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Anthony Vinson

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This is a new topic carried over from another to avoid hijacking. 

In his topic, Dan Waterman asked, "On that same note, do laymen see enough magic to warrant the over-exposed stamp we give to some effects/props???" Which got me thinking, so I added this:

An intriguing topic, Dan. I do not have a ready reply, but your final question did get me to scratching my head. First of all, I think the answer is a resounding 'No." That said, how many magicians are there in the world, and based on that number, how many laypeople actually encounter one live and in person?

I think it was Neil Bohr who came up with the famous problem of determining the number of piano tuners in the city of Chicago. He was able to come up with an estimate based on several factors, including the number of pianos in the city, et al. So applying the question to magicians in the world...

My guess is, that regardless of the number, that the percentage of magicians to nonmagicians is so small that the likelihood of encountering a magician is nominal at best.

Any of you math whizzes out there want to take a whack at it? There are "answers" available with a Google search, but I'm not satisfied with them. I suppose I could drop a line to Matt Baker, but I'd hate to do that without first seeing what we might come up with here.

Robin Dawes picked up the wand and ran with this:

To address AV's question:  I live in a community of about 100,000.  I am aware of perhaps 5 people who are beyond the "Uncle Mort who knows a card trick" level.  Let's suppose I am woefully ignorant and there are 10 times that number: 50 magicians - this is absolutely too high!  Fewer than 10 seems more likely, but let's go with 20 - a generous estimate of the number of people in my community of whom people might say "I met a magician today".  So this gives a probability of 20/100000 = 0.0002 that any particular person in Kingston is a magician.  Let's assume that this is true of the whole world.  So the probability that the next person you meet is NOT a magician is 0.9998

BUT!  Speaking for myself, very few of the people I interact with would ever know I consider myself (rightly or wrongly) to be a magician.  Unlike David Blaine I don't wander the streets accompanied only by a camera crew and lawyers, "levitating" for strangers and biting chunks out of coins.  Let's say I perform magic once out of every 10 days for someone I don't already know - your mileage may vary.   So since I interact with 30 new people during those 10 days, the probability of someone meeting me when I am in "magic mode" is 1/30.  Let's assume that this is typical.  So the probability of meeting a magician who will perform is not 0.0002 but actually 0.0002/30 = 0.0000067

Thus the probability that the next person you meet will not present to you as a magician (either because they aren't, or they are but they don't perform for you) is 0.9999933.  

It's estimated (here) that a city-dweller interacts with about 80,000 people during their life (based on an average of 3 new people per day).  The probability that NONE of the people we interact with is recognizable as a magician is 0.9999933 raised to the 80,000th power, which is approximately 0.59  
 
 
... in other words: within this model the probability is not too far off 40% that any person will, at some point in their life, be able to say "I met a magician today"

This is quite different from the often stated hypothesis that most people will never meet a magician.  But it is based on a lot of assumptions that can be challenged:

  • My estimate of the percentage of the population who are magicians may be completely wrong.  Even if it is in the right ballpark for North America, it may be much too high (or low) for other parts of the world.
  • The estimate that most city-dwellers interact with 80,000 people (an average of 3 new people per day) may be completely wrong.  Furthermore, this number would plausibly be lower for the large percentage of the human race that does not live in cities.
  • The estimate of the probability that a magician will perform during a random encounter may be completely wrong.  For myself, the number I used is probably too high.  I actually estimate that I perform magic during a first encounter about once a month.  But I am very much a "family and friends" performer - others (those who perform in restaurants etc) will certainly have much higher probability of performing for someone they just met.  The average probability of meeting a magician when they are in "performance mode" may be lower or higher than my estimate.


Lowering any of these values will decrease the calculated probability that a person will meet a magician during their life.

If you're still with me, here's the topic for discussion: If the ratio of magicians to nonmagicians is, for the sake of discussion, near Robin's estimate, what are the implications for those of us who do perform? Should we seek to perform more? Spread the gospel of magic, if you will, farther and wider through, perhaps, unsolicited impromptu performances as we make our way through the days? If so, how would we best affect that end without being branded as pesky and annoying. This ties in well with this oldie, started by EVILDAN, and is worth reconsidering here, I think.

Okay, enough already! What are your thoughts?

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #2 
We used to talk about the Fermi problem in my physics class. The book had some similar exercises to challenge the students to use the same sort of logic.
From a google search:

The classic Fermi problem, generally attributed to Fermi, is "How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?" A typical solution to this problem would involve multiplying together a series of estimates that would yield the correct answer if the estimates were correct. For example, we might make the following assumptions:

1.There are approximately 5,000,000 people living in Chicago.
2.On average, there are two persons in each household in Chicago.
3.Roughly one household in twenty has a piano that is tuned regularly.
4.Pianos that are tuned regularly are tuned on average about once per year.
5.It takes a piano tuner about two hours to tune a piano, including travel time.
6.Each piano tuner works eight hours in a day, five days in a week, and 50 weeks in a year.

