Last month, The New Yorker had a fascinating profile of a man named Apollo Robbins, who may be the world’s best pickpocket:
In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend, though he largely remains, as the magician Paul Harris told me, “the best-kept secret in town.” His talent, however, has started gaining notice further afield. Recently, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military have studied his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention. Teller, a good friend of Robbins’s, believes that widespread recognition is only a matter of time. “The popularity of crime as a sort of romantic thing in America is profoundly significant, and Apollo is tapping into that,” he told me. “If you think about it, magic itself has many of the hallmarks of criminal activity: You lie, you cheat, you try not to get caught—but it’s on a stage, it has a proscenium around it. When Apollo walks onstage, there’s a sense that he might have one foot outside the proscenium. He takes a low crime and turns it into an art form.”
The story really stuck with me, and this video on The New Yorker‘s blog brought it up to the forefront of my thoughts again. It’s amazing to watch Apollo at work, and just a little bit scary that we offer up so many little opportunities to be duped in the course of a conversation.