Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Events of misdirection....

Derren Brown. Manipulator. Misdirector. Liar? I won't say some of the other words I've seen friends and family use about him tonight. They're too rude.

What I will say is this. I think everyone's been focusing the last two days on 'how he did it' when, in fact, what we saw on Channel 4 on Wednesday was a simple illusion that Paul Daniels could have pulled off. Camera trick, spilt screen, LED balls, time delay, who cares? However he did it, it was dead simple. As I said at the time on my Facebook status:

"Derren Brown lmao. He shows us his numbers *after* the BBC and everyone's amazed? That's not a prediction... Interested to see how he did it, except that the whole thing reeks of much simpler illusion than I thought it would be.... Paul Daniels could have pulled off that one."

Now, Brown always said his events would be events of misdirection. I think he's misdirected us entirely here. He's got the entire nation focused on a simple illusion, one that was, frankly, below him, when in fact his real trick was performed tonight. He convinced 24 people in the studio, and countless in homes around the country, that the way he did this was using 'deep maths' and 'the wisdom of the crowd'. He even showed us everything on video to 'prove' it.

For those who didn't see, Brown got a group of 24 people in a room together and got them to predict the lottery numbers. They were rubbish to begin with, getting just one right between them. He went through various iterations of the experiment. Taking the average of each number in the individual predictions - not much better. Then he got them to predict but stay in the room until after the draw so they couldn't profit from their predictions, removing greed from the equation. He sent them team building. He had them guess their numbers and averaged them again. Finally, he had them do automatic writing and, again, calculated the average of the numbers. It seemed the team got better and better. Some goes in, they even got 4 balls correct. Finally, they appeared to predict the numbers for last week's lottery. They were incredibly pleased with themselves and you could see it was genuine. It was almost convincing.

Appeared to predict. Almost convincing. As much as I'd love to believe 24 people in a room could work together and genuinely guess the National Lottery numbers, I'm afraid I can't. I don't have to think very hard to know this isn't true. It's all an illusion.

It was interesting, the way Mr Brown carried out that final prediction. The group did their automatic writing and wrote down their numbers again. This time, Brown calculated the averages. Without showing the group, he wrote them on the balls, sealed them in a tube and went on his way to the Channel Four studio. The rest is history. The group of 24 watched live and celebrated their victory. It was clear they believed.

But they hadn't seen those numbers on Derren's balls (oooer missis, sorry, couldn't help myself) until the show. Until after the actual lottery draw. Just like the rest of us. They had only seen the automatic writing they'd put on their own pieces of paper and would have had no clue what these would have averaged out at...

But how did they manage to get three numbers right, then four? We know this bit is genuine. We see their numbers being collated and averaged, right in front of us and them. On one occasion, a member of the group does the calculations and, on others, independent observers do. What happened with their previous predictions is still pretty unlikely, right? So why not believe they actually did produce the numbers Derren took into the Channel Four studios with him?

Well, yeah, it's quite unlikely they would improve over the weeks. Fairly unlikely they would ever predict four out of six numbers at the end of a number of weeks of trying. But not nearly as unlikely as guessing all six. (Reminder for those who can't remember - 14 million to 1!)

I suspect there were several groups being filmed like the one we saw tonight, going through the same kind of experiment. They did the team building, they did the automatic writing. Derren didn't know which would provide the right footage but he knew chances were that one of them would. The 24 people we saw today were the most successful of the groups and used to try to convince us that there was more to this illusion than we could possibly understand.

The real trick was to get us staring at the screen on Wednesday, finding clips on YouTube in the two days since, submitting to forums with all our theories and ideas. When the truth was, he never predicted a thing.

My favourite twitter through the whole event came from Derren himself.


"#derrenbrown is/was at the top of Twitter trends. This is very new to me. I'm not really dressed for it. Thank you, very kind. Xx" 5:57 PM Sep 10th TwitterFon

Really Mr Brown? So you can predict the Lottery numbers on live TV but not that you're going to be the biggest trend on Twitter the next day? Man, I could have told you that!

And the best Facebook update came from my mate Dex.

"Well I thought I'd give it a go. Did 10 minutes of automatic writing but all I could get was a stream of profanity and "Kill smug twat" over and over.
"

Derren Brown says that next week he will glue us to our sofas using hypnosis. Come on Derren, don't make me laugh. To be fair, you did that already this week. But never again....