From these assumptions we can compute that the number of piano tunings in a single year in Chicago is: (5,000,000 persons in Chicago) / (2 persons/household) × (1 piano/20 households) × (1 piano tuning per piano per year) = 125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago.

And we can similarly calculate that the average piano tuner performs: (50 weeks/year)×(5 days/week)×(8 hours/day)×(1 piano tuning per 2 hours per piano tuner) = 1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner.

Dividing gives: (125,000 piano tuning per year in Chicago) / (1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner) = 125 piano tuners in Chicago.

A famous example of a Fermi-problem-like estimate is the Drake equation, which seeks to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy. The basic question of why, if there are a significant number of such civilizations, ours has never encountered any others is called the Fermi paradox.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for the correction! Should've looked it up first. 

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RayJ

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The ratio of magicians to non-magicians also needs to take into account what type of magicians we're talking about.  There are many magicians that never really perform for live audiences and especially paying audiences.  I am of the opinion that there are extremely few working magicians, whether semi or full-time professional.  

Anecdotal evidence is what it is, but there have been exactly two times in my life that I have run into magicians performing at a restaurant that I wasn't aware they would be there.  One was at a restaurant (don't remember the name) near Chandler, Arizona.  The guy (also forgotten) was very good.  He did a ring and string routine that killed.  I told him I was also a magician and turns out we knew some people in common.  So that was fun.

The second was funny because I took my wife to Dave and Busters, I think they have a somewhat national presence, and who comes by the table but my friend Dan Fleshman.  There were two magicians working that night, the other being Glenn Bishop, who I had heard of but had never met until that night.

So suffice to say, it hasn't happened much.

St. Louis is a community of well over 2.8 million people.  As far as I'm aware there are no restaurants featuring strolling magicians.  There might be a restaurant over in Waterloo, IL, about half an hour from downtown St. Louis, where JImmy Molinari performs.  He used to do so about once a week, if I remember.

A few years ago 'The Illusionists' came to town and had good attendance, so the appetite is there.

Edit, I had reached out to Dave and Busters and got the following response...

Ray,

 

No I am sorry we no longer have magicians.

 

Thank you,

 

Matt Kelly

Dave and Buster’s St. Louis

Senior Corporate Sales Manager

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #5 
Fair enough, Ray. Riffing off the questions I raised in my final paragraph, let's limit the discussion to nonprofessionals, including restaurant performers, and especially shows requiring an advanced ticket purchase to attend. I should think those an exception since markets are generally selected based on anticipated sales.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #6 
That's why I started my post with the caveat that any discussion has to start with what type of magician we're talking about.  If you want to focus on non-professionals, fine with me.


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Reply with quote  #7 

I perform whenever and wherever I can because I love it. from "Guerrilla" style to close-up even what may be considered "parlor" style magic. and I disagree with those Magicians who say the opposite (not to perform outside of a hired setting) 

The number of people who have never been exposed to actually live "magic/mentalism/PSI" I believe is a lot more than we take into consideration


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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by X

I perform whenever and wherever I can because I love it. from "Guerrilla" style to close-up even what may be considered "parlor" style magic. and I disagree with those Magicians who say the opposite (not to perform outside of a hired setting) 

The number of people who have never been exposed to actually live "magic/mentalism/PSI" I believe is a lot more than we take into consideration



I agree.  And I would take it a step further.  I believe the number of people that have witnessed a live performance of good magic is very small.
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by X

The number of people who have never been exposed to actually live "magic/mentalism/PSI" I believe is a lot more than we take into consideration



Well, I think it is those beliefs that we are trying to quantify.  My "back-of-the-envelope" estimation that Av has quoted above suggests that about 40% of people will be exposed to a live magician at some point in their lives.  That's much higher than a lot of people seem to think.  Is there a better calculation, or is the idea that most people never meet a magician just a shared axiom that magicians accept without evidence?
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #10 
What Robin said. I think it's most likely a common belief that few bother to question.

X, I am curious about your approach to what you describe as guerrilla closeup. Do you gather a crowd ala busking, or just approach random folk and starting performing?  

And Ray, what constitutes good magic? Like beauty, that's probably in the beholder's eye, don't you think? For you and I the standard would be considerably higher than most, right? For many, and in the right conditions, an adequate performance might be scaled as good, or even great.

