Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


20Q: Emergent Databases

20q.jpg20Q is a website and now a handheld electronic toy that plays 20 questions. But the web site doesn’t just play 20 questions, it learns as it goes. It decides which questions are good, and which questions are bad.

Alex Tabarrok writes on Marginal Revolution:

I was skeptical when my wife handed me a small plastic toy saying, “think of something, after twenty questions it will guess.” But twenty questions later it answered correctly. Weird and a little freaky.
[And then quotes Kevin Kelley:

The toy is remarkable. Because it is so small, so autonomous, its intelligence is shocking to the unprepared. Most children can’t stump it, and if you stick to objects it will stump smart adults about 80% of the time with 20 questions and most of the time with an additional 5 questions. I love to watch people’s reactions when they think of a “hard” thing, and after a seemingly irrational set of questions you are convinced are dumb, the sly ball tells you what you had in mind….

The perfect gift for anyone who believes in Intelligent Design.