# Derren Brown’s lottery win = A split camera trick disguised as “wisdom of crowds”

On 9 September 2009, [British illusionist] Derren Brown conducted a live TV broadcast in which he suggested that he had successfully predicted the winning National Lottery numbers prior to them being drawn. During the broadcast a number of blank lottery balls were displayed on a glass stand in clear view of the camera, and after the lottery draw had been made, the balls were rotated to reveal the winning numbers. It was claimed by Derren Brown that the only other people in the studio were two camera operators, to avoid legal issues, and that the stunt had been authorised by Camelot, the National Lottery operators.

Great Britain is buzzing like crazy about the stunt.

He claimed it was based on an old trick which tells how a crowd of people at a country fair accurately estimated the weight of an ox when their guesses were all averaged out. He gathered a panel of 24 people who wrote down their predictions after studying the last year’s worth of numbers. Then they added up all the guesses for each ball and divided it by 24 to get the average guess. On the first go they only got one number right, on the second attempt they managed three and on the third they guessed four. By the time of last week’s draw they had honed their technique to get six correct guesses, and these were the numbers shown on the Wednesday night programme. [Derren] Brown claims that the predictions were correct because of the “wisdom of the crowd” theory which suggests that a large group of people making average guesses will come up with the correct figure as an average of all their attempts. He also suggested that if the people were motivated by money, it may not work.

Well, we know a lot about the “wisdom of crowds“, here, as Midas Oracle specializes in collective intelligence. The idea of the “wisdom of crowds” is to aggregate bits of information that are dispersed in a population of independently minded individuals. The result of that information aggregation is a predictive power slightly superior (on average, over the long term) to what one single individual can produce —even a gifted one. However, the “wisdom of crowds” is not powerful enough to predict the future with 100% certainty. For that, you would have to reverse the psychological arrow of time —so as to remember the future as opposed to the past. Physicists tell us this is impossible in our universe. Hence, Derren Brown used a trick [WATCH THE 3RD VIDEO BELOW] —and concealed it with some blahblah about the “wisdom of crowds”.

“Check the ball on the right after Derren Brown says ‘23′. Notice it mysteriously jumps up and is slightly higher than the other 5 balls. (apologies for the camera wobble but my camera is on a tripod, the wobble is from the camera on the show which is programmed to wobble so you can’t see the switch of the balls). So no magic, NLP, psychology or mind-tricks. Just good old fashioned camera trickery.

For the tip, thanks to Emile Servan-Schreiber of NewsFutures —we’re impatient to see the new version of their software / prediction market website.

UPDATE:

His next event: Trying to beat the casino.

Another video

Another video

# Derren Browns lottery win = A split camera trick disguised as wisdom of crowds

On 9 September 2009, [British illusionist] Derren Brown conducted a live TV broadcast in which he suggested that he had successfully predicted the winning National Lottery numbers prior to them being drawn. During the broadcast a number of blank lottery balls were displayed on a glass stand in clear view of the camera, and after the lottery draw had been made, the balls were rotated to reveal the winning numbers. It was claimed by Derren Brown that the only other people in the studio were two camera operators, to avoid legal issues, and that the stunt had been authorised by Camelot, the National Lottery operators.

Great Britain is buzzing like crazy about the stunt.

He claimed it was based on an old trick which tells how a crowd of people at a country fair accurately estimated the weight of an ox when their guesses were all averaged out. He gathered a panel of 24 people who wrote down their predictions after studying the last year&#8217-s worth of numbers. Then they added up all the guesses for each ball and divided it by 24 to get the average guess. On the first go they only got one number right, on the second attempt they managed three and on the third they guessed four. By the time of last week&#8217-s draw they had honed their technique to get six correct guesses, and these were the numbers shown on the Wednesday night programme. [Derren] Brown claims that the predictions were correct because of the &#8220-wisdom of the crowd&#8221- theory which suggests that a large group of people making average guesses will come up with the correct figure as an average of all their attempts. He also suggested that if the people were motivated by money, it may not work.

Well, we know a lot about the &#8220-wisdom of crowds&#8220-, here, as Midas Oracle specializes in collective intelligence. The idea of the &#8220-wisdom of crowds&#8221- is to aggregate bits of information that are dispersed in a population of independently minded individuals. The result of that information aggregation is a predictive power slightly superior (on average, over the long term) to what one single individual can produce &#8212-even a gifted one. However, the &#8220-wisdom of crowds&#8221- is not powerful enough to predict the future with 100% certainty. For that, you would have to reverse the psychological arrow of time &#8212-so as to remember the future as opposed to the past. Physicists tell us this is impossible in our universe. Hence, Derren Brown used a trick [WATCH THE 3RD VIDEO BELOW] &#8212-and concealed it with some blahblah about the &#8220-wisdom of crowds&#8221-.

&#8220-Check the ball on the right after Derren Brown says &#8216-23&#8242-. Notice it mysteriously jumps up and is slightly higher than the other 5 balls. (apologies for the camera wobble but my camera is on a tripod, the wobble is from the camera on the show which is programmed to wobble so you can&#8217-t see the switch of the balls). So no magic, NLP, psychology or mind-tricks. Just good old fashioned camera trickery. &#8221-

For the tip, thanks to Emile Servan-Schreiber of NewsFutures &#8212-we&#8217-re impatient to see the new version of their software / prediction market website.

