Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney Thank you very much for your attention. As the sign says, my name is Kyle Eschen. I’m a magician. Magic has been my hobby
for a number of years now. Some people have other hobbies
like stamp collecting or friendship. (Laughter) Mine is magic. I will start with a cheap visual stunt
to grab your attention, and cover the fact that my act
is devoid of any intellectual content. Rivet your focus onto the handkerchief. Now some of the more astute
among you may have realized that a transformation has taken place. (Laughter) It starts off… (Applause) It starts off silk,
yet it emerges a rayon blend. (Laughter) I am what you might call
a sleight-of-hand magician, which means I manipulate small objects
like handkerchiefs or playing cards. Sometimes when people hear this, they tell me that if I practice hard, I’ll work my way up
to more elaborate stage productions with large objects, large boxes, animals. And to me, that’s like
telling a violinist, if she practices hard, someday
she will be able to play the cello. (Laughter) (Cheers) (Applause) It’s an understandable thing
to say though, because people are not exposed
to magic in the same way that they’re exposed to music. Therefore, I am very happy to talk
to you here today at TEDxVienna about my enthusiasm for this art form. I am interested in magic
because I am fascinated with psychology. I love to learn about how people
make inferences about the world; how they draw conclusions
and find patterns and information. In particular, I’m interested
in all that can go wrong: how an individual can be led astray when certain cognitive
vulnerabilities are exploited, and I think that magic is a great way to explore these themes
in a borderline ethical fashion. (Laughter) So to do so, I will do two tricks tonight. The first is frankly horrible,
it brings shame upon my family, (Laughter) and pushes the word “asinine”
to new frontiers. I use it, however, because it illustrates a problem that I think is inherent
in a lot of magic, and I want to contrast it
to the second trick, which is better in that it brings
less shame upon my family. (Laughter) It’s the oldest trick in magic
at over 2000 years old, and it’s primary method are some
psychological techniques, cultivated by countless magicians
over the centuries. So it embodies everything
that I love about magic. But first, the asinine trick
which requires some props on this table, I will fetch them
in my typical flamboyant fashion. Two sticks of wood: suspended from each is a length of string –
a long one, and a short one, because variety is the spice of life. (Laughter) They trade off lengths –
nothing astonishing has happened yet – and yet I can now separate the front ends
of the sticks at a 30-degree angle. Now there is a video of me
doing this on YouTube, and someone in the comments wrote: “Actually, that’s not 30 degrees,
that’s more like 45 degrees.” (Laughter) And I sighed in relief, because I knew the world’s
intellectual future was safe. (Laughter) (Applause) Despite the fact that these sticks
are now separated by this gaping chasm, we find, to our delight and surprise, it’s a miracle. Although, I do sense some people
in the audience have their suspicions, (Laughter) as to how this might be accomplished, and I thank you for not voicing them because as you all may know
I’m emotionally unstable. (Laugher) You might think that instead
of being connected in the front, they’re actually connected in the back. This would happen to be somewhat accurate. (Laughter) I shall rectify the situation. This is emasculating. (Laughter) The string has been lacerated. I brandish this in the air wildly,
because I’m young and invincible. (Laughter) I now separate the sticks
at a vast distance, yet oddly enough,
we find to our delight and surprise, now you all respect me as a person. (Laughter) Back and forth, they go in a monotonous
yet strangely amusing fashion, anything falling this
would certainly be an anti-climax. However, I will continue, because I’m contractually
obligated to fill 12 minutes. (Laughter) (Applause) (Cheers) A third magic wand
sits in my pocket, socially isolated, (Laughter) much like I was for a number of years,
until I learned magic and became accepted. (Laughter) These two go back and forth
just as before, the nostalgia is overwhelming. (Laughter) But to get the adrenaline levels
up in the room, all I do is pull here. Oh, how very whimsical. It’s like a lyrical dance
of tassels and sticks. A phrase which oddly enough
I now use on a daily basis. It’s the first time that expression
has ever been uttered on a TEDx stage. I keep doing this because, as you know,
if I had real magic powers, this is what I’d be doing all day. (Laughter) (Applause) (Cheers) Watch this image with your eyes, Vienna, because this is the picture perfect
representation of despair. I’m going to conclude now because the overwhelming emotion
in this room is one of irritation. I would explain why I think
this is a lousy trick. I think it’s a lousy trick
because at its core, it’s just a puzzle. And by that I mean, you might know how it’s done,
