Accio Firebolt or Google?


Image: “Harry Potter Quidditch Cupcakes,” by clarescupcakes.co.uk on flickr.

 

I can’t have been the only kid to daydream about getting an acceptance letter from Hogwarts. Broomsticks, summoning spells, liquid luck– how could anyone pass that up?

Harry Potter Cupcakes set

We live in a different world.

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An incredible amount of information is generated every minute. You can read about jet fuel and the Irish general election over a cup of coffee, without leaving your kitchen. We have the technology to stream movies and recommend better ones. Software that can recognize your face isn’t even surprising anymore. And don’t even get me started on being able to look up information anywhere, anytime, from a metal-and-glass square in your pocket.

I’ve studied programming, architecture, and cryptography, and found them fascinating. But I’ve learned only a tiny fraction of what there is to know. If someone asked me to explain how email actually works, from beginning to end, I’d shrug. It’s amazing, but it’s well beyond what I currently understand.

For me to send you, say, a GIF of Alan Rickman applauding, an incredible number of things have to work right: the chips and circuits of our computers, layers of software and applications, and the complex routes through which we connect and share information.

This requires an insane amount of coordination and ingenuity (and math). It can seem almost miraculous.

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A modern miracle.

Of course, when you study each specific system, the technology is logical and understandable. It all makes sense. But when I experience those complex pieces working together to form modern technology, I find it as extraordinary and mysterious as felix felicis.

I’m not saying computers are our world’s version of magic.

Magic wand

I’m just saying it might be fun to think of them that way.

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So, here’s a question for you. If you had the opportunity to live in a world with magic, but no computers, what would you do?

 

5 thoughts on “Accio Firebolt or Google?

  1. What would the be the limits of the magic? Could it make computers?

    Asked differently, how would you define the differences and similarities between today’s computers etc. and the world of magic?

    • In the Harry Potter universe, too much magic makes electronics “go haywire.” (This is supposed to explain why there are no electronics in Hogwarts.) So there would be a limit, which I’d think would prevent computers from existing.

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