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True Sorcery

You'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you

Is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'.

-- Bob Dylan, 1964

Our children have used magic wands all their lives, raising and lowering the volume on the story boxes that they watch, controlling the narratives. It's uncanny, the way they can intuit what technology wants.

Didn't used to be this way. Did any fathers ask their daughters to fix the Model-T, the way we now routinely hand a balky cell phone to our offspring? The relationship between who learns and who teaches, which has been stable for millennia, has been upturned: "You looked at the previous generation to learn how to live yourself. That's no longer possible," explains the anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson. "Today you're finding 12-year-olds teaching their grandmothers how to use computers so they can exchange e-mails."

Each day, our children wake up in a world that will have changed by sundown. They take incomprehensible change for granted and have absorbed the wisdom of the author Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And Harry Potter addresses the outstanding question that we and our children encounter as we face such unprecedented change. It is the problem of the moral use of our powers. As Bateson says: "Who teaches what's right is an issue in politics, it's an issue in religion, it's an issue in business."


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