So how does that work?

I didn’t know it did that!

In an increasingly complex world of smart phones, pads, home computers, software for everything more and more people are using less and less of the capability of things that they have.

Some of this is the sheer versatility of technology, but I suspect more is sheer ignorance or even fear. This puts me in mind of Arthur C Clarke…

Clarke’s Three Laws

I once ‘met’ Arthur C Clarke at a sci-fi convention (Seacon ’79 in Brighton) but sadly he never mentioned being in a discussion room with me sat in the corner. No problem.

Apart from inventing the satellite, he proposed (over some years) three laws (see here) not to be confused with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (see here) which I only mention as a link to Hawkwind and the song Robot which quotes these latter laws as a lyric (this is a real Friday post now with senseless alliteration creeping out of the keyboard).

Anyway, the third law is the one that says ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’; I would like to suggest that for most people this is already close to being true.


One that I occasionally throw at people is good old-fashioned domestic electricity; we all have it (just about) and pay for it and understand that there are big generators that produce it, but how does it happen? Unlike water and gas which are piped in and consumed, electricity is a flow of electrons that comes into the house then leaves again! Nothing is actually consumed – so what is being paid for!

This bothers people so I then have explain that the electrons do work, and that voltage is like pressure and the electrons come out of the house at lower pressure than when they went in. Sort of. None of this stops people using electricity at home though.

How fast will it be?

I also recall many years ago installing a new piece of hardware at a client, chatting to one of the staff about the new box and extolling the virtues of how much faster it was than the existing box on his desk. He looked impressed, then wondered how much faster it would be when moved to his desk. I asked why, and he said in all seriousness because it would have less distance to travel.

Given I was only working a couple of metres away, I didn’t really think he would be able to notice the 100,000,000th of a second that might be saved in network transfer at the speed of light. No reason he would understand that, but did show the chasm in understanding between us.

Back to the point

I work with a bunch of bright, technical, degree (and often more) educated people, and between us we kick our various home networks around and install TV relays, home NAS, convert Freeview to any number of formats and happily network media to our Xbox 360 or TV. Some of this we struggle with, but (armed with Google) we get there.

What do others do that don’t know these things are possible, are ‘afraid’ to dabble with technology and generally need help? Well they mostly don’t.

That’s pretty sad, it almost seems to me that the more things are possible the less they are exploited.

Oh and I’ll just have to put up with people thinking I can work magic with their PC (which of course I can!)


About Tony Jones
Big Finish writer, reviewer and blogger, I'm interested in science fiction and Doctor Who. I review for CultBox, The Doctor Who Companion and others. I am also Audio Drama editor for Starburst Magazine, and write the occasional piece for Vortex, the BSFA critical magazine.

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