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Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Seth Raphael, MIT Media Lab

Date: Wednesday, March 28
Time: 2:15pm - 3:00pm
Location: Douglas B

The converse also holds true: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

As Arthur C. Clarke alludes, magicians and scientists often play on the same borders of the unknown. Magicians, however, do not have to kowtow to the constraints of reality as technologists do. For centuries, magicians have both used cutting edge technology and developed it in their search to present a compelling vision of what life might be like.

Magicians used electricity before their audiences had heard of it, helped invent cinema, and created a chess-playing machine to rival Deep Blue centuries before IBM existed. If technology is man's search to express control over his environment, scientists should look to magicians for inspiration and guidance as to what has engaged people for millennia. As science rapidly progresses, it becomes more difficult for the magician to compete with technology and stay abreast of new developments. Indeed, the perception that "anything is possible with technology" has made it harder on some levels for magicians to sell their acts. Yet, they continue to be successful by adapting their techniques and presentations in order to affect people profoundly.

Raphael will present a brief overview of magicians' historical use of, and involvement with, new technology. He will explain how, as technology rapidly approaches what was hitherto the domain of magic, designers can use the techniques of magicians to improve their technology, and will reveal the current adaptations of novel technology for use in the field of magic.