How Did Derren Brown Predict The Lottery?

Earlier this week, Derren Brown gave the illusion of predicting the lottery numbers before they were revealed in real time on national TV in Britain.  Here’s that original video in case you missed it:

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Now here is his bullshit explanation of how he did it.

Why his explanation makes no sense:

He took inspiration from the Wisdom of Crowds theory, which essentially says that decisions made by lots of people are better than those by individuals.

The theory tells how a crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged.

But last night maths experts poured scorn on Brown’s explanation saying that the whole thing was ‘bluff’ and ‘nonsense’.

Professor of Pure Mathematics at University of Oxford Roger Heath-Brown said: ‘This is not a good strategy for picking the lottery. But I can understand why some people might think it is a plausible strategy.

‘Mathematically it is complete rubbish. It is a bluff on his part. He is doing it some other way that is clear. But he is trying to produce what looks like a plausible rationale for producing numbers.’

The academic said it was wrong to draw a comparison with the ox experiment as people in that case had some evidence to go on.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of public understanding of risk at  University of Cambridge said: ‘There is a difference between guessing between the weight of a cake compared with guessing lottery balls, which is unguessable.

It’s puzzling that someone who does great services of exposing people’s gullibility and the techniques by which frauds dupe them (see here or here for just two of many examples available on youtube) does a trick where he not only performs an illusion but lets people feel like they are in on the secret and have them leave saying ridiculously superstitious things like that simply believing they could predict numbers can make them do it successfully.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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