On Apollo Robbins and inattentional blindness

Fascinating story in the New Yorker of pickpocket and soon-to-be adjunct professor at Yale, Apollo Robbins, who has turned his ‘speciality’ into a force for good rather than evil. He works with the Department of Defense in the US ‘to consult on the military applications of pickpocketing, behavioral influence, and con games’.

Also interesting is this bit about ‘inattentional blindness‘ which I definitely suffer from: my better half loses no opportunity to remind me of this now and then when I’m deep into reading or watching something!

The intersection of magic and neuroscience has become a topic of some interest in the scientific community, and Robbins is now a regular on the lecture circuit. Recently, at a forum in Baltimore, he shared a stage with the psychologist Daniel Kahneman—who won a Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics—and the two had a long discussion about so-called “inattentional blindness,” the phenomenon of focussing so intently on a single task that one fails to notice things in plain sight.

When I think back to the System 1 and 2 thought processes that Kahneman talks about, it’s no wonder he had so much to talk about with Robbins. Inattentional blindness is in a sense a sort of variation of System 1 thinking, I guess…

I dug up this video that shows him demonstrating his work to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in Las Vegas, Oceans Eleven style – quite entertaining to watch. 

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