I watched most of Trick or Treat, season 2 last night. (Not the finalé.)

One of the things Derren Brown accomplished was a teaching some guy techniques for memorization, "speed-reading*" and information recall.

After a week, he entered the guy in a pub-trivia contest. He came in second. (Well: there was a tie for first, so technically he had the third best score). ...This was out of a group of, if I recall, 34.

Mind you, the other episodes were awesome as well ("remembering the past (1940)" and "predicting the future"--which was quite cool because he did it with Dr. Who; forcing a girl to kill a kitten; turning a wimp into a hero; and tying up a girl, putting her in a bag, and dumping her in a lake: she escapes on her own, using skills** he teaches her). But it was the trivia episode that struck me hardest. I actually lost some sleep this morning thinking about it. : )

I've read his book. I know his memorization techniques. ...But he didn't really talk about this level of stuff. The guy he used for this wasn't "reading" and had no conscious idea of what he had accomplished. For all he knew, he was simply "looking at the pages" of several thousand (!!) books. But when anyone asked him a question from the books (how many species of hummingbirds are there in the Amazon rainforest?), he would just squint for a few seconds, make a guess without knowing why he made it (316), and get it right. Almost all the time!

Brown makes the point that this is only useful in the very-short term (the guy was looking at the books for a week, then immediately did his pub-trivia thing)... but even still, the very idea that this is possible excites me.

Part of me is embarrassed to write about this. It's very difficult to believe. This is the stuff that skeptics like to point to and say "totally fake". ...And Brown was certainly leaving out a lot of his techniques. But it really does seem to me that he took a guy who claimed to have a bad memory, had him look at books for a week while learning some techniques for recall, and made him come out of it with enough information to be in the top 10% of a tough-looking pup trivia.

Mind you: I don't want to learn trivia.

But I sure would like to learn programming languages, real languages, art and role-playing. ...And I wonder what further mnemonic techniques I could pick up to help those pursuits.

And just in case it wasn't clear: Derren Brown is totally my hero. : )

* Technically, he wasn't reading. Just looking.
** Holding her breath for over 1:30, untying knots, and escaping from a bag (she had the key in the bag)... oh, and endurance training (marine corps stuff) and puzzle-solving in general.

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