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #11 
Categories:

1. Saw Illusions on TV
2. Saw Close Up magic on TV

I think tons of people will be in these two categories due to AGT and other similar shows.

3. Saw Illusions live e.g. David Copperfield
4. Saw Close Up magic live

I think a lot of people have seen shows in Las Vegas and elsewhere that fit these categories

5. Saw a magician in a strolling environment e.g. restaurant, party etc.
6. Saw a magician at a child's birthday party

Who knows?

There are lots of ways that people have experienced magic. I'll bet a large % of people have seen magic on TV. I think we're more interested in the % of people who have experienced close up magic live (not counting "uncle Joe" pulling a coin out of your ear). That's the question I would like answered.


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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #12 
Yes, me too. A practiced, rehearsed effect, competently performed, that will, preferably, be remembered by the spectator as remarkable. For example, last November, I performed a one-ahead mind reading effect for one of my daughter's friends. (My daughter is 37, so this wasn't a child.) To this day, according to my daughter, she carries in her wallet the three blank cards I used to record the predictions, and gave to her as a souvenir, and shows them around while telling the story of how Erin's dad read her mind.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
What Robin said. I think it's most likely a common belief that few bother to question.

X, I am curious about your approach to what you describe as guerrilla closeup. Do you gather a crowd ala busking, or just approach random folk and starting performing?  

And Ray, what constitutes good magic? Like beauty, that's probably in the beholder's eye, don't you think? For you and I the standard would be considerably higher than most, right? For many, and in the right conditions, an adequate performance might be scaled as good, or even great.

Av

 


Anthony, I'm using my definition of good. I'm quite aware that there is a sliding scale. I've never been one to believe someone is an artist just because they can fill a canvas with paint. Similarly, if someone buys a trick and learns to show it without totally blowing it, it doesn't make them a magician. We have to have some standards for good versus bad.

Chris Kenner, on issue 11 of Reel Magic Magazine talks about this. He bemoans the fact that we really don't have magic critics like there are movie critics. Most reviews (there are a few exceptions) are afraid to be totally honest. I think the same is true for performers. The tendency is to be less than candid.

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Mike Powers

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Take note of the last sentence in the post above: "The tendency is to be less than candid."

I had a professor in grad school who once said, "I thrive on criticism." This is how to become better. We need to invite criticism so that the "less than candid" tendency disappears in favor of honest, constructive criticism.


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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
Take note of the last sentence in the post above: "The tendency is to be less than candid."

I had a professor in grad school who once said, "I thrive on criticism." This is how to become better. We need to invite criticism so that the "less than candid" tendency disappears in favor of honest, constructive criticism.




Yes. I, too, want honest, constructive criticism. That doesn't mean that it is always warmly welcomed, but it is always appreciate, always evaluated, and always, always, considered. For several years I worked with a group of five other storytellers. We performed together, and then evaluated one another's performances. We fostered an atmosphere of trust and safety. The process was sometimes brutal, but it made me a much better performer. 

I think the tendency to be less than candid is universal. In my experience, both military and corporate evaluations were always a trial, both to give and to receive. This is largely a function of relationships, I believe, and a desire to maintain the integrity of those bonds. But I ask: Where's the integrity without honesty tempered by kindness and empathy?

When I coached others, there were often those who chaffed at my remarks and recommendations. Then there were those who seemed to revel in the opportunity to learn, grow, and become better. Guess which group thrived and were eventually promoted to positions of greater responsibility?

Opening oneself to constructive criticism is often uncomfortable, but in the right circumstances and with the right mindset, and with the right coaches and evaluators, the experience is invaluable. Unfortunately, many will never understand this.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #16 
The one element that matters is love.  Why critique in the first place?  If your heart is right, then it is because you love magic and wish for it to be presented in its best light.  You also critique because you love the person and want them to be shown in their best light.

Anything other than this falls short.

When I approach someone, I don't say I'd like to critique them, I say I'd like to offer some feedback.  Then I proceed to follow the Dale Carnegie approach and create a sandwich.  I begin by telling them something that I really liked, then move on to the areas that need improvement and finally end with an encouraging thought.  By sandwiching the feedback between positives, it makes it easier to swallow.

If you critique to make yourself feel superior, then you are off on the wrong track.  And likely have few friends.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #17 
Gonna disagree, Ray. Sure, agape love is a critical factor, but I believe the most important is openness. Both the giver and receiver must be open to the experience or the effort is futile and fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Degrees of openness can depend on several factors, including timing, attitude, and mood.

