The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Jeopardy’

Prizes Make Books Less Popular, and Other News

February 21, 2014 | by




Art and Literature Are Teeming with Monsters, and Other News

January 3, 2014 | by

Bosch Hell

Art credit Hieronymus Bosch.



On the Shelf

November 9, 2011 | by

A cultural news roundup.
  • George Orwell, on food.
  • Frederick Seidel, on motorcycles.
  • Teenage Bronte, on the block.
  • New classics?
  • Overrated hacks?
  • Pippi, a racist?
  • The cult of Betsy-Tacy.
  • The Art of Protein Bars.
  • The Lego Bible.
  • The Jeopardy! Pyramid of Greatness.
  • The letters of Wodehouse: “Found in both his fiction and his letters, terms such as “posish,” “eggs and b,” and “f i h s” (“fiend in human shape”) create a clubby feeling of intimacy between writer and reader.” 
  • Journalism booms in Libya.
  • I’m scared of dying in the middle of a book. I leave notes out in my room so that if I die people know how to finish it.

    A Week in Culture: Tom Nissley, Writer and Game-Show Contestant, Part 2

    May 19, 2011 | by

    This is the second installment of Nissley’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.


    11:55 A.M. The pinnacle of my first day after I left my job in March was going to see a weekday matinee of The Fighter. I joked it would be matinees every day from then on, but I hadn’t indulged since, until today when my wife, Laura (who also works from home), and I play hooky at a noon show of The Lincoln Lawyer (H). We are two-thirds of the audience. As nice as it is to be out with my honey, and as indelible a spot Matthew McConaughey has in our hearts thanks to his early turn as Wooderson, The Lincoln Lawyer is no Fighter, sad to say. I go in hoping for an expert course in plot mechanics (a refresher I can always use), but feel instead like I am walking down the “Thriller” aisle at Plot Depot. A small prize, though: spotting a copy of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet on top of a stack in McConaughey’s nicely cluttered office (my eye always shoots to the bookshelves).

    5:30 P.M. I meet two newish friends, Maria and George, for a quick dinner before trivia night at the Washington Athletic Club. I think I had played pub trivia once (and lost) before going pro, and afterward, becoming a post-Jeopardy! ringer was the last thing I had in mind. But my friend Ryan made an offer I couldn’t refuse: joining him for trivia night with two transplants from LA I wanted to meet—Maria, a fellow novelist who used to write for, among other things, Arrested Development, and George, who seems too unassuming to enjoy being called legendary but what else can you say? Last month we trampled the competition, but tonight, in between talk about Ryan's and Maria’s upcoming novels, the pecking order at TED conferences (which may have inspired this), the Luna Park/Largo heyday of LA comedy, and even last month’s Paris Review Revel, where George and Maria got to talk to Terry Southern’s widow after seeing his papers at the New York Public Library, we finish second, which still pays for our drinks.

    9:40 P.M. Back at home, to the more orderly trivia territory of Jeopardy!, for the first half of the teachers’ final. Okay, Coryat of 37,600, but I need to read up on Biblical women, astronomy, and country music.

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    A Week in Culture: Tom Nissley, Writer and Game-Show Contestant

    May 18, 2011 | by


    I am, in theory, living the dream: I made a lot of money on a game show and quit my job to write. In December1, I won eight times on Jeopardy! and suddenly found myself the third-leading money winner in the history of the show (aside from tournaments and John Henry–style man-versus-machine battles). I left my job (as an editor on the Books store) in March, and ever since I’ve been trying to sort out how to get all the things done for which there still aren’t enough hours in the day: reading, working on a novel every day instead of once a week, blogging, umpiring Little League, writing another book that the world might want more than a weird novel about silent movies, saying hi to my wife more than I used to, and, crucially, preparing for the next Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, which hasn’t been announced yet and which I haven’t yet been invited to, though it seems like a safe bet. For better or worse (better!), being a game-show contestant is now one of my jobs.

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    1. Well, actually in September, but I had to keep quiet about it for three months until it aired.


    Brian Christian on ‘The Most Human Human’

    March 14, 2011 | by

    Photograph by Michael Langan.

    Brian Christian, who studied computer science, philosophy, and poetry, has just published his first book, The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive. Recently, he answered my questions about the Turing test, online romance, and conversation fillers.

    Your new book has an odd but intriguing title: The Most Human Human. Can you explain what it means?

    The Most Human Human is an award given out each year at the Loebner Prize, the artificial intelligence (AI) community’s most controversial and anticipated annual competition. The event is what’s called a Turing test, in which a panel of judges conducts a series of five-minute-long chat conversations over a computer with a series of real people and with a series of computer programs pretending to be people by mimicking human responses. The catch, of course, is that the judges don’t know at the start who’s who, and it’s their job in five minutes of conversation to try to find out.

    Each year, the program that does the best job of persuading the judges that it’s human wins the Most Human Computer award and a small research grant for its programmers. But there’s also an award, strangely enough, for the human who does the best job of swaying the judges: the Most Human Human award.

    British mathematician Alan Turing famously predicted in 1950 that computers would be passing the Turing test—that is, consistently fooling judges at least 30 percent of the time and as a result, generally considered to be intelligent in the human sense—by the year 2000. This prediction didn’t come to pass, but I was riveted to read that, in 2008, the computers came up shy of that mark by just a single vote. I decided to call up the test’s organizers and get involved in the 2009 contest as one of the human “confederates”—which meant I was both a part of the human “defense,” trying to prevent the machines from passing the test, and also vying with my fellow confederates for that intriguing Most Human Human award. The book tells the story of my attempt to prepare, as well as I could, for that role: What exactly does it mean to “act as human as possible” in a Turing test? And what does it mean in life?

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