In Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland's farcical scifi fantasy The rise and fall of D.O.D.O., photography is held responsible for the end of magic by causing a wave function collapse.

From New Delhi to Jerusalem - The United States to Europe, Democracy just shimmers. In comparison, my dear grasshopper, you and your woes are in their infancy.

But it does not mean you do not breathe in the same contaminated, toxic air. 

In fantasy stories, you may encounter a common plot where magic is shown to be dying, if not already dead.

In July, 1851, the first photograph of the total solar eclipse was taken. Similarly, in the TV series, The Magicians, inspired by Lev Grossman's novel of the same name, magic initially starts petering out because one god of Pillory decides to pollute the wellspring, the source of all magic, with his refuse as a punishment to humanity and later his death leads to the disconnection of the magical services by the plumber.

In another fantasy TV series, The Librarians, the shortage of magic is also a major concern. Something similar seems to be happening to democracy around the world. And no satisfying explanation has been offered so far.

This reminds me that Dennis E Taylor, in his brilliant sci-fi trilogy called Bobiverse, shows how democracy is vanquished at the hands of far-right nuts only a century from now.

In a world where so much is going on, it is hard not to mistake symptoms for disease, effects for causes. One reason is the sheer volume of white noise created by history. History never stops, and every passing day leaves behind a pile of arbitrary, if minor, facts. 

Not every randomly generated fact needs to carry a deeper meaning. When there are only 365 days in a year, dates often repeat themselves. The art of effective analysis lies in connecting dots and knowing which dots not to connect.

You risk getting lost down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories when you commit this folly. Two more useful lessons. Works of fiction, no matter how compelling, are just that. Never try to confuse them  with reality unless indicated by the work's creator.

You do not want to become Don Quixote of our age, do you? And remember, coincidences do occur and do not automatically support your pet conspiracy. A theory must contain verifiable facts and evidence to escape the conspiracy stigma.

Keep these few lessons in mind and they will serve you well.

The World Students Society thanks author Farrukh K Pitaffi.


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