9 comments:

Chris said...

Wow I just stumbled across your blog, and went back to read a few recent posts.. this is great stuff!! Not only do you write really well, but it is insightful, clean and clever. I am a hugely obsessed with Derren (who isnt?) and I too agree that his trick on wed was simple, but his ultimate trick was far more complex and is founded on the basis off most of his tricks....the gullibility and lack of reason the majority of humans function on. He shows us time and time again how people believe things, with no use of self logic or rational... this is a perfect example.. not only did those 24 people in the room bloody believe they had somehow predicted the lottery (bunch of numbcakes), but there are people all over the world will believe it for all time. Despite all the other more likely theories presented, they will latch onto what he revealed to them. And that is his ultimate trick.. and I love him all the more for it.

I also think its funny that on his events website where he is doing a poll on the most likely theory, only 3 options are there, and none of them include any of the popular theories.. camera tricks, split screen, freeze, superimposing, LED, etc....

I still have as much awe and admiration for derren as I always have.. even after knowing he blatantly lied to his audience.. so perhaps then.. the trick is on me?

will be following your blog from now on.
cheers,
all the best

Niki M said...

Thank you Chris. Glad you enjoyed my writing.

I totally agree with your comments about Derren. He's a funny guy. He had a lovely twinkle in his eye when he was 'revealing' the way he had 'predicted' the lottery numbers. He just looked at the camera as if to say "As if I was going to tell you how I did it.' Lol.

I will check out his events website now...

Xb0xGuru said...

The collective group being able to get 4 numbers in sequence is easily explained. "One member of the 24 couldn't do [the automatic handwriting] and was asked to calculate the averages" - this reeks of a fix for a start. The guy's a plant for sure. It doesn't take much to look like you're working out the numbers when the results are on the board in front of you. Do we see the sheet of paper he hands to Derren? No. I know there'll be DB fans everywhere congratulating him on getting the nation talking about a cheap parlour trick, but I for one thought he was going to come clean. The fact he wasted an hour of my life talking pure drivel about how he *wanted* you to believe he did it really does nothing for his reputation and where I was going to watch the rest of the series, it's leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.

Niki M said...

Xboxguru - I completely agree with you that the show on Friday was a let down for so many people. Derren gave us an explanation that was clearly a lie, then hinted at a second explanation that was more plausible, but still not the truth. Lots of people feel cheated. Either Derren miscalculated, or the way 'The Events' tie together and final denouement will be much more interesting. He showed the studio audience extra stuff too, just to start even more rumours going. I think it's all about misdirection and that he does have a plan. Either that, or he won't have a career much longer...

Tricki said...

I just thought I would post here as the thread that I have posted on before is getting a little full.

I only found this blog because it was linked from one discussing the Derren event, so unfortunately I haven't read any of your books yet, although the reviews make me think I might like them, so I will have to see if I can get my hands on a copy to see what your writing is like. Like chris I am enjoying the way you have wrote them, if you do not like a writers style you are unlikely to stick around to see if the plot is any good.

Although your blog is a little taken over by Derren enthusiasts recently, the post thanking Derren for all the free publicity you indirectly have got show you will forgive the disruption. (besides you are just as intrigued about this as us all :-) )

Niki M said...

Hi Tricki - gosh yeah I completely forgive the disruption. Of course. And, yes, I am totally intrigued. I'd almost say hypnotised by the entire thing.

Niki M said...

PS Thanks on your comments on my writing. Hope you enjoy anything else you find/buy of mine. If you want a taster story check out http://www.pulp.net/fiction/stories/12/misconceptions.html

Tricki said...

Thanks for the link Niki maybe you should link it on the main page of your blog for others to read when they first come across your blog, those new to your writing have a sample to get a feel of your style and those who have read one of your books have a bonus.

As I expected your writing style of the story was different to the writing in your blog, I had to change gears a little to get into the flow of it, but once I did I enjoyed the story and the picture it painted.

I think I will track one of your books later and see if I enjoy it enough to buy a copy.

Niki M said...

Cheers Tricki. And that's a really good point. I used to have some excerpts on my website but I lost them when I simplified it a while back. I might set up a blog just for this...