veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Technology as Magic

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The resemblance between technology and magic has been remarked by a number of writers, and provides a series of running jokes in the Harry Potter books. (Wizards cannot cope with the telephone, but communicate instead using owls and fireplaces.)

For those who believe in technology as some kind of magic, the business benefits or social evils of a new techology appear as soon as a new device is plugged in. The box in the corner of your office will magically cause your markets and profits to multiply, your customers to be eager and loyal, your employees to be happy and productive, your suppliers to be efficient and cheap, and your competitors to vanish in a puff of smoke.

Arthur C Clarke (I think it was) said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
"The feathering of the arrow, which ensured the accuracy of the weapon, was possibly due to a purely magical identification of the arrow with the wings of a living bird. This is one of those cases in which magical thinking often misled men further by sometimes actually paying off." Lewis Mumford, Myth of the Machine p 115
Requirements for Magical Solutions


Neophilia and

... some more
references to
Harry Potter

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Requirements for Magical Solutions

veryard projects > technology > magic > magical solutions

Requirements engineering is a process affecting stakeholders themselves as well as their stakes.  The requirements owner may be transformed: from a 'naive' client who articulates an infinite (imaginary, fantasy) demand for a magic solution, into a 'mature' client who articulates a moderated (symbolic, formal) desire for a realistic solution.

We use the term Demanding Solutions to refer to the cyclical dialectic process in which magical solutions generate new frustrations and new demands. The Z-model represents the possibility of escape from this cycle.

schema Z
more Demanding Solutions

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change


veryard projects > technology > magic > polarization

As technology consultants, we often find attitudes towards technology that verge on the superstitious. Not just the opponents of
a particular innovation, whose resistance may be attributed to a combination of "rational" and "irrational" fears. But also the
proponents, who often imagine that a given technology will have almost magical effects (the so-called Silver Bullet).

This polarization is well illustrated by the debate about genetic engineering / biotechnology.
more Thinking Superstition
Understanding Resistance

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Silver Bullets

veryard projects > technology > magic > silver bullets

Proponents of a new technology often present it as some form of white magic (the so-called Silver Bullet). They would have us believe that a given technology will have almost magical effects.

Many gurus have scoffed at the 'silver bullet', but then fall into the trap of providing their own solutions.

In gender terms, the silver bullet has strong masculine associations - technology as protector, technology as order.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change


veryard projects > technology > magic > examples

Genetic engineering has the quality of myth. Journalists refer to "Frankenstein foods", while serious scholars make witty asides about hybrids in Greek myth. more
After a bad accident, such as a train crash, there is a tendency to postulate some outrageously expensive piece of technology, such as a state-of-the-art signalling and braking system, and claim that this technology would have (magically) eliminated all risk.  The fault then lies with "The Management" for being too mean to invest in this life-saving technology. more
Turn your website into a portal, and this will magically attract millions of internet users to access a wide range of high-value third-party services, under your control. more

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change veryard projects > technology  > magic
Last update November 14th, 2003
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