Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2005

20 Questions

Alex Tabarrok, at Marginal Revolution, posted on Friday about the development and background of a captivating little toy called "20Q", an electronic artificial intelligence version of of the game, 20 questions. I was so intrigued, I went to to order one. Their price was $13+. Then I checked Wal-Mart; their price was under $11. These are U.S. prices, and there would be shipping plus, possibly, a customs hassle. So I decided to wait.

As coincidence would have it, on Friday evening, while Ms. Eclectic was shopping for some fabric before we attended a jazz concert, I wandered through a Giant Tiger ["We smell like plasticized rubber because that's mostly what we sell."], and to my joy found a 20Q there for under $15 Cdn, so I bought one.

For my first try with it, I took, "Our family's minivan". After 20 questions, the toy guessed "a van". Pretty damned good. And a little freaky.

It failed the next test, though. A Tim Horton's donut.

Overall, a 20Q is a neat toy, providing hours of fun; for lots of laughs, try it out with genitalia. There's a new version coming out in August that will be easier to read and to use in a group; I'm guessing its artificial intelligence will have been honed a bit since then, too. But the current version is enough fun that it's worth the price.

Update: Rodney Hide, New Zealand MP and leader of its ACT party, linked to this post. Be sure to check out some of the fun comments added by readers there, especially #9: "I am thinking of the Labour Party".

Update #2: Thaddeus, in the comments, mentions the website for 20Q. I just tried it, and I'm very impressed. It is much slicker, quicker, and easier to use than the hand-held game. It is more detailed, and the feedback is fascinating.
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