Scene from the TV miniseries Devs, in which engineers can see past and future reconstructed by a quantum computer. In this scene in particular, they were supposedly watching Christ’s crucification.

How advanced technology feeds us with magic thoughts and religious hopes

Since the development of the telegraph, new technologies and their supposedly unlimited possibilities are prompting us with hopes of innovation that go beyond industrial applications

Lidia Zuin
7 min readApr 18, 2023

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The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke became famous not only for his books, such as Childhood’s End or the cinematographic collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The author also has his share of quotes that are able to summarize bigger ideas such as the one that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This conclusion is easily approached in art when we see intersections between science fiction and fantasy in RPG systems such as Shadowrun or even in the Star Wars franchise. There we have both high tech spaceships and the Force, this power that is more fantastic than technological.

Similarly, the fact that we do not exactly understand how advanced and complex technologies work prompts us this “magical reasoning” that reminds me of this famous quote from A Dog’s Will: “Dunno, but that’s how it is.” That’s the feeling some of us may get when it comes to these new iterations in artificial intelligence, such as the case of ChatGPT.

On an article, the engineer Nabil Alouani brings up this point precisely: the hype over ChatGPT, being it in version 3 or 4, has much less to do with what the tool is actually able to do. Between marketing blurbs and actual functionalities, there is a lot to be discussed when it comes to machine learning models.

Alouani suggests that, even if engineers claim they don’t know exactly what happens “inside” those models, they still know very well how the technology works:

“It’s like when you ride a bike. You can’t fully describe how each cell of your body behaves, but you know it’s a matter of balancing your weight.”

In the case of models such as ChatGPT, what the technology would be doing is a “pastiche”, that is, the act of imitating the work of other people and creating new…

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Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.