Though it is well-intentioned, my issue with the sandwich method has always been that regardless of how you dress it, a s&*t sandwich still tastes like s&*t. [cool]

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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Gonna disagree, Ray. Sure, agape love is a critical factor, but I believe the most important is openness. Both the giver and receiver must be open to the experience or the effort is futile and fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Degrees of openness can depend on several factors, including timing, attitude, and mood.

Though it is well-intentioned, my issue with the sandwich method has always been that regardless of how you dress it, a s&*t sandwich still tastes like s&*t. [cool]

Av 


It's fine to disagree.  If we all agreed, it would be a dull place.  If the receiver doesn't recognize a loving and respectful giver, then the receiver needs to do some soul-searching.

Well-intentioned criticism is a gift.
 
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Rudy Tinoco

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Gonna disagree, Ray. Sure, agape love is a critical factor, but I believe the most important is openness. Both the giver and receiver must be open to the experience or the effort is futile and fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Degrees of openness can depend on several factors, including timing, attitude, and mood.

Though it is well-intentioned, my issue with the sandwich method has always been that regardless of how you dress it, a s&*t sandwich still tastes like s&*t. [cool]

Av 


I like what you fellas are saying here. It feels to me like two sides of the same coin. Love creates the openness required to have a difficult conversations, whether it's about flashing a palmed coin or confronting a family member about their obvious driving problem. It seems to me that love is the horse that pulls the cart. Folks won't likely open themselves up to criticism (even the true and constructive kind) unless they believe that it's from a heart of love.

Just my opinion.

As to Anthony's original question... "Should we seek to perform more? Spread the gospel of magic, if you will, farther and wider through, perhaps, unsolicited impromptu performances as we make our way through the days? If so, how would we best affect that end without being branded as pesky and annoying."

I think so. In fact, I take a deck of cards with me wherever I go and perform for anyone who looks like they're open to it. To do that without coming off like an annoying weirdo is very important to me. I have only been declined once, and that was at a paying gig 😉

I'm a people person and I use magic to connect with folks that I come in contact with. It works very well for me. I've met incredible people who have become my friends, simply by stepping up to them at the right moment and asking if they'd like to see some magic.

I should add that I don't just say, "Hey, wanna see a trick?" I am more interested in the person who I'm meeting than showing them that I can perform magic. I always start by introducing myself and then asking them about themselves. THEN, I begin to steer things in the direction of magic.

Anyway, in my experience, most people seem to be knowledgeable about magic and almost always ask if I've seen Shin Lim do this, that, or the other. When I asked if they've ever seen magic up close, the answer is almost always no.

Rudy

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ


I agree.  And I would take it a step further.  I believe the number of people that have witnessed a live performance of good magic is very small.


Yes!

This I believe is key, magicians are already battling stereotypes, and at many times just giving in to them, so people already have a preconceived idea of what magicians are about, or what magic is, so even if they have never seen magic live, they feel they already have based on their idea of what it is.

I think many contributing factors, performers being one of them of course, but also access to Magic,  where can you go see Magic? there are fewer places than before, it is less accessible, or the places that are accessible are highly expensive, pander to a certain class, or just don't exist, venues, shows, even on TV it is determined on marketability not quality etc 

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RayJ

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A quick google found this quote regarding Fermi and the Fermi Problem..."The estimation technique is named after physicist Enrico Fermi as he was known for his ability to make good approximate calculations with little or no actual data.

Emphasis mine.

This reminds me of a thread I had started some time ago and was subsequently removed.  The question I was asking and the underlying point I was trying to communicate is related, I think, to Fermi's Problem.  Bear with me a minute as I flesh it out.

To me, it is apparent that one of the strengths of Fermi's Problem was the ability to make an "educated guess" (my definition) as to how many of something exists without having much in the way of concrete data.  When you just don't know, it helps to be able to at least approximate, and that is what he accomplished, a method to do that.

So we're wondering how many magicians there might be in a given area.  Unless a census is taken, we'll never really know.  But can we come up with estimates with what information we do have?

What I pointed out in my ill-fated post was that if you look at youtube, you can come away with some interesting information.  If you look up the search terms "Magic" and "Revealed" it takes you to tons of videos.  I won't copy any of them here as they don't deserve to be promoted, but suffice to say that one of them has now garnered 13 million views.  I'm sure there are some even more popular.  I didn't bother searching further.  

Now I contrast that to another website where you can witness Dai Vernon, using his silver cups, performing his famous cups & balls routine.  The views, 347 thousand.  And BTW, that is over 11 years.  And I probably account for a half-dozen of the views.  The other one has been posted for about 9 months.

