Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Prophetic

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." In fact, it's called Clarke's Third Law.

I'd like to propose a corollary: any rational person in a community of irrational people will appear to have the power of prophecy.

Do you remember when everyone was all, like, "Twinkies are dying!" and I was all, like, "Uh-uh"? I do. And now we have proof I was right.

Why is this important? Because most Americans don't have the faintest clue how free markets work. As such, markets are a too-advanced technology which, in their eyes, is indistinguishable from magic. And nobody believes in magic anymore, so nobody believes in markets. When I lose my job, should I rely on an unseen nexus of private decision-makers, or send my résumé to the president? When I can't comprehend markets, I rely on Obama.

In Freud's Future of an Illusion, his critique of religion is that man invented God to explain how things happen when the active force is unseen. I understand how you move a log, but when the log moves "on its own," I say God did it. Now we don't believe in God anymore, so we don't believe in anything that happens "on its own."

Part of me wants to help people understand complex phenomena, so they aren't susceptible to messianic figures seeking to control them. But part of me wants to keep the people in the dark and become just such a messianic figure. If I can accurately predict the return of Twinkies from the dead, what can't I predict?! Assign me power of attorney and I'll let you know.

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