Note: Magic is something that this world does still not fully understand making integration difficult, it would be mostly trial and error if at all attempted.

Magic and warfare stories are usually set in a time of swords and spears, but what would that world look like if its technological evolution continued up to and beyond our current technological level? Would magic become obsolete due to the advancement of technology, or would it be enhanced?

  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest you wait at least 24 hours before you main am answer as accepted. This way more people have the opportunity to give you an interesting answer to your question. $\endgroup$ – Doomed Mind Aug 9 '16 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ You so check out Mahouka (The irregular at Magic High), which is pretty much exactly what you've described. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 9 '16 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ There are a number of setting where magic is used in a non-medieval setting. Ones worth checking out would be Warhammer 40k, Dishonored, Shadowrun and Star Wars. A lot depends also on whether or not the magic system is hard or soft. A hard magic system usually boils down to additional laws of physics, a soft one to "magic". $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Nov 3 at 21:34

There is a lot of debate on this site (mostly by me), that suggests that the existence of magic would seriously hamper the development of science because science needs dependable, repeatable results which magic would interfere with.

But assuming that your sword and spear civilization managed to develop science despite magic's existence, then I think that magic would be enhanced by the addition of technology.

For example, massive libraries of magical tomes containing thousands of spells could be stored in a kindle, duplicated by mass manufacturing and carried in every adept's pocket. This would turn your average magic user into a veritable Swiss army knife of miracles.

Magic could also help technology. Whenever demand for electricity exceeds supply, the power company wizards could call down lightning or throw fireballs into the boilers to fill the need.

Keeping magic a mystery would probably turn out to be your biggest challenge. After all, most of science has been discovered one fact at a time, using trail and error. Magic's laws would eventually reveal themselves under the relentless interrogation of science, and then what you have is something completely different and much more dangerous than a simple wizard.

You would have a science-backed engineer, armed with a much bigger arsenal of physical laws to draw upon. In other words... A God Maker!

  • $\begingroup$ Why would magic ruin science? It would only ruin it if the scientist in question would also try to quantify magic in their work without rhyme or reason. These are different fields of study, as if Tomas Edison would continuously say "but my electrical work isnt like magic!". While true it would be as disconcerting as him being worried about his electricity not being a steam engine. I would even argue that magic would accelerate science. Magic would be a seperate study, but if you can repeat magical results it could help set up better laboratory situations. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Nov 3 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ Additionally any non-magic person would be spurred on to try and copy the magical properties. They can create light with a spell and you as non-magic person cant? Well I'll invent the damn lightbulb thank you very much. I'll flick a switch and turn on a few hundred lights, that would take that mage hours and tons of magic power, I've surpassed magic in that field! Why would a non-magic user be complacent with mages being able to do something for them? $\endgroup$ – Demigan Nov 3 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan, as much as a little healthy competition might help practitioners on both sides of the magic/science divide to work harder to master their studies, I believe that the overlap in the domains of the two disciplines would cause problems on both sides. In the real world, as scientists strive to understand the universe, their task is simplified by the belief that everything that happens can be explained through science. If magic exists and causes some of what happens, then science looses the crucible by which it tests the validity of its theories. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Nov 3 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ You get a clear divide. You have magic, which is only for a select amount of people who can change the laws of physics around them, and you have the scientists, who try to explain the laws of physics and through those can explain what a mage's spell does. A scientist might do research on what a mage can do, but since the scientist (likely) can't do magic himself he'll have to explain the world and the physics within seperately. Just like we don't confuse electricity with gravity, but we can (try to) explain how the energy in electricity can overcome gravity by employing an engine and wings. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Nov 3 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan, You are describing a deception-free reality. If I work for a science conglomerate and I can hire a mage to sneak a few aberrant results into a competitor's experiments, I can derail their scientifically valid research and send them on a wild goose chase trying to explain the impossible. That competitive advantage is too powerful not to use. This would sew distrust into the scientific method, undermining not only the veracity of current moment experimental results but also the validity of all of scientific history. Science and magic can co-exist only until humans get involved. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Nov 3 at 17:51

It completely depends on what "magic" is

Science/technology develops large in situations of need. I need to travel fast, so I make a car, etc. If magic renders tech useless, it would be very hard for technology to evolve. However, if magic was rare (only >0.1% people can use it) then life would carry on similar to us.

So where would technology rise up? and magic? It depends on what magic can do.

If magic has low/no cost (doesn't drain you or require an animal sacrifice or something), then it would replace tech that does the same thing with a larger cost.

E.g. I don't need a forklift to lift heavy objects, because Mr. Wizard made me this rug that makes anything on it have zero gravity.

