Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/10/weasley_computers/

Harry Potter and the Virus of Doom

A wizardly rival to BOFH?

By Guy Kewney

Posted in Security, 10th August 2007 08:46 GMT

Spoiler Alert A lot of people have been wondering what Harry Potter's future is really like. I have the answer: he's going to be an amateur detective. But nobody will know this, because he'll be working in a tech support call centre for Weasley Computers.

The End of Harry Potter is really just the end of Potter the Schoolboy. The nice, happily-ever-after epilogue which was tacked onto the final book may satisfy the younger readers.

Rowling herself reckons Potter is going to work for the Aurors. Yeah, right. It's hard to be specific without giving away too much, but we know a fair bit about Harry Potter. He's a "natural leader" as we learned from his instruction of Dumbledore's Army. He's a fierce believer in justice and fair play (nearly the same thing, not quite) and his courage in a tight spot has led him into heroics more than just once or twice.

But will he be encouraged to work in the Civil Service? Is he a Percy Weasley? Will he fit in with the world of legal trammels, form filling, hierarchical responsibility and secondment to other Ministries? Can you see him reverting to the self-effacing Harry Potter who lived with the Dursleys? Kow-towing to senior administrative officers?  

He's not that type. He's also rich. It's not been mentioned much in the books from two through seven, but book one (Philosopher's Stone) told us that magical bank Gringotts has piles and piles of gold in his name. So he's not going onto unemployment benefit, and he won't have trouble getting on the housing ladder. Why would he take crap from petty-minded bureaucratic functionaries?

Magic, indistinguishable from technology

I'm going to suggest that we study Arthur Weasley, and his fascination with all things Muggle. He has a problem: his son Percy, a small-minded creep of exactly the sort who thrives in the Ministry of Magic, has renounced evil. Even under the new regime post-Voldermort, his promotional prospects are dismal - he's a known sympathiser with the Death Eaters, and in any annual review, will be dinged heavily for lack of leadership, weakness of will, and being "easily led" - it will take years before he can expect to rise above minor functionary status. He needs a new career.

Arthur Weasley has another problem; his two tearaway sons, who are planning to become fabulously rich making and selling magic tricks (Here, we have to condescend to Rowling's grasp of commerce. JK - in a world in which one school can accommodate ALL the magic-users in Great Britain, another can take all the French wizards, and a third all the German sorcerers, the market for magical toys won't make a tinker rich enough to hire a donkey).

But the Muggle world badly needs a new wizard. Our computer landscape is reaching the point where, frankly, nothing but magic can save us. Personal computers with two Gig of internal RAM have to be compared with the first 486 machines, which had 50 meg of disk. And are they any faster? Only at video! And what about spam? Is there any sign that conventional Muggle techniques are coping? Yes, if you believe Sophos wizard Graham Cluley, but not if you check my inbox. And let's not start the argument about Moore's Law and when it gets re-written. But Professor Trelawney assures me that it's "good for another century" which, I hope you realise, means it's about to go flat on its back.

Weasley Computers can solve all this. Percy will be richly rewarded when it goes IPO for all his meticulous work in the finance department; his brothers will be quite happy to accept discipline from their enthusiastic and visionary father who is determined to blend Magic and Muggle technology; and nothing short of magic holds out any hope of dealing with the problem of copyright theft.

At www.arthurweasley.com the reign of the Obscurifer will shortly be ended, and a flourishing cross-cultural enterprise started up. But Harry Potter? He has (I hear you say) no IT skills whatever. And I agree; he's most unlikely to find a slot in that enterprise. He'll start out doing other things… but what?

Trustafarian Potter

Without access to funds, Potter's future would look bleak. His path through life after the battle against the Death Eaters is probably that of Mr Incredible or any other hero who returns from the war to civilian life. Heroism of that sort is fine on the battlefield, but right now we have a balance sheet to publish, Mr Potter, we have your expense claims, which are late again, and you've insulted one of our biggest shareholders with your remarks on ethics in business. You'll have to spend a few more years in the audit department.

Many such heroes, as Henry David Thoreau quipped sadly, live lives of "quiet despair". Potter, fortunately, can rise above this. He can have a palace (or at least the semblance of one) and finding the basic necessities of life should be within his power and his talented wife's abilities too. But what about his sense of purpose?

Here, we have a template, and an excellent one.

Think of a war hero, unusually talented, intelligent, a hero of the sports fields and morally beyond reproach, who returns from unspeakable dangers to find himself remembered only by some for his unusual exploits on the playing fields of Oxbridge, but with his equanimity shattered by the horrors he's experienced in the trenches - horrors at least as bad as any Dementor's kiss. Wealthy, with social status above the common man, Peter Wimsey found himself wasted in a world where his brother inherited the Dukedom, and where earning a living was neither an option, nor a requirement. But he had to keep that tireless brain occupied, or go mad.

Lord Peter Wimsey became an amateur sleuth. And he was needed. And in the world of Harry Potter, such people are, clearly, going to be equally vital to the future. Such enforcers of Magic Law as exist have shown themselves to be easily daunted by authority, which seems to desire nothing more than a quiet life, and by bureaucracy which takes intervention in people's private lives as an absolute right, and has powers which no mere computer database or ID card could ever convey.

Harry has shown himself to be an uncannily expert investigator, able to find things in places where the highest powers have failed, able to expose corruption, fearlessly, even in those high places, and driven by his strong sense of justice to do so, even if his own interests are compromised by it.

A career as a master detective, working outside the ranks of the forces, beckons  - all he needs is a cover story.

Wimsey's creator found a beautiful disguise for her titled detective, working in an advertising agency, conjuring copy to sell cigarettes. All Rowling's fan fic followers have to do is put Harry into the call centre. Every time evil rears its head in the new world, a Weasley computer will be available to monitor it, and the call will reach Lord Harry.

Watch for Harry Potter And The Virus Of Doom in due course... ®