Excerpt from Trees on Mars — Chapter 6

Put a Spell on Me
When the Magic Became the Information

In the future era, we are mesmerized not by the pattern of divine magic, unattainable yet predictable, but by the idea that we, personally, can control the magic; we can control change and own the future; we can be gods and magicians, one and the same. Instead of generating social certainty through the collective actions inherent in caring for each other and the world we live in, we are looking for the quick fix. We are trying to find the pill we can pop that will take away our anxiety and sense of futility and replace it with our individual ability to master each and every situation.

This is true, but it’s also reductive. It turns the complexity of this issue into a series of retrograde moral judgments. The truth is far more nuanced. For when we look at how humanity has changed over the last 500 or so years, we see that the crucial transformation lies in the very process of remembering/futuring. The more we learned to project the past into the future, the farther we got from a permanent present of social certainty maintained by our collective belief in the magic of eternal repetition.

What changed us from creatures who feared to mess with the future into the only beings on the planet who assert dominion over it? As we’ll see, it’s what has been changing us all along. The development of humanity is rooted in the development of our capacity for abstraction, our ability to infer things based on what has already happened. This is the story of how the magic turned into the information, which also happens to be a big part of the story of how we came to believe in and order our lives around the future.

 

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