November 28, 2023

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Does computer science make great ‘Jeopardy!’ champs?

5 min read

Succeeding as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” calls for a breadth of information that spans from ancient historical past to the latest pop society. 1 may possibly then consider that the best contestants would be those who have studied a large range of topics, masters of none whose college or university decades were being described by a seize bag of liberal arts classes.

There have definitely been many “Jeopardy!” champions with liberal arts degrees (Brad Rutter, Julia Collins and Matt Jackson occur to mind), but it turns out that a lot of of the show’s winningest champions, like present-day champ Amy Schneider of Oakland, weren’t accumulating abstruse elective credits in university but fairly studying a subject that seldom will come into perform when standing on phase: laptop or computer science.

In addition to Schneider (who explained to SFGATE in November that she’d just switched back from a managerial place to writing code), the record of CS champions is long and distinguished.

Matt Amodio, who held the next-longest profitable streak right until Schneider surpassed him Monday night time, is pursuing a Ph.D. in pc science from Yale University. Andrew He, a software engineer from San Francisco, received five straight game titles in November of 2021. Roger Craig, who held the maximum solitary-day winnings for virtually 10 years, has a Ph.D. in comp sci from College of Delaware. The man or woman who broke Craig’s history, James Holzhauer, didn’t analyze CS, but his arithmetic diploma is shut more than enough to point out. 

And of program, Ken Jennings, winner of 74 consecutive matches and latest host of the demonstrate, worked as a application developer during his epic streak.

Though correlation does not necessarily suggest causation, it’s a little something that supporters of the show have often observed 

“It’s definitely a thing that I have recognized,” claims Andy Saunders, who runs the web page The Jeopardy Enthusiast. “There’s two benefits. From the computing and analytics facet of factors, if you take into account clues and responses to be bits of information, [computer engineers] are now utilised to processing massive quantities of info. That can carry above in terms of the finest way of betting, and where’s the Each day Double most likely to be, that in by itself is kind of an gain a computer system human being would have when it will come to ‘Jeopardy!’”

“It’s also how an engineer’s brain is effective,” he continues. “Often, engineers are incredibly curious about how items perform the way they do in the globe. That purely natural curiosity about the entire world is well-suited to mastering and appreciating info in standard.” 

The way an engineering-minded mind often seems to be to comprehend the root of a dilemma could also give them an edge, considering the fact that they are not just remembering a discrete fact but have made a sequence of connections that increase probability of recall (this is also a critical to remembering world-wide-web passwords).

An additional human being with some theories as to why computer researchers make this sort of natural champions is J. P. Allen, a University of San Francisco professor who holds a Ph.D. in laptop science and appeared in the “Jeopardy! Professors Match” in the tumble.

“I don’t think it is the material of laptop science,” claims Allen. “There’s not that considerably personal computer science material on ‘Jeopardy!’ And you noticed Matt Amodio pass up a problem about the Turing Award, which is type of the Nobel Prize of laptop science, so it is not about that CS understanding.”

“The way they generate the clues, it is type of a puzzle to remedy. It is not just point remember automatically. Since they give you a ton of tiny clues together the way. You can see it a ton more with Matt Amodio, but also with Amy, they buzz in and then they believe they really should get it, and you see them for a second or two fixing the puzzle and figuring out the answer somewhat than just recalling it from their mind.”

Armando Fox, a CS professor at UC Berkeley who has not nevertheless been on “Jeopardy!” but who did contend on a comparable trivia demonstrate in the 1990s named “Win Ben Stein’s Funds,” agreed with Allen. 

“CS tends to bring in men and women who enjoy deep diving into a issue. They enjoy preserving a ton of different bits of details in their heads at the same time as they navigate how to fix a challenging problem,” Fox factors out. “I assume people exact persons also get sucked into issues like reading. My colleagues in CS certainly have a reading variety which is incredibly vast, but it is also deep. They find one thing they’re fascinated in and go at it with laser emphasis.”

Fox went on to describe the immense amount of studying required when researching computer system science subject areas. 

“You’re type of building up this corpus of information in your head, and at some stage, you’re like, ‘Oh, people two items could go alongside one another in that way. No person imagined of that.’ And that is what I think laptop or computer science mainly is.”

Fox also astutely details out that the cataloging of information is one of the greatest practical apps of personal computer science (Google states that its company mission is to manage the world’s information). On top of that, Fox stated he feels that laptop scientists are generally preventing in opposition to specific stereotypes of currently being one-minded or detached from well-known tradition, primary to an overcompensation.

“If you’re in a complex industry, and you are not culturally conversant with the highlights of history, of literature, of the fine arts, you are viewed as some thing of a Philistine. You are one particular-dimensional, you’re great at pcs or math, but you’re not perfectly-versed.” 

All 3 industry experts had pretty potent theories as to why personal computer science is this kind of a worthwhile talent in a Jeopardy player’s toolbox, but it doesn’t suggest that liberal arts never subject: The GOAT himself, Ken Jennings, retains both equally a computer science and English diploma.

According to Allen, that is portion of what produced Jennings, as nicely as Schneider (who has an substantial theater qualifications), this sort of dominant champs.

“Jeopardy is generalist trivia, not specialist trivia,” states Allen, “so the individuals who have mastered the two essential spots, on 1 hand, math and logic, the quantities, then on the other hand, one thing about the written language, considering that wordplay is these a big part of  ‘Jeopardy!’ as well … I really feel like it is the killer blend.”

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