Clarke’s Third Law and Beyond: Distinguishing Magic, Technology and Other Things


Clarke’s Third Law — Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

— Arthur Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1973

Gehm’s Corollary — Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

— Barry Gehm, quoted in, Stan Schmidt, Analog Magazine, 1991

Benford’s Corollary — Any technology that does not appear magical is insufficiently advanced.

— George Benson, Foundation’s Fear, 1997

Sterling’s Corollary — Any sufficiently advanced garbage is indistinguishable from magic.

— Bruce Sterling

Zealley’s Law — If you cannot distinguish my technology from magic, you are insufficiently advanced.

— Ben Zealley

Rosenbaum’s Corollary — Any magic, sufficiently debased, is indistinguishable from technology.

— Rosenbaum (in response to Harry Potter)

Allston’s Corollary — Any sufficiently badly-written science is indistinguishable from magic.

— Aaron Allston

Dawkins’ Law — Clarke’s Third Law doesn’t work in reverse. Given that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” it does not follow that “any magical claim that anybody may make at any time is indistinguishable from a technological advance that will come some time in the future.”

— Richard Dawkins, “Putting Away Childish Things”, The Skeptical Inquirer, January-February 1995

Raymond’s Second Law — Any sufficiently advanced system of magic would be indistinguishable from a technology.

— Eric C. Raymond

Factor’s Corollary — Any sufficiently advanced technology [of communication] is indistinguishable from noise.

— Richard Factor

Yun’s Law — Technology any sufficiently magic advanced indistinguishable from is.

— Steve Yun

Langford’s Law of Science Fiction — Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device.

— David Langford, “A Gadget Too Far”, 1992

Stanley’s Law — Any technology, regardless of how advanced, will seem like magic to those who do not understand it.

— Mark Stanley, Freefall

Razor’s Corollary — Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

— Anon.

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

8 thoughts on “Clarke’s Third Law and Beyond: Distinguishing Magic, Technology and Other Things

  1. Reblogged this on The Perils of Improbable Potholes and commented:
    This is precisely the type of content that was the inspiration to launch the Perils of Improbable Potholes, specifically inspired by Niven’s “Chocolate Manhole Covers” from All the Myriad Ways.


What's On Your Mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s