Friday, January 16, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Other

Steph and I were playing with one of these tonight. Before you give me crap, she had jet lag and I'm a little sick. So anyway, it's a twenty questions game, where you think of something and the computer asks questions until it narrows its options down to one. 

I couldn't stop analyzing each question's word choice. With "Do you pay to use it?" I got hung up on whether the computer was trying to figure out if it was something you rented, or whether any money was exchanged at all (as in a purchase) for the privilege of using it.

Stephanie, on the other hand--ever the statistician (she's done like a zillion hours of data collecting, and yes, that's a true statistic)--was quick and confident with her answers. From the start, she'd have the answer I'd eventually arrive at. In this, I think there's some example of Gladwell's book Blink.

But back to the game. It's pretty amazing. It guessed "pomegranate" after eleven questions. And "flip-flop" after fifteen (and one incorrect guess of "brassiere."). We stumped it on "lantern," though, when the computer really wanted it to be a bottle of vodka.

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