Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
Gehm's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law

Age of Reason

[A barrage of queries and interrogatory remarks greets this pronouncement, most of which are not in fact directed at the speaker.]

"So what was the Technology of the ancients capable of? Quite possibly, I believe, anything which could be imagined. Much as the properties of Magic, in fact - but perhaps it was able to construct the entire edifice of Magic from first principles."

[This last remark has once again attracted the attention of the majority of the audience.]

"My strong suggestion is that magic is not the fundamental property of the Universe that we believe it to be but, rather, it is an entirely artificial construct, one assembled by our ancestors to help us all live in peace and comfort and, mostly, harmony - with one another but, more importantly, with ourselves."

[A growing mumble of confusion and discomfort spreads across the audience.]

"Ourselves as a species, of course, but also each of us as individuals. Magic simply means that the universe around us works in the way we would wish it to be, which is not necessarily the same as the way it actually does work. Indeed, I have evidence to suggest that nothing that Magic does for us is, in some fundamental sense, real."

[The apparent confusion and discomfort in the auditorium increases. The speaker ignores it and presses on.]

"So I put it to you: suppose we accept this proposition? Oh, I'm sure all of you will wish to study the evidence I have assembled and perhaps many of you will deny even the possibility of my theory having any merit. But, for now, I beg you to accept this proposition, just as a hypothesis, and let us see where it takes us."

[It seems that many people in the auditorium are more than a little uncomfortable with the direction the presentation is taking. The speaker is almost certainly aware of the atmosphere, but chooses to ignore it anyway.]

"So, we have to ask an even more fundamental question: why? Why the deception? Why, for the longest part of our history, have we elected, or been forced, to rely on a magical view of the universe? What is the advantage in adopting a worldview which is misleadingly false, even if it is effortlessly useful in a practical way?"

[The speaker's words ring out over the audience, whose reactions are many and various. Nobody appears to be leaving, though, which is a fact which the speaker finds most encouraging.]

"Over the aeons, we have explored our galaxy many times. Look at some of those ruins we have encountered on planets elsewhere; those civilisations built up in splendour and sophistication, and then gone in an eye-blink. Some of their artefacts have proved to be inscrutable, entirely incomprehensible to us; some of their languages, their writings at least partially untranslatable."

[Some of the audience appear to be surprised, even distressed, by the suggestion of a lack of omniscience.]

"So, we are forced to conclude that at least some of those aliens, some of those strange beings whose remains we have so often encountered, must have more intelligent than us. And yet they all perished, died out, not from violence and war, not from famine and disease, but - as far as we can tell - from some kind of civilizational ennui, some failure of nerve, or spirit, or imagination. What caused this failure? Nobody seems to know for sure - although there are many theories."

[A few of the audience, perhaps individuals already familiar with the fates of so many other species in the galaxy, nod sagely and listen intently. Others consult Oracles or consort with familiars to confirm the truth of the speaker’s words.]

"And I too have a theory, which we shall get to in just a moment."

Part 3 Part 5