The Importance of Self-Deception


From The Rotarian:

One evening, sitting in the back seat of the car, our two girls, ages six and eight, were discussing the show we were on our way to attend. Called The Illusionists, it featured seven of the world’s top magicians. The debate consisted of whether there would be real magic involved, or just tricks.

“When they cut the man in half,” our younger daughter asked, “how do they keep the blood in?” She was convinced there was true magic. Her older sister, a little wiser, wasn’t buying it.

“Easy,” she said. “R-o-b-o-t.” She rolled her eyes at how obvious this was.

During the show, sure enough, we came to the part where a man – standing up, no less – was sawed in half. His torso fell onto a table, while his legs walked offstage. His top half was wheeled around before us, perfectly animate, perfectly alive.

It was clearly not a robot. Yet what it was, none of us could imagine. And even if we could have found out how it worked, I’d almost rather not. Because in a sense, both girls were right: There was real magic and there were tricks. The magic is in wondering how you were tricked. That’s why we go to see performances like the Illusionists’.

Humans are not hard to deceive. If we were, most political careers would be much shorter.

Read the rest here.

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