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It's funny, isn't it?
We got all of this technology,
we've got all of these clever machines, but if anyone actually asks, like, "how does any of it work?"
"At all?"
often the best reply you'll generally get is:
"Uh, yeah, well, probably someone built a box, and a wizard spluffed in it."
"And now it's magic, and that's how technology works."
"Everything's just made of wizard jizz."
And that's cool, that's cool -- but yeah,
I just want to put a bit of an alternate answer out there -- that, like,
yeah, technology is really complex, and the world is really complex,
but overall, as it happens,
The world isn't wizard jizz, technology's not magic,
It's just scientists on acid, or applied mathematics.
And every piece of technology, from satellites to shoes,
Started in someone's fucking head. For example:
Segways -- not magic,
Fizzy Cola -- not magic,
Spacey science place -- not magic,
Magic marker -- not magic.
It all just relies on foundational physical principles,
Which we'll briefly discuss...
Hey, this sure keeps time good, right? Is it clockwork or what?
Is it just tiny dragons all tapping their talons to EDM?
No. It's quartz.
We know if you electrify quartz, it puts out regular vibrations.
And we know 32,768 of these vibrations is a second.
So if you build a circuit that counts these vibrations, you can keep accurate time.
And you just multiply these together until you get hours, days, and years.
All thanks the little white crystals that aren't magic.
Hey, not all that shabby. Is this some kind of wizardry?
Nope, just good fucking science and piezo electricity.
Or, er, yeah... Computers -- that has to be magic, right?
No. Get sand, purify sand, make silicon ingot,
Make them wafer thin, do some fancy ion shit,
And etching, electroplating, layering, and stuff --
And now what you've got is a little slab of silicon packed with transistors,
Which are really just tiny little electricity gates.
And you put them all together in such a way that they form an electronic mind,
Consisting usually of stuff what goes in,
Control thing,
Thinking thing,
Stuff what remembers shit,
And stuff what comes out.
A computer is just a little prison for electrons, where we train them to solve problems really quickly,
And this all relies on the principles of subatomic physics,
Meaning that the most common use of quantum mechanics in the 21st century
Is undeniably,
Most likely,
How does that fly? It's simple, right?
Air under wings makes the wing glide, right?
Throw in a big fucking spinning thing, right?
And if not, maybe some wizardry?
Flight's a result of a difference in pressure above the wing versus below the wing.
And the cool thing is that if you make sure the pressure is higher below the wing than above,
Then lo, yo --
That's flight, right?
Yeah, also, what the hell is an engine?
Well, internal combustion is essentially the process of turning fuel into motion
Using fucking explosions.
In a four-stroke engine gas and air go into the engine,
And the gas and air is squeezed into an itty-bitty space,
A little spark starts a little explosion, forcing the piston to move,
Then the excess gas is released,
And that energy is turned into rotational motion using a crankshaft.
And this is generally thanks to gasoline, which is in turn thanks to dead plants from swamps millions of years ago,
(not dinosaurs)
Further illustrating that...
The world isn't wizard jizz, just weird and prohibitive,
And really, technology's just nature we taught to do cool tricks.
And to be honest, can you imagine how utterly miserable life was
Before we got around to using the scientific method?
"What's the meaning of life? And hey, why does my butt hurt?"
"Just shut up, invent fire, and get the fuck in the hut, Burt."
Then die prematurely from an easily curable infection.
Got a problem? Tough luck, baby -- natural selection!
"Complex" is not a synonym for "magic".
Everything works somehow.
Like a radio. What kind of Harry Potter shit is that?
Well, first of all, just imagine the universe is made of interactions,
'cause it is,
And one of them is electromagnetism.
And what radio is, is a certain wavelength of that.
And if you vary electric current through a wire, you can create vibrations in the electromagnetic field,
And if you have something that can pick it up on the other end and turn those waves back into sound --
Well, that's that.
And those are just physical technologies. What about language?
Well, currently there's about 7,000 spoken languages in the world.
Some of them use grammatical gender, some don't,
Some are alphabetic, some are pictographic,
But the one thing they all have in common is that if you learn one,
You can read people's fucking minds.
And this technology took thousands of years to build.
And it's basically the reason we have modern civilization,
And it's... not magic.
Most language processing takes place in the cerebral cortex, we think.
Adult native speakers usually know about twenty thousand to thirty five thousand words,
But there's plenty of people who speak multiple languages,
So closer to sixty thousand words or more.
And did we find language at the top of a mountain?
Or in a drawer or some shit?
Oh no, clever dead people gave it to us.
And talking of deaf people,
The difference between our ancestors and us?
Well, mainly reason and rationality.
Look, there's a good story about Descartes.
