In Braindrops: Mindreading, Magic, and iPads, illusionist Paul Gertner attempts to show us why our addiction to technology is making us stupider. Finally, a show where the audience is encouraged to bring their cell phones and turn them on.
Ever since the rise of personal computers in the 1980s and cell phones in the '90s, Gertner has wondered about the effect of technology on our brains. In the show, he examines how we're encouraged to think less for ourselves by using everything from calculators to spell check to GPS navigation. He uses the new Siri program on his iPad as an example of mind-reading. "Siri anticipates desires, uses voice recognition," he explains, "and with it we create a séance." By "we," Gertner is affectionately referring to his iPad and himself.
Over the course of the one-hour show, Gertner leads the audience to question their sense of reality. "Can you trust your own brain and the conclusions it draws?" he asks. "The audience is left asking themselves, 'If my brain can fool me here in a magic show, how else can it fool me?'" Using research in psychology, politics, and commercial advertising, Gertner manipulates his audience by creating false patterns and misdirecting their focus.
After 40 years of performing illusions and magic tricks, this Olympics of Magic champion has learned how to capitalize on people's assumptions about everything from an empty glass to a heavy steel ball to whether or not an iPad can smoke a cigarette. "The audience, the stand-in for society, usually does not realize that they are being psychologically manipulated," Gertner says. "All are susceptible, some more than others."
In Braindrops, Gertner tries some new special effects that he doesn't want to reveal. "I take the audience into my mind and let them see how a magician's mind thinks," he teases. "I provide some secret information about magic, but not so much that the audience is no longer fooled."
With its emphasis on new technology, Gertner is interested to see what groups are most attracted to this show. So far, his audiences have mostly consisted of young adults — the intellectual, analytical types who are already familiar with the devices he uses in his shows.