So what can we determine from that, if anything?  Hold that thought for a moment.

I then put "Twisting The Aces" into the search.  I had to wade through all of the tutorials before I finally got to a video that was just a demonstration.  Suffice to say it's clicks paled in comparison to the tutorials.

Now there is magic forums.  Surely the numbers there must be indicative of how many magicians there are, right?  Well, not really.  The reason I say that is I checked a popular forum a short time ago and 53 people were active.  They claim to have almost 69 thousand members registered.  I know that includes many that are inactive and/or have multiple user names.  I also realize it is 1:30 p.m. CST, but still, 53 active?

So what about the International Brotherhood of Magicians membership, or the Society of American Magicians, the Magic Circle?  I guess we could ask them.

We could also ask the popular conventions and such how their attendance is.  

But barring anything concrete, we're just guessing.  My guess is that the number of magicians that are even moderately active in the pursuit is much smaller than many believe.  I'm eliminating Uncle Joe who pulls quarters out of ears.  I'm also not counting someone who remembers how to do the 21 card trick.

So all of this sort of filters down to what I still contend is a harmful thing.  If not harmful, at least not really positive.  And that is that millions of people are clicking on topics to see how Shin Lim did his thing and they have never and will never attempt to do magic themselves.  How else do you account for 13 million views?  If all of those people would be motivated to go out and buy tickets to a magic show, I suppose we could discuss the fact that it might be a positive.
My contention is that it ain't happening.  

So barring any concrete information, I'm of the opinion that the number of "real" magicians is quite small in relation to society at large and that most people will never see enough magic to be in jeopardy of becoming tired of it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
The one element that matters is love.  Why critique in the first place?  If your heart is right, then it is because you love magic and wish for it to be presented in its best light.  You also critique because you love the person and want them to be shown in their best light.

Anything other than this falls short.

When I approach someone, I don't say I'd like to critique them, I say I'd like to offer some feedback.  Then I proceed to follow the Dale Carnegie approach and create a sandwich.  I begin by telling them something that I really liked, then move on to the areas that need improvement and finally end with an encouraging thought.  By sandwiching the feedback between positives, it makes it easier to swallow.

If you critique to make yourself feel superior, then you are off on the wrong track.  And likely have few friends.


I agree I Think critique falls into a couple of different categories, one coming from a more... authoritarian position "this is HOW you should do it" and another from a more "idea" based critique " here are some ideas that I use that you may find useful, let's discuss it"


Magic/Mentalism/PSI etc doesn't have "Rules" but that doesn't mean we can't share experiences and ideas that other people may use 

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by X


I agree I Think critique falls into a couple of different categories, one coming from a more... authoritarian position "this is HOW you should do it" and another from a more "idea" based critique " here are some ideas that I use that you may find useful, let's discuss it"


Magic/Mentalism/PSI etc doesn't have "Rules" but that doesn't mean we can't share experiences and ideas that other people may use 


X, I love that.  We should all know by now that there is no "one way" you should perform something.  Some of us have stated we prefer to do a routine the way it was written, but we are also the first to say that others don't have to follow suit and in fact, we love to watch the variations.

Any feedback should be tailored to improve the magic or improve the performance.
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Reply with quote  #24 
When I first saw this topic, I was sure it was going to segue into "How many magicians ... does it take to change a lightbulb?'. Perhaps that's not so off-topic. No two magicians will ever do the change in exactly the same way. It's always morphing. But,as has already been said in another post, 'we stand on the shoulders of giants', and it's always strategic to know where the chain-of-ideas originated - and good manners to give due credit.
I enjoyed Ray and Anthony's discussion about love vs openness. My 5 cents (our lowest denomination in Australia) is that openness/transparency necessarily flows out of love, but the reverse ain't necessarily so. Could be wrong - bit of conjecture and world-view there.
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Robin Dawes

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

But barring anything concrete, we're just guessing.  My guess is that the number of magicians that are even moderately active in the pursuit is much smaller than many believe.  I'm eliminating Uncle Joe who pulls quarters out of ears.  I'm also not counting someone who remembers how to do the 21 card trick.


What does "many believe" mean?  Are you referring to a particular number or percentage that many people have stated?  Or are you saying that you think most people overestimate the number of magicians in the world?  If so, is there evidence to support that?  My own guess is that most people have never even thought about how many magicians there are in the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

So barring any concrete information, I'm of the opinion that the number of "real" magicians is quite small in relation to society at large and that most people will never see enough magic to be in jeopardy of becoming tired of it.


