souls who has been relied on ancient superstition!"

    To sum up my idea,
    "The magic" was a technology; it might has be the technology that killed another magic. The different is that it "is a technology" or it "was a technology" as our technology advances these "collateral damage" will happen again and again and faster and faster if we keep speed up the development of technology.

    In the same manner, Einstein may join the club of magic in future; maybe we can see him sitting together with Nostradamus or even Aleister Crowley (No offense to any of them who were named)
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    Apr 6 2012: It's actually a fallacy with science and technolgy......always.....
    People who believe science and technolgy is killing the magic. enjoy every bit of benefit of science and technology and then denounce it by saying it...........
    Science & technology doesn't mind about it......:)
  • Mar 30 2012: Technology is "magic"!
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    Mar 30 2012: I love that so many of us agree that Technology doesn't kill the magic. Its good to know there are plenty of curious people out in the world. I would love to hear more especially if you think differently.....I am just curious :)
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    Mar 30 2012: technology enhanses our experiences in this physical reality that we move thru along time's arrow. The Magic is experienced in another reality or dimension or state of consciousness or whatever words you use. Nonthing in this reality affects it once we quiet the noise so we can "feel" the magic. Peace.
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    Mar 29 2012: To an inquiring and open mind the magic will never end. I am like a kid in a candy shop there is always a new and exciting flavor awaiting you. To me that is like nature. She whets my appetite with each new discovery. Technology may be able to explain the rose but I enjoy the beauty and aroma of natures best. We are lucky that we can appreciate both the technical and the natural wonders of the world. All the best. Bob.
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      Mar 29 2012: Thanks Bob - great to meet so many believers on this page....I too see the world the way you do and try to appreciate everything around me and maintain the wonder and magic by staying curious!
  • Mar 29 2012: It doesn't have to, but when technology distracts from the universe in you, it does affect it negatively.
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    Mar 29 2012: Getting to know more about something takes away a little of the mystery surrounding it. As Sanjana Hattotuwa pointed out, it will also serve to arouse our interest in the matter further. I believe that there will always be much more to learn than what we know.

    Here is an interesting video for you to watch ->

    It mixes technology with illusions, resulting in an amazing presentation.
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      Mar 29 2012: Hi Gowtham -- Thanks for your response. i saw one of Marco's augmented reality presentations at this year's TED and while I thought it was cool...I did post a questions on TED conversations about whether that really was magic in its truest sense.

      I guess my point here is - does getting to know about something, or apparently familiarity really take away the mystery or does it enhance the mystery by giving you more unknowns. I think I am beginning to see that there are two schools of thought here. Those that would argue that it just increases the magic and those that argue that it takes away a bit....
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        Mar 29 2012: Actually Asha I don't propose it takes away the 'magic' as you see it. I am merely suggesting that greater access and the better clarity afforded by technology is no guarantee of engagement, learning and debate. The potential is there and indeed growing, the choice remains deeply personal. No argument from me against technology's greater use, adoption and adaptation, but just a caution against a heady optimism that - to use your example - sharing on FB, tweeting, blogging and uploading video on Cameron's dive - just by that fact, and over the longer term, strengthens our understanding and engagement with the wonders of deep sea science, and indeed, life on earth. Questions to consider, for me, are how we sustain interest, how we further real learning, how we nurture critical engagement, and how the magic you see, and want to share, can be best channeled through appropriate technology.
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          Mar 29 2012: don't disagree with you Sanjana -- sustaining the interest is a good question. all good questions and all things Christine Lee and I had a small facebook chat about just this morning. Yes how best to keep people engaged throughout their lives.....