E.g. I don't need to use magic to fly over and talk to my friend, I can call him straight away on a telephone. BUT WAIT magic lets me climb through my mirror into his mirror, where I can talk to him.

In terms of warfare, magic can and would be outstripped if it has limits. If a magic fireball is slow enough to be dodged, then guns would trump that. If there's a spell that instantly kills someone from a mile away, well, guns wouldn't be that useful anymore.


In a world with magic and technology people would probably do most stuff with technology as it is easier. With current technology levels for example I could look through a book to find an answer but it is easier to use technology like the Internet. Magic would still be used for things that require very little effort, in the same way that I will still walk to a local shop rather than drive there. For anything requiring any real time or effort technology would be used instead.


Contrary to Bellerephon answer I actually believe the opposite would be the case, once technology developed far enough it would be used completely for a small things that we used to use magic for. For example firearms would replace low-level fire spells. Then you would use magic to do big things that technology couldn't do it or at the very least couldn't do without a large amount of effort or energy. Example if you want to destroy a planet instead of spending years to build some sort of technological super weapon just use a spell to summon a meteor have it strike the planet. Instead of spending months being subjected to chemotherapy have a mage preform a Healing Spell on You.

To put it simply once technology became cheap and easy it would replace Magic when performing simple tasks sense it requires very little training to use technology usually. However technology will always be bound by physical laws, Magic by definition can break physical laws so the more powerful spells and still be used in situations where technology was hindered by its limitations.

In the case of warfare most people would have mundane weapons like guns. An Elite Force may have magic spells placed on modern weapons picture Navy Seals armed with actual Magic Bullets. You wouldn't use Mages actively in the field instead they be super weapons used to wipe out whole cities maybe even hope planets.


Does your magical system still obey Laws of Conservation, etc?

Technology, in large part, is a mechanism for storing work and energy so it can be released with little effort later on. For example, a bulldozer clears lots of dirt really easy, yay! But that dozer represents a lot of stored work and energy; the fuel in the gas tank, the labor of construction and design, etc. A man with a shovel represents very little stored energy, so it takes a lot of work, on the spot, to move the same amount of dirt.

So can magic move the same amount of dirt for LESS energy or work? If so, how? What is the cost of that magic? Are portions of the earth's core going cold, is the magic user losing years off their life? What is the cost of magic? In most stories magic taps a virtually infinite "mana" reserve, the only limit is the amount the user can wield (i.e. the user is a small drain on a vast tank of magic). But we are seeing how technology impacts our planet, would widespread use of magic do the same?

So, WRT magic and near-future warfare, it all depends on the availability of magic and the training required to use it. Every human can use a radio or fire a gun, can the same be said for magic telepathy and fireballs? The radio and gun represent stored work/energy, a human can use both with very little cost to themselves. Can the same be said for magic communications and combat? I suspect magic using soldiers would fatigue very quickly when trying to resist artillery shells or dish out damage to a tank. This is why most magic settings are set in low tech "muscle powered" worlds, a magic user scales better when compared to manual labor than when compared to factory output and mechanization.

Of course you can circumvent my limitation on magic by having magic "batteries", but then magic starts looking so similar to technology that the narrative distinction is meaningless.

Shadowrun is a setting like what you describe. There technology and magic are mostly alternate pathways to the same resolution. But since magic is limited to specific users, an all-tech nation would ultimately defeat an all-magic one since mass production favors technology, even if a "one on one" confrontation might favor the magic user.

If magic is universal, accessible to everyone, then anything easier to do with magic would trump the technological counterpart. But really, factory consistency and advertising would still favor technology; plus folks are lazy. Folks can cook their own food now, but still go out to eat. Even if you could cast a fly spell it may be simpler and less effort to take the bus. Just depends on the amount of study required and how the energy to cast a spell is sourced.

Obviously the real concern are for "magic" things like teleportation, instant healing, etc. These are things with no current technological analogue so they would probably the where generals would focus the most. Could you make a unit of teleporting shock troops? What do you have to do to COUNTER such a spell? Defensive magics would have as much priority as offensive spells. Magical healing, if limited, could have to be reserved, but to get lightly wounded troops back out quickly, or just to stabilized gravely wounded soldiers so they can recover with traditional therapy over time? Can magical shields resist all kinetic force? Can bullets be enchanted to zip right through magical shields? I suspect that most magical forces could basically neutralize each other or, at best, have an ancillary effect on the battlefield, kinda like cyberwarfare today. A critical edge would tip the scales, but all things being equal, comparable conventional forces would be comparable in the magic aspect as well.


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