The first of those opinions is clearly true - because it is measurably true for groups that are unquestionably larger than the group of magicians.  For example, the USA has 800,000 professional engineers.  That sounds like a huge number but in relation to your total population of 327,000,000 it works out to about 1 in 400 - quite a small percentage.  I assume everyone would agree that engineers far outnumber magicians, so we are a much rarer breed.


Way, way back at the beginning of this thread - before it took flight into metaphysics - I estimated that the ratio of magicians to normal people is about 1 to 5000.   I now think it is too high, and here's why:

Comparing it to the number of engineers, my original estimate suggests that engineers outnumber magicians by only about 10 to 1 (very roughly).  That can't be right!  My first thought was that it should be more like 100 to 1 - which would make the ratio of magicians to normal people about 1 to 50000.   That would mean that a city of 1 million people would have only about 20 magicians ... and that seems too few!

So now I estimate that the ratio of magicians to muggles is somewhere between 1 to 5000 and 1 to 50000.  Splitting the difference (more or less) I'm going with 1 in 25000.  This gives an estimate of about 40 magicians in a city of 1 million ... and interestingly enough, the city of Vancouver (population 2.5 million) has an IBM ring that regularly has between 30 and 40 members attending the monthly meetings.  A few years ago I surveyed TMF members regarding IBM membership and found that about half the magicians here are IBM members ... which suggests that Vancouver actually has about 80 magicians.  That's not far off what the 1 in 25000 ratio predicts.

So that's my new estimate:  the ratio of magicians to normal people is about 1 in 25000.



I hope that Ray's second opinion ("most people will never see enough magic ...") is also true.  Using the same mathematical estimation method that I did originally but putting in my revised "1 in 25000" ratio, my model predicts that about 90% of the population will never meet a live magician.

Does this seem too high?  Too low?   If so, why?
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #26 
I copied this from Robin's post above...he asked good questions.

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Originally Posted by RayJ

But barring anything concrete, we're just guessing.  My guess is that the number of magicians that are even moderately active in the pursuit is much smaller than many believe.  I'm eliminating Uncle Joe who pulls quarters out of ears.  I'm also not counting someone who remembers how to do the 21 card trick.


What does "many believe" mean?  Are you referring to a particular number or percentage that many people have stated?  Or are you saying that you think most people overestimate the number of magicians in the world?  If so, is there evidence to support that?  My own guess is that most people have never even thought about how many magicians there are in the world.
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Robin, I was not referring to any of the estimates that have been put forward by members of this forum.  I do think that we, as magicians, tend to believe there are more of us out there than actually exist.  As far as evidence, that is the problem, there really isn't any.  I don't have it and nobody else really does either.  Like I put forward, there are some ways we could try to assess how many by checking with local clubs, national organizations, conventions, website members, etc., but in the end it is still a guess.  Another way to maybe gauge the population might be print runs of books.  How many books do they choose to print and why?  Do they have numbers to draw upon that help them decide.  Obviously some books are going to be tremendously popular, the recent Steve Forte books for example.  Perhaps some of the forum members will chime in with their experience.  

The example given about piano tuners was based entirely on guesstimates, for example.  Certain values were given for the sake of the calculation such as how many people own pianos, how often they are tuned, etc.  I believe the end result was that there should be around 125 piano tuners in Chicago.  In reality, I'd bet it is much smaller, like probably closer to 15.

Now before anyone reminds me that Mike's example was just that, an example, I know that.  He did an awesome job of demonstrating the principle.  The trouble is, like any principle, there is always going to be a chance of failure.  The failure in this instance might be that certain variables are over or under-estimated.

Just for giggles, I looked up piano tuners in Chicago on the google.  The typical map came up and I think there were 5 companies listed.  Now I know there are tuners that aren't on that list, but hey, we have to start somewhere, right?
So let's just say that the 5 are it.  Then each store would have 25 qualified piano tuners on staff.  Not likely.

As far as people wondering how many magicians there are, that's one of the main questions of this whole thread, isn't it?  And then there is the question as to whether there is a risk that tricks can be over exposed.  

I am in complete agreement that most people have never wondered how many magicians there are in the world.  We're not most people and we often wonder weird things!  [biggrin]
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

...
  I do think that we, as magicians, tend to believe there are more of us out there than actually exist. 


Hi Ray - I'm still wondering why you think that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

As far as evidence, that is the problem, there really isn't any.  I don't have it and nobody else really does either. 

Actually there is a ton of evidence and people do have it.  Everything from personal experience to club rosters to customer counts from Penguin to active membership in online fora.  The challenge is that each of these (some of which are not shared) are samples from an unknown distribution.   But estimating a distribution based on limited sampling is exactly what statisticians do all the time!  This is the whole basis of marketing surveys and weather prediction and public opinion polls.  And despite the occasional spectacular failure, the science of statistical prediction is one of the greatest success stories in history.  Our lives literally depend on it every day (think about safety testing of cars - the confidence you have that your brakes won't fail is based on testing that was done on a sample of brakes).

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

The example given about piano tuners was based entirely on guesstimates, for example.  Certain values were given for the sake of the calculation such as how many people own pianos, how often they are tuned, etc.  I believe the end result was that there should be around 125 piano tuners in Chicago.  In reality, I'd bet it is much smaller, like probably closer to 15.

Now before anyone reminds me that Mike's example was just that, an example, I know that.  He did an awesome job of demonstrating the principle.  The trouble is, like any principle, there is always going to be a chance of failure.  The failure in this instance might be that certain variables are over or under-estimated.

Just for giggles, I looked up piano tuners in Chicago on the google.  The typical map came up and I think there were 5 companies listed.  Now I know there are tuners that aren't on that list, but hey, we have to start somewhere, right?
So let's just say that the 5 are it.  Then each store would have 25 qualified piano tuners on staff.  Not likely.


This is great.  It's exactly the way it works.  We make estimates based on information that is available, and we update or check as we gain more sources.  The original estimate of 125 tuners was based on estimated values and percentages in the pre-Internet era.  Now we have Google etc - it's another sampling method.  At this point we could perhaps say that the number of piano tuners in Chicago is somewhere between 5 and 125 - that's actually a pretty tight range!  We could revise the original estimate down by decreasing the estimated number of pianos (I suspect that with the rise of electronic keyboards the number of pianos has dropped) or changing other factors, and we could revise the Google measure upwards by applying other search tools (Yelp, for example).  The goal is not to discover that there are exactly 73 piano tuners in Chicago.  The goal is to get a ballpark figure that has the right order of magnitude.

John Allen Paulos wrote a brilliant (and very entertaining) book called Innumeracy about how, as a society, we have turned our backs on valuable mathematical skills that used to be part of everyone's education.  I see the truth of this everyday when I encounter science students at university who don't understand fractions, for example.  One of the particularly valuable skills that Paulos mentions is the ability to estimate - to look at a problem and quickly come up with a ballpark answer.  My favourite example from his book is this:  If you have a pickup truck, how long would it take you to move a mountain?  Paulos's claim - with which I strongly agree - is that losing these skills is dangerous because we are less able to call BS on numbers that are thrown at us by media, marketers, pundits and politicians.  Innumeracy is a book that I recommend to people all the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

As far as people wondering how many magicians there are, that's one of the main questions of this whole thread, isn't it?  And then there is the question as to whether there is a risk that tricks can be over exposed.  

Yes, those were exactly the questions with which this thread started, and to which I have proposed answers.  We don't have to throw up our hands in despair and say "We can't answer the first question because there's no evidence".  I used evidence (definitely, limited evidence) to arrive at the "1 in 25000" figure.  And that led to the implication that 90% of people will never meet a magician in the flesh, which strongly supports the conclusion that there is little hazard of over-exposure.

I'm eager to learn if others have alternative answers.

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #28 
Robin - 1 in 25,000 would be 100 in 2.5 million. The population of Chicago is a bit bigger than 2.5 million. I think there are many more than 100 magicians in Chicago. So I'd have to guess that 1 in 25,000 is too low.

At 1 in 25,000, there would only be 1500 magicians in all of Canada whose population is about 37.6 million.

If the ratio were 1 in 10,000, there would be about 2.5 magicians in my little town of La Porte IN. I think there are about 5.

Ultimately, I think that it's clear that when we perform for lay people, very few have seen magic at close range. I have had many people mention that they had seen a magician in Las Vegas or on stage somewhere, but had not seen magic at close range. I have had a number of people tell me that they have seen a magician in a restaurant somewhere.

Maybe we should be doing our own research. When we're strolling at a restaurant or cocktail party, we should start asking people whether or not they've seen a magician at close range. It's not the most scientific approach to a survey, but it would be enlightening. I'm going to guess that if I were working at a restaurant and visited with 40 to 75 people in an evening, at least one would have seen a magician like me before. That would make the ratio more like 1 in 100 if true. To get to 1 in 1000, I would have to have only 1 person over the course of 15 nights performing, tell me that they had seen someone like me before.

Thinking further, I can recall a number of friends who have told me that while on vacation, they saw a magician at a restaurant.

Let's do some informal research i.e. ask people the question.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #29 
Mike, I should think that major metropolitan areas would be outliers, and that Robin's number covers broader ground. 

