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Magic can't coexist with technology... like really...

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Lowen, Mar 27, 2018.

  1. Lowen

    Lowen New Member

    So, i'm building this fictional world like most of you guys. I've spent like five years or maybe more (i don't even remember) just thinking about the concept and wondering why none of my ideas sound original and interesting. Now i've realized it never worked out because i was ripping off Tolkien. Honestly it was even worse, it was basically a "copy paste" thing.
    So now i'm trying to build it in the hard way, trying to sound as original as i can.
    Instead of creating a single continent to make biblical stuff happen there , i've created an entire world map with different civilizations having different religions and stories. I've also made a fictional timeline based on the real one, so my world won't be stuck in the "lord of the rings" , "dungeons and dragon" , "world of warcraft" , game of thrones" concept.
    Now here's the thing, when you make things evolve you end up stuck in another concept. If you include magic in your world and try to make it usefull to people, your story starts sounding like "Harry Potter" but without the "secret wizard society" stuff. Because if people can use magic to do something else besides killing other people they will build a society where everything works with magic and say "_Fuck you !" to the Industrial Revolution.
    I mean, indrustries will still exist and everybody will need to get a job, but nothing will be that bad as it is in the real world and most part of the things we see today won't exist. People won't need trains,cars and airplanes to transport stuff , they can teleport using magic. Internet and cellphones won't exist, because you're able comunicate with people from distance by using magic itens. Videogames , Movies and even Porn Movies won't exist , because you can probably simulate stuff by casting illusion spells on yourself or something like that. Kids will have to go to school but the school system will work just like in "Harry Potter", everything will be related with magic.
    Things will basically work just like in "Harry Potter". Nobody will care about machines and tecnology because magic helps with everything.
    If you make people build stuff anyways there will probably be a war, and them it went from "Harry Potter" to "Classic Final Fantasy". If the Industrial Society ever win the war congratulations, their world will start looking like the real world and you have turned it into "World Of Darkness"
    Anyways , my point is : "_Magic can only be ignored in the dark ages, because of religion. And if you're talking about magic in the way we human beings know , you can't really mix magic with religious stuff. When a priest or a god uses magic , people consider it a miracle and say it has nothing to do with magic". And that's why i belive that Magic can't coexist with Technology, that's all.
    Now someone please say something. Prove me i'm wrong, add more reasons why if you agree , curse me because you don't have arguments and it seems like i've made you look stupid...just tell me what you think about it
  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

    There are some ways I've gone with this problem. One, magic is not universal, but only available to a few gifted individuals (I worked out the genetics ;) ). So most folk still need to use more pedestrian ways of making a living. Two, magic is limited in what it can accomplish, and even then normal ways of doing things may be more practical—mages tend to reserve their power for emergency use.

    And third, the use of magic CAN be dangerous and lead the practitioner to madness. This is not quite the same sort of limitation as the other two, but definitely a consideration. Not surprisingly, this also make ordinary folk a bit leery of those who use magic.
  3. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Well, magic is great, but a bullet to the head is still pretty fatal (maybe Voldemort should have tried that?)

    I do think the problem you describe above would serve as a good explanation for why technology in many fantasy settings does not really evolve over time, magic could have a retarding affect on its progress.

    I think the thing is, if you include magic of a nature that it really has no limits, then there is no need for technology, but you are the author, you get to make or not make any limits you want. So, if you want to write a world where everything has evolved with the use of magic, then yeah, its likely technology would not have evolved with it, and I am sure there are still awesome stories you can tell in that, where everything is done with magic. But many magic systems are not like that, and do come with limitations. So, if you apply limitation, you may retard magic's universal appeal as the answer to all problems, and technology comes back into play. Why use magic to communicate, which has the risk I may open a portal to a dark place and a demon may eat my soul, when I can just use a cell phone (which eats my soul in another way...)?

    I think the trick is, whatever your setting, tell a story that is worth telling in it. At the end, do you want people to go, wow, that was a neat setting? or do you want them to relate to what the story was about?
    arboriad and Night Gardener like this.
  4. Yora

    Yora Maester

    Everyone can use a machine with a few minutes or hours of instruction. Not everyone can use magic, perhaps ever.

    Also, the overall situation is adressed in "Sanderson's Second Law of Magic": Limitations are more interesting than powers. If magic is free, unlimited, and can do everything, there isn't much interesting going to happen. Magic becomes interesting when characters are using creative ways to use the limited ways magic can be used in unexpected situations.

