So you saw that story about how a computer designed a magic trick, and it made you give up magic, right? Seeing that a computer is capable of devising a trick that fools laymen and magicians alike, you threw down your deck of cards, completely gave up on your idea of combining a glide and a cop and went back to browsing listicles involving cats and Emma Watson?
Yeah, we didn’t think so.
The report about researchers from Queen Mary University of London touts that researchers programmed a combination of the mechanics of a jigsaw puzzle, the method of a mind-reading card trick and results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks. From that, the computer came up with some variants. Able to process a larger amount of variants, one of the co-creators of the project said that the amount of variants “keeps audiences guessing.”
Most of you probably caught on that one of the tricks is more of a puzzler, and the other is mathematical. Probably didn’t leave you feeling all that threatened, and you went back to practicing your table faro shuffle. Still, there might have been a seed of doubt — is this just a harbinger of things to come? Will AI progress to the point where we can get fooled by machines? Is this the beginning of technology changing magic?
We feel your pain, and we’re here to assure you that magic will be fine. We may eventually be enslaved by hopefully benevolent robot overlords who at least give us sme food before they use poisonous gases to poison our — you know. But they will never fool us with magic tricks. Here’s why:
• Magicians are already at the forefront of technology. We are the kind of people who see myriad unorthodox uses for everyday items. And if it doesn’t exist, we create it. Look at Adam Wilber: He wanted a device that let him shoot fireballs, so he created it.
• Neurologists, AI programmers and other researchers rely on magicians to understand perception. Our methods of deception teach crucial lessons in how humans process the world around us, and it’s anything but mechanical. But magicians never show the researchers ALL the tricks…
• Magicians’ creativity extends far outside any programming limits. The computer in this project researched only variants of established tricks. While we could probably have an interesting debate about whether new tricks are simply variants of the original 10 plots, there is no argument that effect creators weave together new effects from a much wider loom of experience.
• Sleight of hand and misdirection remain weapons that can be armed only by humans, because they depend on natural action. Robots may move gracefully and smoothly, but they will never move naturally — at least not anytime soon. Until sentient robots live among us enough to be as commonplace as vending machines, they will remain objects of curiosity and interest (That’s a fancy way of saying that robots’ hands will be burned constantly).
See? Nothing to worry about. You can plug back into the matrix now.
FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.