Funny you should bring up the idea of conducting informal polls. I did a consultancy this morning with 38 middle school language arts teachers, and since the topic was on my mind, asked their indulgence and conducted a brief poll. Of those in the room, one had a brother who was a magician, three had seen formal magic shows in Las Vegas, and one recalled seeing Copperfield's touring show.

After the consultancy, I addressed two eighth grade language arts classes about properly framing and telling stories. I conducted a similar poll in both classes. Not one student reported having seen a magician except on television. Interesting. One kid related that he had briefly toyed with cardistry - he didn't call it that, he called it card juggling - but lost interest.

So, yes please, let's ask around and see what we come up with, unscientific and undisciplined as it may be, I think it'll still be interesting.

As an aside, the Georgia Magic Club, IBM Ring 9, is sponsoring a series of Magic Meetups in certain cities around Atlanta. The first is tonight, about 20 miles from me, and so far I am the only person signed up to attend. This dovetails with the results of my personal efforts to generate interest in a periodic meetup in the area. Too few magicians, or is it something(s) else?

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #30 
Not going to bother doing the cut-and-paste thing, but in answer to Robin's statement above about evidence, I never said we had NONE.  I even gave example of where we might find it.  I do believe it is mostly unreliable.  It might be somewhat useful, however.
For example, I gave the example of the "green place" having nearly 69,000 registered members, yet on any given day you only see a small percentage of that active.  Many, I assume, are "one-and-done" posters that got on to ask a question and then split.  Another percentage are multiple user name folks that either changed names for legitimate reasons or changed because they had been banned.  Then there are a lot of lurkers.  
But with nearly 69 thousand registered members, wouldn't you think there might be high periods of traffic where the numbers would be much greater than what is typically seen?

So my point there is that if one were to base an estimate off of 69 thousand, how accurate might that be?  I'm just asking.  
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #31 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
...
If the ratio were 1 in 10,000, there would be about 2.5 magicians in my little town of La Porte IN. I think there are about 5.


Hi Mike - that suggests a ratio of 1 in 5000, which is where I started originally.   That gives about 7000 magicians in Canada and 65,000 in the US.  I only revised the 1 in 5000 estimate because of the comparison to the number of US engineers.  My expectation was that engineers should outnumber magicians by more than 10 (actually 12) to 1.  That expectation may be biased because I work next to a building full of engineers and I teach a lot of engineering students, so I see lots of engineers every day but hardly any magicians 😉   But your small home town and mine are both points of evidence that the 1 in 5000 may be close.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #32 
Robin - A good guess might be between 1 in 5000 and 1 in 10,000?? Who knows. But that number is trying to get at the number of magicians.

The more interesting question is what % of lay people have seen a magician close up. Let the research begin! 

I wonder if the survey option could actually be an interesting way of approaching a table as a magician. People love to be surveyed. "Excuse me, could I ask you to be part of my survey about magicians? There's only one question. Yes? Cool. How many of you have seen a magician close up?..... We'll actually, now you have! I'm the house magician and the manager has asked me to visit the tables and do a quick trick. Is this a good time..."



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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #33 
I really like the idea of breaking the ice with a survey style question.  You could even record the answer on a clipboard or something, and incorporate that into your closing effect.  (I love call-backs!)
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #34 
A call-back to the survey is a great idea Robin! Might be good to have them fill out a very short survey about how they enjoyed the magic. Let the owner see the results.


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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #35 
It took me a "real while" to read this interesting thread.
When I was a kid I used to write tales. It was a hobby. I won a little price in the school with one of them called "¿Existen los Reyes Magos?" ("Does The Wise Men Exist?"). I was 12. It was about a couple of child schoolmates that investigate if The Three Wise Men exist. So to speak, something similar to investigate if Santa Claus exists.
In the tale, the protagonists assume that certainly they do exist providing that they have helpers all over the world to deliver the gifts (like Santa). So then I used a similar procedure to the one explained by Mike to calculate the number of them according to the average of number of families with kids in the world. The result was 10 millions of helpers working all through the night. So, in the neighbourhood of the protagonists there must be at least 40 helpers, and they started to look for one of them to prove that the Three Wise Men exist...

Well, by this we can conclude that Santa Claus can exist having a few millions of SECRET helpers. So that he does not need to do magic to deliver gifts all over the world, but needs lots of helpers (Elves).
In the same way, magic can "be real" by means of millions of SECRET helpers (any pro or amateur magicians) that RESPECT each other's performance anywhere anytime.
So, the problem is not the quantity of magicians all over the world, but if they can keep ANY secret showing themselves amazed by any colleague's performance.

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