[ExI] Things I have (sort of) changed my mind on (1): The supernatural

Giulio Prisco giulio at gmail.com
Mon May 7 08:28:34 UTC 2018

Having said that, it would be very difficult for me (even under
torture) to explain the iPhone to Caesar. He didn't have a concept of
electromagnetic waves, material science, semiconductors etc. I could
say things like "invisible light," Lucretius's atoms with non-random
swerve, etc., that he would have more or less understood conceptually,
but at the end of the day he would be better off thinking of
supernatural magic and relying on me to make it work. Don't forget
that the Romans' pragmatism also means that they couldn't give less of
a damn if something works with magic or tech, what's important is that
it works.

On Mon, May 7, 2018 at 10:09 AM, Giulio Prisco <giulio at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Stuart, this is how the Romans rolled indeed, but doesn't it
> support my point? My (and Caesar's after he tortures me) tech is
> supernatural magic to backwoods Roman plebe. Similarly, my (speaking
> as a member of the backwoods plebe) supernaturally magic religion of
> today will be tomorrow's tech.
> On Mon, May 7, 2018 at 7:55 AM, Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:
>> Giulio Prisco wrote:
>>> Reading my old writings I realize that I have (sort of) changed my
>>> mind on some all important concepts. One is the concept of
>>> ?supernatural.?...
>>> https://turingchurch.net/things-i-have-sort-of-changed-my-mind-on-1-the-s
>>> upernatural-f029d49385e9
>> You might be splitting hairs there, Giulio, but its you who claim your
>> mind is changed so who am I to judge?
>> I do kind of think you underestimate your Roman forbears however.
>> Yes, you and your smartphone might have convinced some backwoods Roman
>> plebe that you were some kind of sorcerer but an educated Roman like a
>> philosopher or a senator? Highly doubtful.
>> Educated Romans were no more superstitious than you or I. Case in point,
>> this quote from Seneca the Younger c.a. 50 AD:
>> "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false,
>> and by rulers as useful"
>> Moreover, the Romans (before christianity) were the greatest technophiles
>> of their time. Look at all this stuff came up with or appropriated:
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_technology
>> When they came across military tech that they didn't understand like Greek
>> fire or Carthaginian war ships, they did not call it magic and run away in
>> fear. They found a way to procure it and reverse engineer it, often
>> improving it in the process, and then used it on the next poor slobs that
>> got in the way of their conquest.
>> They invented concrete so strong that a lot of what they built is still
>> around today. And when Rome fell, the secret of concrete was forgotten and
>> not rediscovered for a THOUSAND years.
>> And for all our technological savvy, we still don't know what the Romans
>> used these things for and I assure you it wasn't paper weights:
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_dodecahedron
>> So for your hypothetical time-travel scenario, I propose you would have
>> been promptly subdued by legionaries and you and your smartphone taken
>> promptly to Caesar. Caesar would have been intrigued by your smartphone
>> and would have plied you with wine and your choice of slave-girls or
>> catamites for the secret of its operation. If that didn't work, he might
>> have threatened you with torture until you told his smartest engineers how
>> it worked.
>> Because that's how the Romans rolled.
>> Stuart LaForge
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