I read the first three Harry Potter novels to my son. It’s a fond memory strengthened by the fact the books were quite good. In each, the young Harry Potter straddles two very distinct worlds, the magical world of wizards and the familiar world of non-magical folk, Muggles. Us. Except, this is not true, not anymore.
There are no Muggles. We are all wizards.
I realized this while texting my son baseball playoff updates — as I was flying across the country, 30,000 feet above the ground.
Think of it. Nearly 2 billion of us carry wands. We call them smartphones. These semi-magical devices enable us to connect with nearly anyone at any time from any place. We can instantly access the world’s knowledge. Always in hand, always at the ready, we use these “wands” for work, for play, to protect us, to make our lives better. They know us, know where we’ve been, what we like, answer to our voice.
Point your smartphone at the sky and learn what planes are flying overhead, even what satellites are circling the globe.
Hear a sound and your smartphone will tell you the song — using the appropriately named Shazam app. Point your smartphone at a complex math equation and it supplies the answer. This is magical.
Want to use your smartphone-wand to put out the lights, turn on the television, fill your surroundings with music? Done. This is magical.
Magic is now commonplace, like air, or water.
In the later Harry Potter books, we learn of “horcruxes,” small objects, like a medallion, that literally contain bits of a person’s soul. Horcruxes are obviously real. Think of the Apple Watch, loaded with sensors, embedded with an entire — and entirely swappable — computer on a chip. This tiny object, placed upon your skin, knows where you are, where you’ve been, your heart rate, maybe your blood pressure, your voice, your history. This deeply personal information may last forever, reflecting you to whomever possesses the object.
I cannot be the only person who feels wizard-like powerful when I literally pause live sporting events on my television.
Look. You will soon have your very own invisibility cloak.
According to the scientist-wizards at University of Rochester, “this is the first cloaking device that provides three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking.” How? By using readily available technology that almost certainly will radically drop in price and availability:
“With four lenses arranged in exactly the right way, The Rochester cloak creates a space in which anything that exists in between these lenses are hidden from sight. Unlike most other invisibility cloaks currently being worked on, the object being hidden here is able to remain hidden even when looking at it from multiple angles.”
Catch that? Yes, there’s more than one invisibility cloak under development.
It’s time to acknowledge we are all wizards and possess the tools of wizards. It’s not through magic, but brainpower, ingenuity, relentless effort, access to knowledge and high risk capital that made this magical world possible.
- 3D printing is transfiguration, transforming one object into another.
- Algorithms are our sorting hat.
- Google Now is a remembrall.
- Neural networks, like Inception, are the branch of magic known as Occlumency. More about ourselves is known then we know about ourself.
- Social media is the Pensieve, storing our memories forever. Or, perhaps, our very own Mirror of Erised, revealing the “deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”
- Direct brain-to-brain interface is in development. This doesn’t even exist in Harry Potter’s world.
- Ray Kurzweil is no doubt hard at work on a resurrection stone.
- That scar, there on Harry’s forehead? Haptics. Touch it, and it reveals what’s inside.
Snitches are real.
Last week, Amazon announced the Echo. This small device sits in your home and answers to your voice. It will play music, tell you the weather, read the morning’s news to you. Oh, and it learns. What magic trick can do better?
As our magical tools learn still more about all of us, about the world around us, and as “virtual” reality continues to progress, we might, yes, literally, live in a world where ghosts are common. Friends, family members, colleagues — and the departed — all (virtually, visibly) available, wherever we are, whenever we need them. In fact, it seems to me this will be so by no later than 10-20 years from today. Ghosts before driverless cars.
Wizard Or Squib?
Now what? What do we do with all this magic swirling about us, accessible with the touch of a finger or the sound of our voice?
First, embrace our powers, but remember to use them always for good.
Second, and while I am not suggesting we send our children off to wizarding schools, certainly our 20th century Muggle school infrastructure must be demolished. Let’s not make squibs of our own children.
Third, embrace the magic. It is ours, it is who we are. For our sons and daughters, it is the world they are born into.
What magical devices do you use? What new magic awaits us all?