On Incremental Change and Living in the Future
Recently, I had the pleasure of re-reading Warren Ellis’ Cunning Plans. It’s an eBook, comprised of transcripts of talks that Mr. Ellis gave at various conferences in 2012. If that sounds boring to you, you might want to go read a little bit about Mr. Ellis. I assure you, when he speaks, it’s because he has something worthwhile to say.
Specifically, these talks are about the nature of the present, technology’s relationship to ancient magic, and the weird and wonderful future of, well, the future. This was the fifth or sixth time I’ve thumbed through these pages, and I greatly enjoyed the read.
I’d like to share with you two quotes that stuck with me:
We only wanted jetpacks because we couldn’t make magic carpets work.
Technology is the process of replicating the condition of magic. That’s the paradigm.
They’re just quips. Soundbites in a larger work, but they speak volumes about our relationship with technology. We want things that are fantastic and impossible. We want spooky action at a distance. Then someone hands us a magic slate that can contain the text of every book ever written, and have new books added through the aether, and we scoff. We call it a Kindle or an eReader and move on with our day, poking at our magic slab of glass to send a message to another magician informing them of our derision.
We want magic, but we’re afraid of change. We force the world through sieves and filters until we’re convinced that the magnificent is mundane, and that there is nothing left to be discovered.
We’re stumbling backwards in to the future, and we’re not ready.