The Illusion of Intelligence

The Illusion of - The Illusion of Intelligence “Psycho”-ology in 19THCentury London What do illusions have to do with

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Unformatted text preview: The Illusion of Intelligence “Psycho”-ology in 19THCentury London What do illusions have to do with technology? -   Many illusions are created with technology -   Some6mes illusions are about technology The way illusions work shows us a useful way to understand technology Technology rarely just “does stuff”. People have to see that it does what it does, and they have to care that it does what it does. Illusionists understand this. So Who Is This Maskelyne Guy? •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  J (ohn) N(evil) Maskelyne (1839- 1917) Cheltenham watchmaker’s appren6ce founder of the Maskelyne family dynasty of magicians began performing at the Egyp6an Hall, London in 1873 built Psycho from an idea given to him by John Algernon Clarke and began exhibi6ng it on 13 January 1875 withdrew Psycho on 10 November, 1880 brief reappearance in 1884 doesn’t appear again un6l 1910 currently in the London Museum (donated 1934) Psycho What Now? •  liXle automaton most famous for playing whist with three audience members •  insulated on glass cylinder (later itself liYed from the floor on a pedestal) •  other possible abili6es: arithme6cal calcula6on, imita6ng handwri6ng, answering ques6ons, doing card tricks, giving the Masonic grip, smoking ...the like of [Psycho] has never before been seen or even heard of... (Fun Magazine) ...Whence thy sense and thy no/ons? Whence thy invisible mo/ons, Yet unrevealed? ... (poet in The Hornet) PSYCHO! thou modern Sphinx! (beginning to a 52- line poem) (and of course imita6on is the sincerest form of flaXery...) Why So Popular? •  temp6ng to base explana6on on func6on alone... (“Because he’s a robot who could play cards, and no one could figure out he did it!”) WRONG! Why So Popular? •  JN encouraged audiences to see Psycho as a paradox: a machine capable of human thought: - text (ads) - highligh6ng ability to cope with unexpected phenomena: card- playing - manipulate language of the stage: narra6ve, conven6ons of the human body But Wait – There’s More! None of this would have been successful without Maskelyne’s construc6on of an aura of mystery around Psycho’s mechanism. How did he do this? He Blinded Them With Science! •  Magicians as scien6sts: magicians use science for illusions and “help” scien6sts uncover knowledge •  Maskelyne: promoted self as man of science: - scien6fic explana6ons for illusions - favoured mechanical illusions - promoted self- image as an inventor - contrasted self with mediums (debunker) “Dr. Pole’s Clever Idea Does Not Afford a SaLsfactory SoluLon to the Psycho Mystery...” Maskelyne used the language and authority of science to dismiss theories of Psycho’s mechanism without actually addressing them - the patent - Pole’s explana6on (Macmillan’s Magazine, January 1876) - Arprey Vere’s diagram (The Liverpool Weekly Post 1878) - Encyclopaedia Britannica ar6cles (1902, 1910- 11) - repeatability “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician” (Robert- Houdin) ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/28/2012 for the course HIST 202 taught by Professor Garbutt during the Spring '10 term at Toledo.

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