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magic happens at the edge

British science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke is famous for his uncannily detailed writings about communication satellites, internet, search, e-mail (and spam), and mobile computing decades before they came into fruition. He had a crisp and accurate sense of how the world would come to innovate and flourish that most people did not have.

Clarke distilled his key observations into 3 laws that are applicable for anyone trying to build for the future (and solve for magic in the process):

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Magic, the “sufficiently advanced technology” that shifts the line between science fiction and reality, will not be found in the rear-view mirror. Magic hasn’t been published on yet; in fact very few will have known or thought about it when it arrives. The experts, the limit-pushers of yesteryear, will claim authority on impossibility and so long as we listen there will be no more magic.

If you see a way for greater thriving that others don’t see, you could be wrong or you could be looking at the specs for magic. There is no way of certifying in advance which category your vision is in, but maybe that’s not the point. If Clarke’s laws are any indication, the only way magic gets created is by braving the minority and insisting on playing just past the edges of what is currently (and comfortably) known.



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William Liao

William Liao


Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)