Isn’t it interesting, how when you first encounter an unknown subject, there is always something magic about it?
As Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his 1973 revision of “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination”, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. It really is, isn’t it? For example, that is exactly how I related to computers before I embarked on my thesis journey: computers and the internet were anything but obvious; they worked (or not) depending on their own will, and their inside workings were, well – magical – to me. Once I embarked on my thesis effort, though, they started losing that magical ambiance. I got to know the nuts and bolts of those machines, why they worked and why they didn’t. I became much more informed about how one went about fixing (or crashing) them. They became machines – controllable, understandable, banal – something they have actually been from the start. (I wonder if the same realization would have helped Garry Kasparov during his match against Deep Blue back in 1997..?)
But it’s not only technology in it’s hardware guise I am talking about. For example, right now I am standing in front of the magical technology of human relations and, specifically, business success. Starting one’s company is weird: from one point of view, it’s all clear – “You just start a company and if you’re good enough, you succeed! What’s so difficult about that, anyway?” But once you step a little closer, you are suddenly blown away by the complexity and, here we go – magic – of the thing’s workings. People magically start successful companies, find themselves on the cover of WIRED and FastCompany, magically make their zillions. They must be lucky, hyper-smart or in some other way radically different. I find myself staring like an ape at the monolith of the business world (think “2001: A Space Odyssey”), not sure what to make of it: is it good, is it bad, should I even approach, is it going to kill me? The way it works is indistinguishable from magic.
Feeling curious to know what the thing is, I take an in-depth entrepreneurship course, which includes developing a business plan for my future business as a part of the graduation requirements. In the middle of Market Research, Marketing Strategies and Financial Planning, all my architectural schooling is rendered useless and my own ignorance is, once again, revealed to me. But what is even more fascinating, is that while doing all of this, I am terrified – not as much of whether the monolith will kill me – but rather that once I start truly examining it, there’s no going back: as things before it, it will start loosing it’s magic-ness… And it will inevitably become a machine.
Maybe, the secret to (worldly) success is realizing from the start that everything is a machine, and all you need to do is to decrypt it? There is no magic, no Santa, no architects reaching fame by the virtue of their talents alone. It’s plain mechanics. The sooner one realizes that, the better. And I am doing it with different things every day, learning more and more about the world around. But I won’t lie: the little kid somewhere inside me is still a little sad… Why couldn’t it just be magic?