To peer into the future of magic, it helps to start by looking at its past. If I were to perform for you the first known card trick to have been written down, it would be very likely to fool you just as it fooled audiences in Italy in 1478. The techniques behind it are still used today. Magicians have a long and secret history of preserving our best methods. But great magic requires more than merely mastering the mechanics. It requires mastering the audience.
Take Harry Houdini. A century ago onlookers were gripped by the sight of a man in a straitjacket dangling from a skyscraper. Houdini’s escape act was brand new and thrilling, allowing his name to become synonymous with achieving the impossible. It was an innovative performance, but not the product of new technology. Instead, Houdini engaged his audience emotionally, by playing to their hopes and fears. That is why it worked so well. … Continued at the Economist.