Magic and Technology

Technological development is another thing which has progressed differently in the Thaumatology universe. Some of the changes are really quite dramatic, but if you were dropped into that world, you probably would not notice initially. Other things are hidden by the magic which is used in place of the technological advances we use.

After a while, for example, you might notice the lack of contrails in the sky. Go to London in our world and you’ll see the trails of high-flying jets in the sky above you. When Ceri looks up into the sky, she might see an airship heading for the London City Airport. The Earth’s magic field makes it dangerous to fly above about 10000 feet without a specially protected aircraft. The interaction between that field and the Earth’s magnetic field produces bright lights in the sky higher up, but the effects go lower. Flying that low for long distances is less economic, so airships have remained in service to some extent. Transatlantic travel, and going further afield, is most often done by ship; airship travel is not cheap, but it is around twice as fast.

Of course, if the interacting fields cause that much trouble, it’s unlikely that there are satellites in orbit. There aren’t, aside from a few scientific ones sent up in a joint UK/Australian project, and a couple more sent up by the US. So how does the GPS in Carter’s Range Rover work? Simple enough, a normal computer system generates the map and calculates routes, and a chip with carefully formed runes laid out on its surface tells the computer where the car currently is. There are no atomic clocks beaming out time synchronisation signals, but there are clocks and watches enchanted to always tell the right time. Weather forecasts are not done by complex data collection and huge computers, but by diviners. Policemen where enchanted vests; they’re bulletproof, yes, but they also provide limited resistance to magic. The batons they carry have sleep enchantments on them to put down the criminals with less harm. Go to the Vauxhall or Jaguar car factories and you’ll find assembly lines, but they have golems in place of robots.

Then again, the cars still run on petrol, the majority of people don’t go to work on a magic carpet (though a few wizards have been known to use them for the prestige points). Electricity comes from coal and gas burning power stations; after the Shattering, the very idea of using nuclear power for anything would have caused a riot if anyone had suggested it. (As an aside, no one has noticed Global Warming yet, but that’s partially because it’s not as bad. A lot of the world is not as developed there as it is here so there is less carbon being pumped into the atmosphere. Still, the ecological lobby is fairly big and the impetus to create less damaging power sources is fairly strong.) You won’t find people teleporting about the place; that magic hasn’t been invented yet.

As is often the case, it’s the common person who sees the benefits of technological advance last and if you were dropped into the Thaumatology world tomorrow it might take you a while to realise, so long as you just went by the technology. Your can opener wouldn’t be magic, your mobile phone works by radio. Most people’s computers don’t use the latest Etherstream sub-membrane broadcast wireless networking, they use cables (tight control of radio bandwidth stopped WiFi ever happening). Only serious users have the kind of enchanted coprocessor system that Ceri has in her tablet PC. (Well, serious users and people with a heavy gaming fetish.)

Women may notice one technological variation more than men. Back in the Sixties, someone did invent the Contraceptive Pill, but it’s not quite as popular as it is in our world. This is mostly because some enterprising witch created a spell around the same time which did the same job, better, without the side effects. Magic is generally not a cheap alternative to drugs and you don’t see many witches and wizards on the payroll of the National Health Service, but a lot of women visit the State Registered Witch at their local GP’s surgery once a month or pop down the street to someone who knows the spell.

Better living through magic. It’s the way forward.

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