Seedling: Blow Up My Phone


This is, at the moment, a very small idea. Consider it a brainstorming session.

It was inspired by something Joe Mckay sent me in an email which was, in turn, inspired by a Paul Gertner idea. Both Joe’s and Paul’s ideas were more for a stage scenario and intended as something of a marketing tool. My idea is for casual situations when you’re in a small group (although I guess I could see something like it being used in a formal show) and it’s just a straight-up trick.

The ideas I have so far in relation to this concept aren’t very good. I’ve only been thinking about it for two days. Usually I need to sit on something for a few weeks or months or more if I’m going to come up with anything particularly clever. But I have a feeling that something good might come out of this eventually so I thought it could be interesting to explain the basic idea now and then we can revisit it at some point down the road, if I come up with any good ideas utilizing this concept. And certainly if you come up with some variation on this that you’d like to share, feel free to send it my way.

Here’s the idea. I’ll explain it with a nail-writer prediction of a two digit number, but it can be applied to other types of effects too. So, typically you would ask one person to think of a two digit number and then you would reveal it’s the number you wrote down.

Instead, let’s assume you’re with a group of five or six people. You ask all of them to think of a two-digit number. You write something down. You have them go to their phones and open up their text messaging app to send you a message. You have them each put their two digit number in the message field and you tell them to all hit send simultaneously when you say “Now.” Whatever number gets to your phone first is the number you’ve predicted.

Is this just a needlessly complicated way of predicting something? That’s what I’m kind of wondering. It could be. But I think it has a few benefits:

  1. It eliminates the excuse that, “I guess everybody thinks of the same number,” since you had five people and they all sent you different numbers.

  2. It adds a layer of impossibility which is something I’m all for. It’s one thing to read someone’s mind. But for this version to work you would have to… what… read everyone’s mind? And have some idea of their reaction time when hitting the send button. And know something about the way different phone networks connect to yours and the priority given to messages or something? I don’t know.

  3. It gets other information in play which could be useful in a follow up effect.

Let’s think about that last point.

Imagine you were doing this with cards. “Everyone think of a card and text it to me simultaneously… Look, the card that came to me first is the one card that’s in my wallet.” Then, at a later point, you could have a deck cut into four and it’s found the deck has been cut to the other four cards. That’s how you might do it with two unrelated effects.

Or you could have everyone send you a number between 1 and 10 and a playing card. The first card to get through is your target card and you add up the other numbers people sent to find its location in the deck. So it’s just a presentation for ACAAN that seemingly involves the whole group on a small level.

Or if you’re doing it with just numbers, you could predict the first number that comes to you and then the other numbers could be added together and that number could be… something. I’m not sure what. Another prediction? There’s probably something better than that. Same thing with words. You predict the first one, but then it turns out the other ones are all… again… I have no clue. As I said, this idea is in its earliest stages.

I never wear an apple watch, but I do have one and I sometimes just finger-palm the face of the watch and use it to peek stuff. I’m wondering if the notifications on the apple watch are definitely in sync with those on your phone. Assuming you have five people sending you a text simultaneously. Can you be sure that the first notification you get on your phone is the same as the first one you’ll get in your watch? I may have to test that.

There are probably technological things you could do to your phone that might work with this premise. There may be a way to bias your phone towards certain phone-numbers, so you could actually know which person will get through first.

If you knew who would get through first, there are other things you could do. For example you could combine this with Phill Smith’s Quinta. Everyone texts you a single digit number. You predict whose number will get through first, you predict the number that person would think of, and the other people’s numbers—when added together—lead to that person when you count back and forth along the row of your spectators.

Again, these ideas are all at the early-early stages. It will be some time before they germinate into something good. And that will likely be a the point where the idea meshes with a broader presentation, probably something beyond just predicting things. We’ll see. If something interesting comes of this, I’ll update you.