So this weekend I’m catching up on a collection of blog essays — continuations and corollaries on the never-ending debate of what constitutes science and magic in the world of, er… speculative fiction1 — when what to my wondering eyes should appear but an altogether apt metaphor for the state of Starbucks. From a post by Ted Chiang on the effects of the Industrial Revolution:

Before mass production, technology usually involved the personal touch. Every artifact was the product of an individual’s care and attention; every tool was born of a conscious act. If a device worked well, it was usually because someone had been concentrating really hard when they made it. After mass production, that was no longer the case. The personal touch vanished from many aspects of daily life.

Voila.

There remains only one remaining bit of existential inquery: is a great cappuccino the result of science, or magic? Discuss.

P.S. If you’re not familiar with Ted Chiang’s work, try his award-winning short story, The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate.

  1. When you’re talking about the magic vs. science debate, it’s perhaps best to use the biggest possible basket you’ve got, the better in which to deposit the arguments and theories therein, and also to pack a lunch ’cause you may be at it a while. As to the debate itself, see the July 14 Bloggled entries in the sidebar. []

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