#143- The Keys to the Mind A Conversation with Derren Brown

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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21 November 2018 08:57
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Derren Brown about his work as a “psychological illusionist.” They discuss the power of hypnosis, the power of expectations, the usefulness of Stoic philosophy, and other topics.

#143- The Keys to the Mind A Conversation with Derren Brown


This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
 
Pank Ache
 
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27 November 2018 13:58
 

Was Sam duped by Derren Brown?

I was surprised by Sam’s lack of incredulity about Darren’s recent broadcast specials.  From that starting point, it seemed that Darren exploited Sam’s alacrity, like a good con-man would.

Derren’s responses were conspicuously vague and ingratiating. Like when my kids are lying or trying to hide something, Derren was evasive by being reticent and ambivalent.  He constantly did a kind of affirming under-talk as Sam was speaking and was frequently demurely deferential in response.

Derren’s shows read to me like it is not the subject being set-up, but the viewer.  His depictions of people being powerfully transformed by subtle subliminal cues are dubious.  Sam’s questioning elicited very few insights into these supposedly extraordinary powers:  On the serious ethical implications of getting people to push others off buildings, for example, Sam seemed to blithely capitulate to Derren’s amorphous explanations.

Was Sam just being sensitive to Derren just trying to hide his secrets?

For a neuroscientist and generally rigorous sceptic, Sam sounded suckered. Then again, didn’t Sam, himself, admit he was highly suggestible? 

I found the whole interview cringe-y.

 
nonverbal
 
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27 November 2018 15:01
 

Yes, Harris seemed a bit befuddled, didn’t he? It’s a shame he didn’t talk to Ricky Jay instead.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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27 November 2018 22:48
 

Brown has frequently postured as a de-bunker though much of his work doesn’t play that way. But agreed, I would have preferred a more incisive interview. I bet Derren would have as well.

 
BAWRFRS
 
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29 November 2018 10:27
 
nonverbal - 27 November 2018 03:01 PM

Yes, Harris seemed a bit befuddled, didn’t he? It’s a shame he didn’t talk to Ricky Jay instead.

If he could talk with Ricky Jay, I’d say he’d definitely one-up Derren Brown in the illusionist trade.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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29 November 2018 14:56
 

He only recently died.

 
BAWRFRS
 
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29 November 2018 15:58
 
nonverbal - 29 November 2018 02:56 PM

He only recently died.

I know ... that’s why it would be amazing.

 
molito
 
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01 December 2018 16:29
 

This was a bizarre episode. Derren Brown is an illusionist. He earns a living by entertaining with trickery. The main aim of this form of entertainmet is to dupe the audience into thinking that they are witnessing something astounding. Derren’s particular take on this is to fool the audience into believing that they are in on the trick. He claims to use pyschological methods in order to fool particular individuals but what is actually happening is that the viewers are being fooled into believing that what they are seeing is really taking place as it is presented. In order to do this he makes use of different methods, including stooges (anything goes in the world of illusion as long as you can get away with it). It’s comparable to the world of reality TV in which nothing which is actually “real”, it’s all set up in various degrees in order to achieve the greatest entertainment value. An important aspect of Derren’s act is that he must come across as a serious, scientifically minded reputable person, this makes his explanations seem more plausible and the illusion therefore more effective. I’m really having trouble with the fact that Sam seemed to fall for this,especially indeed after admitting to being very open to suggestion. What the hell happened here? I completely agree with all the points that Pank Ache very eloquently made. It’s actually making me rethink my opinion of Sam Harris the man of reason. I’m almost hoping that the whole thing is a hoax set up by Sam in order to make a point!!!

[ Edited: 01 December 2018 16:33 by molito]
 
nonverbal
 
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02 December 2018 10:48
 

While I respect your point of view, molito, I feel somewhat differently. I see magic as an esoteric branch, so to speak, of folk psychology. Aside from some of the Buddhist traditions, I’m not aware of any other such subculture, and a skilled magician is a reminder to society that con artistry can be assumed to be taking place almost ubiquitously. Under-the-surface trick-methods otherwise typically remain under the surface.

Have you ever watched Michael Carbonaro doing his sly work? He mocks naiveté itself, without saying a single word to indicate it. In my opinion, magic is a minor art to the extent that dance, acting and humor are arts. The world lost a valuable person when Ricky Jay recently died.

 
molito
 
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03 December 2018 14:01
 

I hear you nonverbal! (Did you see what I did there?)
Magic has fascinated me and I have scratched a tiny bit further beneath the surface than the average Joe. It most certainly is an art, I can appreciate sleight of hand, misdirection but also downright fraud. I also find this particular podcast fascinating.  Derren, as always in my experience, oozes fake sincerity, (verbally and non-verbally) and more than usual finds himself having to juggle between sharing his psychological insights and “trade secrets” whilst keeping the real tricks to himself. Though the real tricks I expect would generally prove to be quite mundane: a plain stooge or somebody playing along because they don’t want to ruin the effect (an instant stooge).  I have just watched “The Push” and it is so blatantly staged and in the end actually quite disappointing that I find it difficult to believe that Sam has watched this and has taken it seriously. Anyway, taking part in these kind of interviews (Richard Dawkins has also fallen foul!) are important to Derren because they help to cosolidate his act by strengthening his persona as an authority on how the mind can be fooled. Throughout the podacst Sam sounds kind of bored and dumbed down, like he is playing along and filling time. Something is not right!

 
nonverbal
 
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04 December 2018 05:17
 

Molito, I’ve been nonverbal for so long it took me a sec to get it!

I can’t remember ever watching a magic act without wondering about how the stooges have somehow managed to remain hidden and not called out by audience members they might have interacted with. Isn’t it obvious to all but entirely clueless audience members that no supernatural powers are being displayed during the performance of a magician? You’re certainly aware of it, I’m aware of it, and I assume everyone else is, as well, at least within what’s considered minimally functioning intelligence. I could be mistaken, of course. A well-designed survey or study could very well surprise me.