Note — Jan 12, 2020

A Persistence of Magical Thinking?

Seen in → No.108

Source →

Nicolas Nova shares some of the observations he’s been making around magical thinking and superstition in the use of technology. From the patron saint of transmissions, to ghosts of Dropbox, and automatic door myths. Then on to Jobs, Ive, Arthur C. Clarke, and a form of consumerist seduction.

These examples highlight the extent to which the behavior of technological objects is opaque and mysterious, requiring users to build their own assumptions about their mechanisms and operation. This explains why, for some people, the automatic door seems to “have a mind of its own,” or why someone might raise their hand hoping the gesture will strengthen their cell phone signal. […]

[T]he intentional use of the term “magic” by digital organizations is also an important phenomenon, reflecting how technological illiteracy is skilfully maintained, with advertisers and marketing professionals leveraging their systems’ opacity to seduce would-be users. […]

[“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” was] Originally a statement about the extraordinary, mythical quality of many technological objects, particularly in fiction, its apparent ubiquity in talks and design publications raises the possibility of the claim having become an objective in itself.