AI's Place in Magic
Just a quick note before you get started. This article was written for magicians, but regardless I think it still holds interest to anyone as AI is fairly new and very prevalent right now. The image you see above is what an artificial intelligence magician looks like according to AI. I'm not sure how I feel about it.
You knew this was coming. Artificial intelligence or AI has become ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist quicker than anyone expected. These programs are only at the cusp of their potential and we are beginning to see a glimmer of what a world integrated with AI would look like. Some fear for their jobs while others are scared of the implications on original thought when technology is readily available to spit out unique fully formed essays detailing the nuances of Shakespeare. The question then stands, do we have to be scared about AI revealing our secrets or replacing our jobs and how can we utilize it correctly?
It’s important to first understand how these chatbots work. For this example I will be focusing on ChatGPT, one of if not the most commonly used free virtual assistants on the internet. ChatGPT can generate responses to almost any question by pulling from a wide range of text sources across the internet. Its bank of knowledge is limited to anything pre-September 2021 when the software was created. The system also evolves with every question asked to it, constantly learning about its users and their individual thought processes.
I first asked ChatGPT how to make a book float on stage. The response was pretty standard and utilized fishing line and wax to create the illusion of a book suspended in the air. The method holds up, although the execution is much harder than you would be led to believe just by reading this quick guide. I then prompted the system to give me a method for the same trick without the use of thread. After a few more seconds, I was given a lesson on how neodymium magnets can be used to make a book defy gravity. The response was also attached with a warning not to swallow the magnets because that could be catastrophic to your performance for a multitude of reasons.
I pushed the chatbot to generate yet another response on how to make our book float, and the next iteration included a suspension with thread off of an acrylic stand. When I then ruled out thread and an acrylic stand, the artificial intelligence thought it could outsmart me by conjuring a method that dealt with fishing line and a bookshelf. After changing my verbage to disclude any use of string, magnets, or stands of any kind, I was instructed to make the book float by creating a “custom-built prop”. When I asked how to make this custom built prop, I was met with vague instructions that never dealt with any methods.
For the people that are scared of AI revealing methods or replacing magicians I will say pump the brakes. Hundreds if not thousands of new methods are being created every day worldwide that aren’t readily available to any of these softwares. If anything, this even further pushes us to create unique methods that subvert what we have come to know as common techniques.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean we have to depart from any of the methods listed above. If the illusion of a floating book is so great and there are a multitude of convincers that eliminate thread as a method although that is exactly how the trick is executed, why would the audience members suspect the use of thread? Execution is everything and can make any obvious method into a great trick.
A tremendous portion of a magic performance hinges on the human performing it. Whether they’re performing in-person or virtual, the magician is a human being that has limits to their capabilities. Technology seemingly has no limit to what it can accomplish, so if it were to attempt magic it could easily be chalked up to a technological advancement that the audience just doesn’t know of yet. Our mortality makes the magic and without that, the sense of wonder disappears.
This is only a micro example in a completely new world that we are only beginning to understand. While people are too busy villainizing any new tech that comes our way, it’s important to ask yourself how it can help you. Whether it’s pinpointing how to market to your target audience or breaking down your script to the most important parts, AI has infinite uses that can bolster you professionally. It is not to be used to come up with groundbreaking methods, but it can definitely be a resource that can teach you more about business and the public’s relationship to magic.
Whenever you find yourself thinking about how terrible new technology is, remember all the generations that feared the mobile phone for their impact on social interactions. Or even further back, think about the people who were concerned about the invention of the automobile for its affordability and ability to keep us safe. Technology is advancing quicker than we can think, so we might as well hop on for the ride.