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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Magical Problem-Remover

"Even if you don't believe in magic" tweets @j4ngis, "Would it not be great if magic could remove ALL problems?"

I can see that this is a seductive fantasy. But we only have to open the pages of Harry Potter to see some of the reasons why this fantasy won't work. J.K. Rowling repeatedly emphasizes three important points about the power of magic.

1. Magical solutions to common problems are often incredibly clumsy and ineffective when compared to their muggle equivalents. When people in the magical world wish to communicate with one another, they are forced to resort to owls, fairy dust, magic mirrors and other devices, instead of just picking up the phone or sending a tweet.

2. Many of the problems faced by people in the magical world are caused by previous acts of magic. So maybe they would be better off with no magic at all.

3. And muggles are better off not knowing that magic is possible, because they will be tempted to seek magical solutions instead of taking responsibility for their own lives.

Am I really interested in magic? No, but I'm interested in technology, which sometimes seems to be almost the same thing. JK Rowling's magical world is a satirical reflection of our own, with stupid governments, narrow-minded people, and technology that doesn't work properly or has unintended side-effects - what Mary Catherine Bateson calls The Revenge of the Good Fairy.

And my final reason why magic cannot remove all problems is that magic is compelled to follow what I call Fairy-Tale Logic - a rigorous logic that produces an inevitable outcome. Which leaves no room for the kind of authentic and creative solution that I am sure @j4ngis believes in as much as I do.

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