    Also, magic does not really conflict with religion. There's plenty of ways of religious believes that don't require belief in miracles. And if faith is purely based on belief in miracles, even many deeply religious people would consider that a rather poor form of belief. Though one could say that if all people have unlimited power, then all people are gods. But again, what's the interesting story there?
    Night Gardener, L. Blades and pmmg like this.
  5. pmmg

    pmmg Auror


    On this, just sayin', if the world was such that magic was common and undeniable, religion may have turned out very differently. But even with magic, what is in the realm of gods, is still in the realm of gods. Before there is all of us taking advantage of a magic system, there is still something that brought it about, and would possibly have dominion over it, so a realm of gods could still be fashioned, and religion would still be about the things that are expected of us.

    C'mon. Everyone can use Magic, they just need to RTFM?
  6. Yora

    Yora Maester

    I don't remember the exact specifics, but there have been several religious movements throughout history which followed the principle that if you want to understand the meaning of a world created by a god, you have to learn how it works. Understand how the universe works and you will be able to understand god.
    The very same approach could, and in my opinion most likely would, apply to magic as well. If the universe was created in a way that allows mortals to use magic, why? Why was it deemed necessary to give this ability to humanity? And even in a religion without a creator, you're still left with questions of "what is right or wrong?", "how should I live my life?", "where do we come from?","where do we go to". Shoting fire from your hands (or building an electric power plant) does not give you any answer to these questions.
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    There's a saying that goes something like "any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology" or maybe it was the other way around - it doesn't really matter.

    The point is that people are lazy and if possible they'd like to have stuff done for them. Let's say you'd like to have hot water coming out of the tap when you open it - so you install a water heater. It may be powered by electricity, or it may be powered by enchanted lava stones that the arcanist down on the corner teleports into your water tank at regular intervals. You may even have a fire elemental living under the water tank so you don't need the lava stones and you always have hot water, you just need to feed it once in a while.

    You'll still need pipes to transport the water to the tap though - or do you? You could just open a small dimensional portal in the water tank and one above the sink and water will splash through. You don't even need to have a sink under the tap, you could just open another portal underneath and have the warer fall out in a designated waste water collection facility.
    Or you could just conjure up water and heat it with the power of your mind or your wand, or magical rune carved on the wall of the kitchen.

    Except, that's a lot of work, and it's really just easier to open the tap and not have to worry about it.

    The second point here is to consider the implications of everyone having nearly limitless magical capabilities. How would that affect the development of the world?
    Distance is not a problem. Anyone can travel anywhere.
    Time is not a problem. You can stop it and rewind it if you need more.
    Food is not a problem. You can conjure it up, or you can go pick some up by just teleporting to where it is.
    How does this affect the development of the world?
    Does it even evolve at all or do people just chill out and enjoy their lives as best they can?

    Crime won't be much of an issue. Everyone has what they need because they can magic it up, and if someone still does something criminal you can use magic to find out what and exact appropriate punishment.

    I guess under those circumstances, there's not really any need for technology. You could even conjure up magic that cast magical spells for you.

    There's not really any need for people either - at least not anyone but peoples close friends and relatives and acquaintances, but only the nice ones.
    Night Gardener and TheKillerBs like this.
  8. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I haven't written anything in the setting but I've given thought to an urban fantasy setting without a masquerade which, for the most part, still looks like the modern day world.

    What I've arrived at is that magic is treated a lot like martial arts are in real life. Everybody knows about martial arts, but not everybody knows martial arts. There's also significant difference between the kid that learns karate from the local dojo in the mall and the old grandmaster whose spent their entire life mastering martial arts.

    Secondly I have it where magic can't be mass produced. You can't just copy someone else's spell. You have to adjust it at least a bit to your own personal style. You have to enchant any objects by hand and the more you're involved in personally creating the object to be enchanted the more of a charge it can hold. Any mage worth their salt should be capable of carving their own staff and sewing their own wizard robes.

    If you have the money for it then yes, you can have a mage teleport you somewhere, but for most people it's cheaper and easier to just take a plane.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  9. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

    Magic is no fun if it is unlimited, at least in my opinion, it becomes a panacea for all world problems, and as such ruins good stories. Just magic your way out of the problem. The challenge for me was to limit magic in a way that was believable/acceptable to the reader, and to work within the self-imposed limits to solve the problems that couldn't be solved by the technology of the world, at the same time accepting that certain problems couldn't be solved or were indeed problems that didn't need solving (first world problems). In the world I am basing my WiP I have tried to find a sweet spot between technology and magic. You can do this in different ways, consider the costs involved, the practicality or indeed the era/setting. Then simply play around - the what if game can be fun.
  10. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    No. Magic can't exist with Technology. In this world we have technology, therefore we can't have magic.
    My spurious [if not outright specious] logic aside, it's your world so anything can happen. As long as you make what happens in your world behave according to the rules of your world, who knows [but you] what the outcome may be.
    Readers will buy in if it feels believable and coherent.
    I think any world where magic was unlimited in easy of use and power, would have to quickly define some laws to limit it [social and cultural taboos] or end up being thought out of existence by the first homicidal [or just really ANNOYED] person to come along. Thinking about it, that would probably happen anyway...
    I like my magic subtle and limited.
    I like LotR because Gandalf shows the power of his magic very sparingly.
    I like Harry Potter because spells can be complicated and take time to learn [and longer to perfect].
    I like Discworld magic because it usually gets in the way and makes things more complicated not less [just as Gaspode the talking dog, or the Sapient Mice]
    Night Gardener and Svrtnsse like this.
  11. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

