Magic, Technology, & David Copperfield

Posted by Jonathan Bayme on 23 August 2013


David Copperfield was featured this week on Google Ventures web series: Foundation, hosted by Kevin Rose. The episode explores the relationship, past and present, between magic and technology.

In the episode, Copperfield explores how magic and technology work together. It's a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of David Copperfield: the highest grossing solo entertainer of all time. Watch it now on TechCrunch.

Magic and technology have a very close relationship - one informs and inspires the other, and it’s been that way for a long time. One of the first magic books ever written was by Luca Pacioli in the 1400’s. Pacioli was a close friend of Leonardo da Vinci, and among art, science, and sculpture, these guys were creating magic.

Why? Magic and technology are one. As long as there are things we cannot do, magicians will find a way to apparently do those things.

Writers, filmmakers, and magicians all have the power and ability to demonstrate things today that may not be possible until tomorrow. As a writer, your only restrictions are the limits of your imagination. I can write “this morning, I was driving a car that was powered by grape juice.” And because I wrote it - that now exists. As a filmmaker, it’s a little more difficult - you not only have to say it, you have to show it - on screen. In Avatar, James Cameron created this entire, beautiful world - so it’s certainly possible, but it’s not easy. As a magician, we have to do all of those things - but it has to look real - and feel real.

Magicians are often the first to adopt and create new technology. In France, a stage magician named Georges Méliès became one of the first pioneers of modern cinema. Méliès created over 500 films and among the first special effects - ever. By accident! The camera jammed, and he thought “wow, that was pretty cool.” The 2011 movie “Hugo” is based on Méliès.

We're all here, now, standing at point A. And we're trying to envision, imagine, and create something that doesn't exist - at point B. Whether you're doing that on stage, on screen, on the internet, or in an Apple Store - that's just dreaming. A magician - in finest form - has the responsibility of a visionary, finding a way to make something possible even when science, physics, or society says it isn't.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela