Not muggles

Nobody wants to be a muggle.

This is ironic, since every single person who has ever read “Harry Potter” is, in fact, a muggle. And in a way that’s the entire point. Fantasy is a way for us to project ourselves into another place that is somehow better than where we are. It is the very implausibility of the fantasy that is its draw. If we could really jump into a painting, fall down a rabbit hole or step through a wardrobe to get there, it might lose its appeal.

Yet some us have the experience, every day, of not being muggles — those who create things by programming computers. I realize that this may not make a lot of sense to non-programmers reading this, but hopefully you’ll get the gist of it.

Most people who use computers think of them as mysterious things that you can only access through user interfaces. Whether you are using Word, GarageBand, Facebook or Illustrator, you are pretty much limited to pushing buttons, swiping screens, or maybe fiddling with a slider or two. Sometimes you also get to type in words and draw stuff.

But to somebody who programs, a computer is a completely protean device. You can use it to do anything. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. It is your magic carpet into a world of infinite possibility.

If you’ve read “Harry Potter”, you might recognize in those books how you felt when you first realized that programming is a path to limitless freedom and possibility. When you wrote your first real program, you were probably feeling pretty much the same way Harry felt when he first picked up his wand and cast a spell.

The difference, of course, is that when it comes to being able to program, nobody really needs to be a muggle.

2 Responses to “Not muggles”

  1. sally says:

    “But to somebody who programs, a computer is a completely protean device. You can use it to do anything. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. It is your magic carpet into a world of infinite possibility.”

    I hate to say it, Ken, but that ^^ is also a fantasy.

    You can’t use a computer do to “anything.” It has limitations just like any other tool and the possibilities of using a computer as a tool are finite. Might be a large large large set, but it is a finite one.

  2. admin says:

    I disagree. Harry Potter is not all powerful. For example, Harry cannot wave his wand and turn Hogwarts into a sandwich. But he is more powerful than a muggle — he can do many things that muggles cannot.

    In the coming years, as the “internet of things” continues to mature, and we come to accept at-home manufacture and ubiquitous augmented reality, more and more of what we call the real world will be amenable to computer mediated control and interaction. You, Sally, know this as well as anyone.

    So yes, all forms of magic have their limitations. Computer programming does not equal a world of complete omniscience or omnipotence, but within the domain that it operates — which is an ever (and rapidly) expanding one — it is indeed a world of infinite possibility.

Leave a Reply