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Essays
Magic and Magical Theory

Muggle vs. Wizarding Technology

by Joywitch M. Curmudgeon

"Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic."
     -- Arthur Weasley (CS4)

Wizards don't use electricity for a very good reason -- they don't need it, in fact they don't need our technology at all (except maybe for sherbet lemons). Modern muggle technology, according to wizards, is a poor substitute for magic. And modern muggle technology is largely based on the availability of cheap, efficient energy sources, especially electricity.

But wizards can create their own energy. This is one of the most significant differences between muggles and wizards. Why mine coal, build power plants and power lines and thousands of devices, create vast amounts of pollution, and endanger the future of the planet through global warming, if you can light hundreds of candles with a flick of the wrist?

Wizards have their own sort of technologies. They are constantly improving and refining magical objects. The history of the broomstick, as explained in QA, makes this clear. And several people have noticed the similarities between the kind of logic that goes into creating a magical item such as the Marauder's Map and the kind of logic that goes into writing a computer program. They are simply different types of technologies, and one is not necessarily superior to the other.

I have studied the history and development of technology and many of the devices we use have as much to do with cultural preferences and historical accidents as anything else. Different technologies develop for different reasons at different times. Many cultures independently invented the wheel, for example, and many of them rejected it because their geographic conditions made it unsuitable for use in a transportation device.

I think wizards do plenty of research.  That's why they need publications like Transfiguration Today. They just research different stuff than muggles do because they have different needs, just like the Mayans stopped researching the wheel because they lived in a mountainous region at the same time Europeans were developing wheeled vehicles.

So, if wizards need to know about some field that we would think of as science--genetics for example--they are likely to be researching it. What they discover and what they create from that research will be as non-Muggle as can be, of course. They'll be looking for different things and interpreting what they find in totally different ways.

© 2001 by Joywitch M. Curmudgeon

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