There's a great moment in The Hobbit when Bilbo Baggins is exploring a stinking troll cave and finds an ancient Elven short sword, lost for centuries, buried under the muck. It’s Sting, baby. And nobody wonders whether Sting will be less powerful than all the flashy new swords on the market. They assume that it’s more powerful.

In some of the most engrossing worlds ever imagined—Star Wars, The Hobbit, and even Dune—the older something is, the better. The characters in those stories respect the achievements of their long-disappeared ancestors, and they honor the technological feats of heroes whose deeds have turned to legend.

Maybe we’re drawn to these stories because they’re so different from our own society, where we’re obsessed with the latest, freshest version of any gadget—and it’s off to the trash heap with whatever falls out of date. If Bilbo had found an iPhone in that cave, I highly doubt it would have been worth wielding for the rest of his adventure and then passed down through his family.

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