Thursday, April 13, 2006

A futurist form of trivia, from the past

While I greatly enjoy trivia, the futurist in me can't help but be drawn to a whole different kind of trivia that might be, in today's world, a more meaningful measure of mastery of knowledge and facts.

Consider the concept of the transhumanist singularity. Put very simply, the idea is, if someday we can make an intelligence which is as general-purpose as a human mind, but more powerful, smarter, than any human mind, that moment when we achieve that is a sort of singularity in history -- a point where everything before it, and everything after it, are separated by a fundamental turning point. Why? Because once you have this, then there's no reason why it can't create an even greater intelligence, leading to a snowball effect.

(I'm vastly oversimplifying and picking out the bits of the idea I need to make my analogy, but you can find more about the transhuman singularity if you're interested. I recommend the original article by Vernor Vinge that started the concept. I'll talk about this in some unspecified future blog article about transhumanism.)

Anyway, the interesting thing is, in a sense, you could argue we have already reached this point. How? Don't look at a person or a computer, but look at the system formed by a team of one smart, well-educated human with good Google Fu, and one computer with fast Internet access and a good selection of search engines and research tools. I and my computer together form a being which is smarter than any human, in a very real and measurable way, right now.

So wouldn't it make sense to invent a new form of trivia that tested that kind of being? And in fact, I have a hazy memory from the misty past on the border between Gopherspace and the Web, in which someone regularly posted a collection of trivia questions whose answers almost no one would know, but that anyone with sufficient Internet research skills could find out. (This in the days before Yahoo, let alone AltaVista, let alone Google.)

I would like to see something like that done today, adjusted to be better suited to the ubiquity of Google. In fact, I'd like to do it, if I had some spare time to do it with. I could see speed questions that could be found in a single search with Google with wisely-chosen search terms, and more challenging, less speed-driven questions that would take a while to find out, to really stretch the Google Fu muscles.

Someone take up the challenge of making that challenge for me. What a great use for a blog, in fact.

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