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Enhancing And Expanding Magic With Technology


People around the world are fascinated by magic. The concept of magic and magicians spans regions, cultures, and generations because people love to be thrilled and amazed by things that—logically speaking—seem impossible.

Most magic leverages an understanding of human psychology—some level of social engineering bordering on a con that triggers or allows the suspension of disbelief. Regardless, though, magic relies on the skill and often physical dexterity of the magician as well. Increasingly, technology also plays a role in executing some of the more impressive tricks.

Erik Blackwell

At the end of 2021, I wrote a story about Season 2 of “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” on Disney+ that focused specifically on the episode that explored magic and the neuroscience that makes it all work. That episode also featured Erik Blackwell, a professional magician from Chicago, performing street magic.

Erik has been very busy with prominent appearances and guest spots. Aside from his role in the episode of “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” he has also been a guest on national shows recently, like Access Hollywood and Daytime Chicago.

I recently had an opportunity to connect with Blackwell and dive further into the world of magic and the cross-section with technology.

Manipulating Reality

Logically, you know that the person in front of you did not just make a coin appear out of thin air. You know that it is not actually possible that the $20 bill you literally watched him rip into 150 pieces is somehow intact and miraculously in your back pocket. You know these things—and yet you’re still shocked and amazed because the magician’s job is to manipulate your reality.

I’m dating myself, but I was watching in 1983 when David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear on live television—and in front of a live audience present on-site in New York to ensure it wasn’t simply a camera trick. The Statue of Liberty!

It’s an extreme example but making the Statue of Liberty disappear was more a function of technology and a feat of engineering than it was a magic trick. I won’t spoil it for you, but there are YouTube videos that explain how the illusion was pulled off.

Today, there is a growing variety of devices and gadgets that magicians can utilize to enhance or enable an illusion. Again, I don’t want to spoil magic for you by explaining how various illusions are executed—but if it seems implausible and there is no conceivable way it can simply be a function of the magician’s dexterity, there is a fair chance technology is involved.

Interestingly, that doesn’t diminish how amazing the trick is…at least for me. I am equally impressed with the capabilities of these devices, and our ability to pack features into smaller and smaller gadgets.

The Key to Great Magic

When I was in the US Air Force, stationed at RAF Upper Heyford in England, I had a roommate for a while who was a pretty decent magician. He showed me how some of the tricks work. There are often props of some sort involved—which on some level seems like “cheating”—but props or no props, it takes practice and dedication to master the dexterity required.

Gadgets and sleight of hand aside, though, the magic is less impressive—or simply doesn’t work—if the magician doesn’t deliver it properly. The banter that goes with the trick and the performance required to engage the audience is at least as important as being capable of physically executing the trick.

When it comes down to it, what really makes great magic work is the magician. With the aid of technology, magicians can push the envelope a bit and expand their repertoire of tricks and illusions, but the fundamentals don’t really change, and it ultimately comes down to the magician’s ability to make you believe.





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