So what’s all the hype about? Why was and is Derren Brown trending Twitter? Who the heck is Derren Brown?
So for all you folks out there curious and interested, let me provide a bit of background here.

Derren Brown is one of those people who ‘predicts’ what you’re going to do, before you do it. He uses various subliminal messages, and subtly provides you with cues, and understands human behavioural responses well enough to know how to condition people and how to get people to take certain actions over others. It’s a form of conscious hypnosis, in that he’s learnt to be so in rapport with someone else that he can accurately predict even what they’re thinking, and feeling. He believes he takes his cues primarily in a very physical way, but I’m not entirely convinced that he hasn’t also mastered some form of mind control/manipulation techniques, which whilst he may say to believe them to be only rooted in the physical world, for reputations sake, I’m pretty sure there’s some element of ‘effect’ in the non-physical realm too – inducing some form of projected telepathy or influencing a person’s thoughts. Indeed, I’ve noticed myself how a firm mind unwavering in it’s cause, or purpose, and strengthened with a solid belief system will almost inevitably overpower the mind of someone who doesn’t possess a firmer conviction or belief, or doesn’t have a system in place that they hold too strongly too.

But I’m sure even if Derren Brown secretly did believe or understand any ‘non-physical’ or extra sensory elements to his processes, if he’s convinced himself that it’s all just based on planting messages subliminally then he will believe that to be true. Alternatively, if he wants to maintain his credibility he will always play that double edged sword of making it appear as if that’s what he believes, but secretly inwardly knowing otherwise.

So anyways, Derren Brown, a master manipulator of people, went about on Wednesday of this week, on the 9th of September 2009 (coincidence that he chose such a date perhaps? 9/9/09? – the UK number for ’emergency services’) to predict live on national television the National Lottery results. He had monopolised the entire Channel 4 network, and was broadcasting live for 10 minutes, across all of their different channels (not the +1 versions of course which would rebroadcast it an hour later). He switched on a TV where the lottery results were being drawn out live, and then noted down the numbers, in numeric order, switched off the tv, and then showed us a series of 6 balls, that had all accurately predicted the lottery perfectly. Had he played those numbers on the Lottery, he would have won the jackpot himself. But given the nature of the experiment, it would have been ‘unethical’ for him to play those winning numbers, since having a stake in winning would have jeopardised the outcome, ironically (as he later revealed.)

Leaving everyone in wonderment, Friday night (last night – 12th September) he then proceeded to break down some of the background to his process, and explained how a ‘fearful’ person could very predictably be controlled and manipulated, demonstrating two examples of experiments where he took a person, placed them in a fear state, and then had them select in a seemingly random fashion items, which he was able to accurately predict. The first example was a women afraid of mice, placing her hand in covered cages, choosing 3 out of 4 and he had accurately predict which one she wouldn’t place her hand in.

The second example was with a man who was shown a knife under a polystyrene cup, and then given 20 cups, and told to stamp down firmly with his foot each cup that he would guess didn’t posess the knife. Again Derren was able to accurately predict which cups would not be crushed, and then of those, he was able to predict all the way down to the exact cup which would be left till last. In that last cup, he actually placed a mouse, rather than a knife, so that in actual fact the man wouldn’t have really hurt himself, but hurt a mouse instead. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Interestingly Derren was able to accurately predict which 6 numbered cups would be left untouched, as well as the final one.

Derren then went on to talk about how humans in fear can apparently be controlled, or influenced to produce a certain result, but to be able to generate a predictable result from a seemingly random mechanical event was an altogether different matter.

He then goes to show how sequences of coins being tossed could end up being influenced based upon a group of people supporting and cheering on a given person. With two people, tossing coins, Derren had one person choose a random order of three tosses (they chose H H H) (where H is Head and T is Tail), and then predicted that he would be able to influence the outcome by predicting that HTH would come out more often. He then had a group of people all cheering and supporting the person tossing the coin who was aiming for HTH and the person who was aiming to get all heads was on their own, with no supporters. The difference in results was astounding, with the single person getting 1 combination, whilst the other team got 10 in the same amount of time. I don’t know how readily the people supporting and cheering the person who ended up winning made a difference, but I’ve definitely noticed myself that when I do something and I feel supported, or want to influence the outcome of a die, say in a game of backgammon, there are times where it feels like I’m actually having an effect. I really do wonder about the whole random causal reality of things sometimes..