He was one of the fathers of the scientific method, basically.
And one night he had a bunch of wacky dreams,
And in one of them an angel came to him, apparently, and said:
"The conquest of nature is to be achieved through number and measure."
And that, surely, has to be one of, if not THE most powerful ideas we've ever had:
Scientific objectivity.
Nature can be understood using mathematics,
Then controlled using technology.
And as long as we remember that the world isn't in our heads,
That the universe has a character,
Well, there may be no limit to what will one day be capable of with technology.
Rationality is absurdly powerful.
It's the reason we're not sitting around in our own excrement.
It's the reason the average high-schooler knows more about the world than the smartest human did
Not a few hundred years ago.
It's the reason lots of us are living better than every emperor in history.
And Jesus Christ, look what we've done already!
Antibiotics, or moldy bread in essence,
Has probably saved about 200 million lives since it was discovered.
Your phone has more computing power than all of the computers
That NASA used to send humans to the moon.
And scientists are now using lasers to listen to black hole collisions
Billions of years ago via distortions they left behind
In the very fabric of fucking spacetime itself.
Wizards and witches do exist,
And they cast spells called "research",
Usually abusing a magic potion called "coffee".
And if we don't know everything yet, well -- better to have questions you can't answer
Than answers you can't question, don't you think?
And furthermore...
Man, I dunno if we mention this, but, uh...
The world isn't wizard jizz, maths is where nature lives.
Say, who got us for the moon -- was it witches or physicists?
And if we met aliens -- well hey, that'd be salient,
But they'd still use technology, science and astronomy.
We most likely weren't dreamt up by Zeus in his chariot --
We started out as slime and a fucking prokaryote.
The world is complex, but when you really look into it,
Even biology isn't magic. Not really.
Abrupt ending so we can lead into the next musical section...
You know, it's weird.
We used to build stuff mainly to stay alive,
and to make other people stop being alive,
but then we started building stuff to stop from getting bored,
and then we started building stuff to work out how things work.
And that is the kicker.
Because the more you know about how stuff works,
the more you can build even more clever toys.
And we're getting really good at that now.
And my giddy aunt, are strange times ahead.
Cue the synth wave, would you, Timothy?
I don't know if you were taking notes last century,
but we started it not knowing how to fly, and we ended it with moon landings, and nukes, and the net.
Can you imagine if this century is anywhere near as insane?
Can you imagine the godlike technologies we'll soon be wielding -- good and bad?
How about affordable rocket trips?
Or getting everyone in the world online?
Or a neuro-scientific explanation of consciousness?
Or halfway successful nuclear fusion?
Or fully, truly immersive VR?
Or the birth of an actual science to combat aging?
Or the death of disease,
or convincing AI companions,
or mass scale automation of labor and administration,
or proper spaceships that ride light?
The universe is a chessboard.
Technology works because we started learning what the moves are that we can make on the board.
And we're getting better and better at that game all the time,
and there's no sign of it slowing down.
And I mean, can you imagine?
Give us another hundred years of scientific research and see where we are.
Give us another thousand -- nay, give us ten thousand,
give us ten thousand more good years of the scientific method,
of careful research, and clever application, and intelligence --
and mate, we're going to be gods.
We're gonna clothe ourselves in immense power.
We're gonna kick cancer and Alzheimer's, and MS right in the dick.
We're gonna invent new diseases just to cure them for fun.
We're gonna build gargantuan starships.
We're gonna occupy entire galaxies.
We're gonna step outside of history.
We're gonna pilot destiny.
We're gonna burp plasma, we're gonna eat lightning, we're gonna shit algebra.
We're gonna build Dyson spheres on our lunch breaks.
We're gonna fold space and tame chaos.
We're gonna reverse entropy.
We're gonna travel through time.
We're gonna cultivate the perfect wisdom.
We're gonna solve the riddle of being.
We're gonna have entire weeks when no one's unhappy -- anywhere.
We're gonna befriend the fourth dimension.
It is going to be Brock Lesnar shit.
It's gonna be the Rubicon all over again.
It is going to be. Fucking. Biblical.
But even then...
Even then it still won't be magic or witchcraft --
Just really, really advanced manipulation of the fundamental physical laws of nature,
made possible by the scientific method,
by the acknowledgement the Nature is bigger than us,
and that Hers is the only game in town.
The scientific method might not be much good for telling us who to marry, or how to live a good life,
but God damn, it's pretty much got everything else on its to-do list.
I mean, how else to put this...
If two people were trying to build a rocket,
and one guy tried to run his on liquid oxygen and the laws of motion,
and the other filled his with dragon piss and good intentions,
Who do you think would be sipping a cold one on the moon about three days from now?