The world cannot function without partially ignorant people
Gigerenzer's Law of Indispensable Ignorance

Age of Unconsciousness

[The polite applause finally dies down.]

"Gentle-beings of every gender and none, greetings and felicitations!"

[The speaker raises a hand and turns this way and that, acknowledging the audience here present.]

"Today I am addressing you using an ancient and fractured form of communication known as speech; specifically, the language once known as English. I have entitled my presentation, in that peculiar and idiosyncratic way that these ancient forms required, A Short History of Magic."

[The audience quietens down. An attentive hush falls over the chamber. A very few still struggle with translation amulets or omniscience glamours, but very quickly even these few appear still and expectant.]

"I am delighted to see that so many of you have turned up, actually in person, literally here to experience the archaic notion of physical proximity."

[There is a soft pop from one of the front row seats. Someone has disappeared, perhaps unnerved by the unusual and faintly scandalous notion of being nearly close enough to touch another body.]

"A few moments reflection would be enough to convince any of you that it is most unlikely that, as a species, we are still existent after all these millennia."

[The speaker pauses as a sudden stillness falls over the hall. Almost everyone present freezes for a moment, consulting oracles, familiars and daemons from near and far. Then a frisson of jitters and twitches mark the places where the audience becomes unfrozen, accompanied by growing susurrations of agreement, or query, or confusion.]

"Yet here we are!"

[The speaker holds up a hand for silence. The noise abates, but does not quite cease entirely.]

"When we look at the universe around us, we see that life and sentience has grown and established an uncounted number of times: minds and beings of countless kinds and shapes, all exploring, pushing outwards, yet never lasting for long, eventually falling back, failing and finally extinguished. The evidence is everywhere we look."

[The hiss of whispered conversation peaks and falls back.]

"Except for ourselves! We alone, in all of the lifetime of the Universe, have persisted, for aeon after endless aeon, all of us living and dying but our society unchanging for a million years."

[Here and there, there are suspicions of nods, hints of agreement with the premise. But most are unconvinced, or sceptical, or outright hostile. These reactions do not appear to surprise the speaker.]

"I would like to explore the reasons why we are still here, stable and unchanging in our society. It is a question for which we have no answer, for which none of our devices, or delving, or divination, has ever been able to establish."

[There is a repeat of the moment of frozen silence. The muttering of perplexity is louder this time.]

"Yet I believe there are answers, reasons which the wisest of the ancients could, in their fumbling way, already foretell."

[The speaker pauses, appears to take a deep breath.]

"Now, much of our beginning is well-known and recorded with, we all believe, much detail and fidelity in the ancient books and scrolls. Yet there are gaps, omissions, areas of the record which seem, under close inspection - very close inspection, in forensic detail and taking care to note that which is absent - to show signs of having been very carefully and deliberately erased!"

[This shocking assertion is greeted with another crescendo of noise, some in the audience even going as far as to stand and shout heated remarks. The speaker again pauses, waiting patiently for the outbursts to subside.]

"I realise that many of you will wish to test my thesis. Please do so. I myself have subjected it to the most thorough challenges, yet each time the hypothesis remains intact. If you will permit me to continue, I would guide you all through the murky - yes, Gentle-beings, distinctly murky - uncertainties in our history and our place in the universe."

Introduction Part 2