Technology doesn’t always make our world a better place. Sure, thanks to the web, powerful search engines and devices like smart phones, a world of knowledge is at our fingertips any time of the day. But this has resulted in the near-death of the traditional pub quiz and I ask you if that is a price worth paying. OK, it might be but I’m here to tell you that we needn’t pay it! The pub quiz can live on and I’m going to show you how. For all their impressive capabilities, search engines today are still only dumb robots that basically work by trying to match a search query with the same textual phrases on the internet. They can’t (yet) very well understand the meaning of words and phrases, pictures, music or video. As such, there are a group of question types that they can’t handle. Here’s my guide to those question types with an example of each. Use them to create your own quizzes and have a go at answering my questions. Stick your answers in the comments section. Some are easy, some are hard. You can try Googling, of course but it won’t help you. 1. What Links? Contestants have to identify a common link between a series of names, places, words, numbers, whatever… Search engines can’t compute the myriad possible ways these things might be linked. Q1. What links: Daft Punk, Buster Rhymes, Kanye West and Alice in Chains? 2. The Odd One Out A cousin of What Links? and favourite round in Have I Got News For You, contestants have to identify a common theme in a series of names, places etc and find the one that doesn’t fit the pattern. Q2. Name the odd one out: Vinnie Jones, Julio Iglesias, Gordon Ramsey and Jason Statham. 3. The Next in a Sequence Another list that requires the contestant to first understand the relationship of the items before working out what the next in the sequence should be. Warning: this becomes Googleable once the relationship has been worked out. Q3. What comes next? Russia, Germany, Turkey, France, ? 4. What is More Likely? Questions on statistical probabilities are very hard for most search engines to understand, although Wolfram Alpha is gradually getting there. Other search engines will struggle to even realise they are being asked a mathematical question unless it is presented as an equation. It is technically possible to use search engines to find information to help you get to the answer but it wouldn’t be practical in most pub quiz situations. Q4. What is more likely if you live in the UK: being hit by lightning or dying in a plane crash? 5. Logic Puzzles There is no current way for a search engine to understand logic so these are very safe questions for quizzes. Q5. On a game show there are 3 doors with a prize behind 1 of them. The contestant must pick only 1 door which he does. The door remains closed but the show host opens 1 of the other doors to reveal it empty. He now offers the contestant the chance of staying with his original choice or switching to the other door. What should the contestant do to provide the best chance of winning the prize? 6. Media Identification Be careful here. Google Goggles and Shazam are 2 mobile apps that use image and audio recognition software to identify media. To combat this, distort your media in some way by adding noise or reproducing it in a different way from the original form. Q6. Name these movie posters:
7. Word Puzzles A merging of the logic puzzles and perhaps images, these can include the Dingbat-style word puzzles but also the likes of word searches, crossword clues and riddles. Q7. Name the phrase: HAVEHAVE + HOLDHOLD As I mentioned, if you think you know the answers, stick them in the comments below and I’ll provide answers next week. The rate of advancement in search engine technology and artificial intelligence means that these questions will probably be answerable by robots within the next few decades. I promise to write another blog post about beating the search engines then.