UPDATE:

His next event: Trying to beat the casino.

Another video

Another video

# The Singularity University looks at prediction markets and collective intelligence.

In its ten tracks Singularity University (SU) tries to cover as much as possible of a vast amount of material. The specifics are steered by the track chairs, with a lot of input from both the students, the teaching fellows, and also sometimes from the outside. The Futures Studies &amp- Forecasting track does indeed cover prediction markets, and yes, if not a proper market, tasks, ideas, and group activities are often evaluated using group raking tools within SU.

David

David Orban
NASA Ames, Bldg 17 Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
http://www.singularityu.org/david

# Robin Hanson: My best idea was prediction markets.

Robin Hanson‘s auto-biography (i.e., how Our Master Of All Universes views HimSelf):

Do you find it hard to summarize yourself in a few words? Me too.

But I love the above quote. I have a passion, a sacred quest, to understand everything, and to save the world. I am addicted to â€œviewquakesâ€, insights which dramatically change my world view. I loved science fiction as a child, and have studied physics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, economics, and political science â€” all fields full of such insights. Unfortunately, this also tempted me to leave subjects after mastering their major insights.

I also have a rather critical style. I beat hard on new ideas, seek out critics, and then pledge my allegiance only to those still left standing. In conversation, I prefer to identify a claim at issue, and then focus on analyzing it, rather than the usual quick tours past hundreds of issues. I have always asked questions, even when I was very young.

I have little patience with those whose thinking is sloppy, small, or devoid of abstraction. And Iâ€™m not a joiner; I rebel against groups with â€œour beliefsâ€, especially when members must keep criticisms private, so as not to give ammunition to â€œthem.â€Â  I love to argue one on one, and common beliefs are not important for friendship â€” instead I value honesty and passion.

In â€˜77 I began college (UCI) in engineering, but switched to physics to really understand the equations.Â  Two years in, when physics repeated the same concepts with more math,Â  I studied physics on my own, skipping the homework but acing the exams.Â  To dig deeper, I did philosophy of science grad school (U Chicago), switched back to physics, and was then seduced to Silicon Valley.

By day I did artificial intelligence (Lockheed, NASA), and by night I studied on my own (Stanford) and hung with Xanaduâ€™s libertarian web pioneers and futurists.Â  I had a hobby of institution design; my best idea was idea futures, now know as prediction markets. Feeling stuck without contacts and credentials, I went for a Ph.D. in social science (Caltech).

The physicist in me respected only econ experiments at first, but I was soon persuaded econ theory was full of insight, and did a theory thesis, and a bit of futurism on the side.Â  I landed a health policy postdoc, where I was shocked to learn of medicineâ€™s impotency.Â  I finally landed a tenure-track job (GMU), and also found the wide-ranging intellectual conversations Iâ€™d lacked since Xanadu.

My Policy Analysis Market project hit the press shit fan in â€˜03, burying me in media attention for a while, and helping to kickstart the prediction market industry, which continues to grow and for which I continue to consult.Â  The press flap also tipped me over the tenure edge in â€˜05; my colleagues liked my being denounced by Senators. Â  Tenure allowed me to maintain my diverse research agenda, and to start blogging at Overcoming Bias in November â€˜06, about the same time I became a research associate at Oxfordâ€™s Future of Humanity Institute.

My more professional bio is here.

Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. After receiving his Ph.D. in social science from the California Institute of Technology in 1997, Robin was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health policy scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1984, Robin received a masters in physics and a masters in the philosophy of science from the University of Chicago, and afterward spent nine years researching artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics, and hypertext publishing at Lockheed, NASA, and independently.

Robin has over 70 publications, including articles in Applied Optics, Business Week, CATO Journal, Communications of the ACM, Economics Letters, Econometrica, Economics of Governance, Extropy, Forbes, Foundations of Physics, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Information Systems Frontiers, Innovations, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Journal of Evolution and Technology, Journal of Law Economics and Policy, Journal of Political Philosophy, Journal of Prediction Markets, Journal of Public Economics, Medical Hypotheses, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Public Choice, Social Epistemology, Social Philosophy and Policy, Theory and Decision, and Wired.

Robin has pioneered prediction markets, also known as information markets or idea futures, since 1988. He was the first to write in detail about people creating and subsidizing markets in order to gain better estimates on those topics. Robin was a principal architect of the first internal corporate markets, at Xanadu in 1990, of the first web markets, the Foresight Exchange since 1994, and of DARPA’s Policy Analysis Market, from 2001 to 2003. Robin has developed new technologies for conditional, combinatorial, and intermediated trading, and has studied insider trading, manipulation, and other foul play. Robin has written and spoken widely on the application of idea futures to business and policy, being mentioned in over one hundred press articles on the subject, and advising many ventures, including Consensus Point, GuessNow, Newsfutures, Particle Financial, Prophet Street, Trilogy Advisors, XPree, YooNew, and undisclosable defense research projects.

Robin has diverse research interests, with papers on spatial product competition, health incentive contracts, group insurance, product bans, evolutionary psychology and bioethics of health care, voter information incentives, incentives to fake expertize, Bayesian classification, agreeing to disagree, self-deception in disagreement, probability elicitation, wiretaps, image reconstruction, the history of science prizes, reversible computation, the origin of life, the survival of humanity, very long term economic growth, growth given machine intelligence, and interstellar colonization.