Iain Tait of Poke recently gave an amusing, enlightening talk about the experiences of magic and digital technology, and the relationship between the two, at Iris’ Under the Influence conference in London. In it, Tait discussed the evolution of magic, from witchcraft to “personal” David Blaine-esque illusions, and how it mirrors the progress of technological innovation from 8-bit to widgets. He draws on scifi author Arthur C. Clarke’s idea that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and extends upon it, arguing that technology is not the same as magic, but that it should give people the sense that they possess the powers of it. Tait explains the differences between the spectacular, larger-than-life magic made popular by illusionists like David Copperfield and the man-on-the-street, “personal” magic that’s popular today – the intimate, one-on-one tricks of David Blaine and others like him. Tait argues that the most valuable and progressive technology should follow the David Blaine approach to illusion – it should impress and mystify, but also be personal, emotional, and empowering rather than rely on spectacle and a confined, controlled audience. Watch the video below to see the entire presentation.

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