Clarke’s Third Law – Challenge, or Fate?


Arthur C. Clarke’s third law is:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Last Thursday I attended a lecture entitled “Our Children, Our Technology, Our Future”, which was an excellent talk given by Dr. Stephen Sagarin (read his blog “What is Education?” here), discussing the questions:

  1. Given what we know about the development of children, how can we imagine a healthful future with technology?
  2. What characterizes technology as a human creation, and what ethical and educational demands does it require?

It occurred to me that as technology, and the computing devices that operate the technology, becomes more and more advanced, a corallary to Clarke’s third law would be:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a human being.

That is, after all, where technology is heading, and has been since Alan Turin, in 1950, developed the Turing Test – a machine’s ability to exhibit behavior indistinguishable from that of a human.

In fact, our machines are being designed to be “better than human”.  Or rephrased, our machines “are beings” designed to be “better than human.”

Rather than accepting this fate, of not just indistinguishable but actually better, the challenge that we, as human beings need to take up, is:

How do we continue to advance ourselves so that human beings continue to be distinguishable from the machine?

And not just by our predilection to violence!


One thought on “Clarke’s Third Law – Challenge, or Fate?

  1. “How do we continue to advance ourselves so that human beings continue to be distinguishable from the machine?”
    I am a tech geek, and for a long time I didn’t understand the importance of arts, culture, and social customs. Now, after reading your post, I realized how important these things are. They are to keep us human, instead of becoming like machines.


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