Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is a delightful short blend of sci-fi and magic-fantasy, where the truism that advanced tech might as well be magic is nicely illustrated. A la Connecticut Yankee, I suppose. But Tchaikovsky goes one step better, paralleling that with how the linguistics of science as magic would make communication difficult. We use metaphors to explain to a six year old how electromagnetism works, or to explain to our present day co-citizens (the vast majority of us) how quantum mechanics works. The metaphors are intuitive to the listener, but they don’t really imply “understanding.” I guess the sense of “not understanding” is that the listener cannot formulate an experiment and measurement that would make sense… the definition of understanding is: “able to formulate an experiment and measure an outcome that logically relates to a set of thoughts about the matter.” So the novel is nicely philosophical (in philosophy of science sense) without that ever being explicit.
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