Magic is fictional, and I recognise that – just in case you think I am delusional. I’m not delusional, I simply watch anime. In fact, I got my inspiration for the title of this blog from an anime plot that I am currently watching. Now then, if you will tolerate my choice of medium of literature, let’s get on with the topic.
The Parallel Between Magic and Technology
Magic is a form of power. A power that is mysterious or miraculous – y’know, shooting lightning out of your hands or conjuring up weapons to be used? The possibility is countless. Pretty much like technology, don’t you think? Technology is almost always able to do the miraculous stuff – before you get used to it, of course – and its possibility is literally limitless. But I want to focus on the concept of “power” imbued in both magic and technology.
An Anime Inspiration
In the anime, Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho, there is this particular scene that caught my attention. The main character and his witch-companion found their way to this village. The villagers were massacred by rogue witches that splintered off from the benevolent witches because they were enraptured by the lust of power. The witch-companion said, and I paraphrase, “I initially created magic out of convenience. We wanted to fish without using rods and baits, we wanted to hunt wild animals without spears and arrows, we wanted to cut trees for firewood without axes and manual labor. All this led to my creation of the Grimoire of Zero (the source of modern magic). But now it is being misused, probably to be used to destroy the world in the near future as well. I would have burnt the Grimoire had I known the consequences.”. We call for and support technological advancement for convenience as well. Who doesn’t want a robot to do the house chores? Just imagine how less dreadful marriage lives would be if house chores are to be delegated away at a low cost. Oh, did North Korea just launched another nuclear missile? More half-baked sanctions please!
Modern Dystopian Literature
If anything, this idea of magic and technology being misused or gone out control is prevalent in both mainstream dystopian literature and the reality itself. Albert Einstein, upon seeing the effect of the atomic bomb, instantly regretted the fact that his scientific formulation set the precedent for it. Mainstream dystopian literature, usually in the form of movies, have repeated criticized the advancement of technology. Today, the main focus is on artificial intelligence itself, as dystopian movies like the Terminator has repeatedly shown. There are also rebuttals against transhumanism as also seen in satirical animations such as Futurama.
Now, you’ve noticed that I labeled anime, movies and animations as literature. There’s a good reason for that. Literature, as far as I’ve known, serves an extremely important purpose: to warn. Although my definition of literature might seem a bit narrow, but the works that I feel are good include works such as 1984, the Animal Farm, Brave New World, etc. These are dystopian literature. They warn us of our progress: 1984 was written in the age of increasing state surveillance, and thus highlighting the authoritarian twist to its misuse. Brave New World paints a picture of what a world where our relentless pursuit of material happiness dominates to the extreme looks like and thus forces us to question our allegiance to capitalism.
The Purpose of Dystopian Literature
By warning us of where we are heading towards, these works can change our course in human history. It was the great communist scare as prophesised by Karl Marx that eventually led to the democratic west to adopt features of socialism, thus disproving the prophecy itself. Dystopian literature provides such prophecies so that we may rethink the direction that we want to take.
I hope you find this short blog post on the connection between magic, technology and literature to be helpful in your endeavor to become a more enlightened human that seeks to better the world.
Image credit: http://best-sci-fi-books.com/23-best-steampunk-books/