    This is of course based on a very small sample size of 1 universe...
    CupofJoe and Svrtnsse like this.
  12. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    ...and yet it includes all available and relevant data. :p
    CupofJoe and Holman like this.
  13. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

    It does beg the question - "Did magic exist before we had technology?"
    In which case "Does technology kill magic, and at what point did that happen?"
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    This is pretty common in various settings isn't it?
    I recall reading about a few (at least), different settings where this had happened. As technology develops and becomes more commonplace, magic is phased out and is used more and more sparingly until only a few people even know about it at all. I don't remember what settings specifically this happens in, but I'm sure someone who does will be able to fill us in.
  15. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

    Magic is being phased out in my setting, but not by technology, although technology is advancing so it may appear that way. Does technology replace magic or simply fill the void that magic leaves.
  16. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    I struggle with this idea. What exactly do you mean by "technology"? Because I can easily envision magic-based technology... Actually, all magic is technology in the broadest sense of the term. And can you elaborate on why magic would kill industrialisation?
  17. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I think the big problem with this thread is that you didn't define your terms. Here's what I got when googling the terms:

    is the collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives.
    Magic: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

    I don't see these as being mutually exclusive. In fact, there can be a lot of overlap. So, if you use a crystal ball and wand to perform magic, the ball and wand would be considered "technology".

    The issue is that the "magic/spirituality/nature/mystical vs. science/materialist/technological/skeptical" conflict is maybe the most ubiquitous cliche in all of fantasy fiction. A lot of people just can't imagine things the other way.
    elemtilas and Svrtnsse like this.
  18. Horus

    Horus Scribe

    I have thought about this problem a lot in my setting, because both exist and compete quite frequently, with various results. Some of these results depend very heavily on the 'rules' for Magic.

    Technology is hard to beat, even with magic, because you don't need that much extra training to use technology. You traditionally will need said training for magic. It's relatively easy to teach someone how to shoot a firearm, or use a grenade. How hard would it be to teach a person how to throw fireballs and shoot lightning? If it takes longer than it would to teach an average person how to use the previous, then technology wins. That's for warfare at least, but the same is true for any industry. If magic can outdo agriculture techniques with minimal training, then everyone will use magic to produce food. If it requires someone getting an education that's the equivalent to an PHD? You might find some really successful magical farmers, but its out of reach for most people at that point. Ability, training time, and the availability of people capable/willing to train others are key factors in how well magic can compete with technology.

    I do like settings like Irregular at Magical High School and Fullmetal Alchemist, where technology and magic are essentially intertwined, as you can use magic to assist technology, and technology to assist magic. I think it makes for some much more interesting applications of the two, and uniqueness in setting.
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Magic can exist in many forms, but the form put forward in the OP is one of unlimited magic. Everyone can do everything. In that case, some lunatic would annihilate the entire world. End of story. Not really an interesting environment, but it is a self-solving problem.

    As for magic and religion, that's easy. As pmmg already pointed out, there will always be a higher realm, spiritual longing, or even just an urge for cults. Religion flourishes everywhere, in every circumstance. There's far more to religion than merely providing explanations for natural phenomena.

    Another aspect to universal magic. I don't think it would be called magic. It would just be called doing stuff. It's stuff anyone can do. It's perfectly ordinary. A few eggheads would study it and write doctoral dissertations about its origins and causations, but most folks would tool around in their cars. They wouldn't be magic cars. They'd just be cars.
  20. Lowen

    Lowen New Member

    Good point. The third reason can mess with the whole thing all over again , but these other two might work as a way to jutify.
    You see , that's my problem with magic. It's really hard to think about the details of a world where a normal person can say something like : "__Uncle James arrived yesterday , he was so shocked by the news he spent a lot of money just to get some mage to teleport him. He wasn't even that far , he could have come by car, it would take only 2 hours or maybe less."
    It seems a lot easier to say that society forgot about magic's existence than saying it is a normal thing, but even nowadays we recognize it as something misterious and very dangerous.
    Now everybody is saying it can be done if i create a magic system with some specifc rules , so now i don't know anymore

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