you might not know, but either way, you just don’t care. (Laughter) It doesn’t tell you anything
about the world; doesn’t tell you anything
about how people think, so with this next trick
I’m hoping to head into that territory. I will hand the props off
to a kind stranger who emerges from offstage. (Laughter) Thank you, kind stranger. This next trick is an example
of what is called “improvisational magic,” where I will do magic with any item
called out from the crowd. So it could be like the monitor,
my microphone, my tie. Oh! Who put these cups here. Maybe we should use these, I don’t know. (Laughter) We require an examination of the props. You sir, would you mind standing up,
please look at these, make sure there are no secret
compartments or hidden objects, you can click them together if you want. Although, I will warn you
the amount of noise you make is directly proportional
to the audience’s antagonism toward you, but just take a look at those cups,
I will set some context. In 1999, two psychologists, Daniel Simons and Christopher Jarvis,
ran a fascinating experiment that actually inspired this presentation. They had a video
of two teams playing basketball, and they asked subjects to watch it,
and count the times the basketball was passed
between teammates. During this whole process, an individual dressed
as a gorilla walks into the fray, beats its chest,
and then exits off-screen. Amazingly about half of the viewers were so fixated on tracking
the basketballs motion, they missed the gorilla entirely. And this is a phenomenon
called “inattentional blindness.” It is a blind spot, not of vision,
but of perception and awareness. You can be looking right
at something and miss it entirely, because you only have limited
cognitive bandwidth in any given moment. So you focus in on what’s important,
and you filter out the extraneous. And when I heard this, as a magician,
it really resonated with me, because my job is to make you confuse
what is important and what is extraneous. My job, in a nutshell, is to make you
filter out the wrong things. So I will move the table
center stage, retrieve the props. Thank you very much. Can we have a round of applause
for the gentleman for helping. (Applause) Because I don’t do the magic,
we do the magic. (Laughter) (Cheers) A few more props are required
we have two red balls and a pen. These are made of compressible
sponge rubber, a lot of fun. But they don’t stay around for long because all I do
is condescendingly wave the pen over the ball and we find
that it dissolves, it’s gone. I’m just being theatrical at that point. Next ball disappears in full view, and then jumps back to beneath the cups. (Applause) (Cheers) Now a number of rapid effects
in tight succession to up my miracle to verbiage ratio, I will attempt to fracture your focus
across this confined arena. First, we will pocket the sponges and it will make the ball
return to the cup, not that one, this one over here. I can make this one appear too, just in a necessary flamboyant little tap
is all it takes for the ball to jump back, and you are all privy
to one of the most sacred moments in a young sponges life the point in which it first
undergoes mitosis. Watch the ball as it severs into two identical copies
fiber by fiber, strand by strand. And now, one last feat
before the grand finale, I’ll put one ball in each hand. Sir, would you mind saying
which any like more A or B? (Audience) A Thank you for not hesitating. Some people hesitate, as if this is a decision
of any consequence whatsoever. (Laughter) You say A. The ball melts away like this, and when you watch down here
the balls reconvene up here leaving us just back where we started. Now, the question you should
be asking yourself at this point, is what does this have to do
with inattentional blindness? What does this have to do with looking directly at something
and missing blatant activity. And the answer to that
is that these sponges are not the stars of this trick. They serve the same function
as the basketball in the gorilla study. They were just here to draw the gaze. The real purpose of this trick
was to do something for our bolder. Because beneath these cups, cups thoroughly scrutinized,
cups that have never left your view, we find citrus fruits; not one,
not two, but three. Citrus fruit: rock-solid limes
with the density of diamonds. Thank you very much. (Applause) (Cheers) I’m not done. (Laughter) I have an inspirational
little ending message. If you were to Google how to do
the ‘cups and balls and lime trick,’ the explanation you would receive
would go something like this: when people are not paying attention,
put the limes underneath the cups. (Laughter) That’s it. That’s how magic survives
in the age of Google, because there is no secret
but the great secret which is we have gaping
blind spots far bigger than our intuition would suggest. And to me, that is a beautiful idea, and one that animates
my interest in this art. It’s been a pleasure
to share with you this evening. Thank you very much. (Applause) (Cheers)

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