Hands up who watches Derren Brown and thinks “I don’t care what he says, he’s definitely got magical powers’?
I’ve heard so many anecdotes from people leaving his live show, overhearing such comments from attendees.
Why are we so committed to believing the unbelievable despite the evidence?
The thing I admire the most about Derren Brown is that he shows us the trick. All the way along he reminds us that he’s not psychic, it’s just an illusion. In his TV programmes, he explains in detail the tricks he’s using and how they work to manipulate people into believing the unthinkable.
The experiment where he made a young man believe he’d murdered someone was one of the most thought provoking programmes I’ve ever watched and made me question everything about my own emotions and how they’re triggered.
I think Derren Brown is both terrifying and utterly brilliant at the same time. I love watching his shows but I’d absolutely hate to be in the same room as him because I think I’d go insane with paranoia. There was a period of time, after watching the experiments, when I would notice things: words on posters, graffiti, adverts and think “that word again, am I being Derren Browned?” I suppose more than anything Derren Brown alerted me to something very important: we are incredibly gullible and easily manipulated.
This fact has made the marketing industry billions. When radio stations flood the airwaves with the same song, it tops the charts, but who decides which songs get played? Whoever spends the most money.
I recently watched The Great Hack, a documentary about Cambridge Analytica and how it influenced the outcomes of several high profile political events across the world.
With digital and social media, data analysis and artifical intelligence we now have something far more sinister than marketing.
Like cold reading on steroids, algorithms collect and analyse all kinds of data, building up an accurate profile of a person: their character, likes, dislikes etc.
Then social media posts, adverts, and memes are targeted at individuals, subliminally giving them information to influence their opinions.
We’ve all had a conversation about something and then an advert pops up on Facebook about that same thing. We’ve paused outside a shop and looked in the window and then adverts for that shop started appearing in our newsfeeds. And we acknowledge that it’s a bit creepy, or we think it’s a random coincidence, sometimes we even make the link between our data but still, we fill in those pointless personality quizzes, giving faceless tech giants more information to help their algorithms send us content that will influence us to do what they want us to do.
This isn’t just for fun, it’s not light entertainment, it’s not something they do and then reverse the trance so the target stops clucking like a chicken every time someone says “breakfast”.
This goes beyond mainstream media’s biased reporting and companies paying for more advertising than their competitors.This is tech giants selling our data to be analysed. This is people losing their ability to think for themselves. This is the people with the most financial power, rigging elections to ensure they retain their power.
This is an infringement of our democratic rights.
The Great Hack follows a whistleblower who explained how it worked, they exposed the con and showed us how entire nations had been manipulated into voting one way or another, or in one case they created a targeted campaign to convince young people not to vote at all.
There is something fundamentally wrong when people are being discouraged from exercising their democratic right.
Technology continues to evolve at a rate that most of us can’t comprehend and it stands to reason that it takes a while for legislation to catch up. But something has to be done to safeguard our democracy and protect the global population from being exploited.
There has been so many head scratching moments in recent years and I fear we’re on the precipice of an apocalyptic catastrophe. And I can’t shake the feeling that the only way we can stop it is if Derren Brown clicks his fingers and we all wake up.