September 14, 2009

Derren Brown "Revealed"

For those of you who didn’t take the time to watch the BBC Friday night broadcast, where Derren Brown showed us how he actually “predicted” the six winning lottery numbers in the UK’s Lotto, let me say, it was again, a brilliant piece of showmanship.

Brown said he had been working on this problem for some time, without success, and then “suddenly remembered” a story called “The Wisdom of Crowds” which was based on a “guess the weight of an ox” competition at an old-time county fair. While none of the entrants in this small-time competition had accurately guessed the ox’s weight, the man running the contest was stunned to realize that if he took the average of all of the guesses, it was 100 percent correct.

And so Brown spent an hour showing how “guessing patterns” can be predictable, and with training, he was able to get his group of 24 volunteers to hone their “collective wisdom” so that their prediction would be completely accurate. Check it out:

Of course, it’s complete bollocks. In fact, most likely the “guess the numbers” stunt was pulled off with simple camera trickery. But that’s not the real trick Brown performed. No, the real trick is that he utterly convinced two dozen people that they did something which they actually did not. Talk to any of those volunteers and you’ll never convince them that they didn’t actually predict those numbers.

That’s the brilliance of Brown. And for further proof of this – it’s not the first time he’s done this trick. Yes, the dressing is different, and the live aspect of doing something as unlikely as picking lottery numbers made it all the more “shocking” a feat. But check out this clip from a few years ago, and tell me if it isn’t the same trick, just wearing cheaper clothes.

(Unfortunately, this video is "Embed disabled" so you'll have to click on the link to watch it.)

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