Anyway’s Derren Brown proves that he can create a predictable outcome, by having a group of people cheering and supporting the efforts of an individual. He then tries to claim it has no impact whatsoever, by suggesting that all you have to do is swap the middle prediction over, and place it to the front of the combination, and you’ll always succeed. I’m not an expert in probability and statistics, and believe there might be some mathematical basis for his predictions, but I’m not sure that I would necessarily discount a group effect. Especially in the light of Rupert Sheldrakes work on Morphogenetic fields, and how you can have ‘group’ effects.

Well, he then goes on to suggest the Wisdom of Crowds approach, after recalling the research that was done in early England, I think around 1906 perhaps.. It was a Sir Francis, of some sort, who basically collected the predictions from a contest where people had to guess the weight of a calf, the prize being that the one with the closes guess would win the cow. After the contest, he aggregated all the results, and then took the average, and found that the average of all the guesses, was closer to the real weight of the cow than any of the individual guesses. There’s a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, written by an excellent American, who’s name escapes me at present.. But I’ve read the book, and have been suitably impressed..

So much so, that I had a long time ago, thought about possibly trying to crowdsource people’s lottery predictions, to see if there might be some real substance to the idea.

Well, in any case, what Derren did was that he got a room of 24 people, who then each predicted what they thought would be the winning lottery numbers. Each one wrote them down, and then they were aggregated, and between them they got I think 1 number perhaps. Not much likelihood or probability there. Derren then attempted to create some synergy between the people, getting them to bond, and get along with each other, having them perform group activities, and work together, on tasks, as a group, to help them all get a little more familiar and comfortable with each other. Part of that was also to help them relax, and loosen, and get more comfy, and then collectively they would each be a little more receptive, and responsive. It’s common in acts of ‘telepathy’ or ‘clarivoyance’ that in order to get better results you need to be looser, relaxed, more chilled, calm, laid back, and not be tense. Or maybe he was just loosening them up to be more receptive to his subliminal suggestions. Who knows…

Anyways, after having them do a bunch of team building stuff, he got the group of people to then practice ‘automatic writing’ a process which helps to bypass the conscious mind and supposedly connects you directly to your subconscious.. It’s been suggested that people use automatic writing as a way of communicating with dead spirits and entities on the other side. I’d go so far as to say, that it allows you to connect with whatever it is that you’re connected to, be it yourself, or your higher self, or some other spirit entity or what have you.

Well, after getting everyone looser, getting people to use automatic writing to make their predictions, and getting the room of 24 people working as a team, he then had 6 people collect the results, and aggregate the predictions. As a room, they managed to predict 3 our of 6 numbers. It wasn’t a lottery win, but it was evidence of the potential in that room, and what could be accomplished. He then went, and the following week changed the process a little. He had one person aggregate the results, whilst the other 23 generated them. He then held off calculating the results, until after the lotter had occurred. It seems that might have helped, since they were upto 4 correct balls. Interestingly the last 4 at that. He then went and staked his reputation on the process, I think, if I’m not mistaken he did the aggregation, and averaging of the results himself, for the last time round, and then maintained complete secrecy around the results, until the moment of the draw. And then, he only revealed the numbers on public television, with a national audience of people watching him.

Personally I think the combination of people’s expectations, nationally watching him live, the synergy between the control group, and his skillful manipulation of people’s expectations, and anticipation for him to be right might have all contributed towards the final result.

But curious to know if we could just crowdsource accurate lotterey results, I’ve set up a blog post, and a form to capture people’s interest/attention with regard to entering a similar experiment, but perhaps on a larger scale? I don’t know.. To be honest, I’m just following my gut instincts for the moment. But I know that I’ve often wondered if you had a large enough group of people contribute to a genuine prediction for the lottery if it might be possible to crowdsource actual answers..

Depending on how the experiment goes, it may just.. I’ll keep you all posted, on my progress.. Especially if it does work. For now, if you’re interested in joining in, place you’re predictions here – http://bit.ly/8QYME