Does computer science make wonderful ‘Jeopardy!’ champs?

Succeeding as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” demands a breadth of understanding that spans from historic historical past to the newest pop tradition. Just one may possibly then feel that the greatest contestants would be these who have researched a broad assortment of subjects, masters of none whose college many years had been defined by a seize bag of liberal arts classes.

There have undoubtedly been countless “Jeopardy!” champions with liberal arts levels (Brad Rutter, Julia Collins and Matt Jackson arrive to brain), but it turns out that many of the show’s winningest champions, which include current champ Amy Schneider of Oakland, weren’t amassing abstruse elective credits in college but relatively finding out a matter that rarely comes into enjoy when standing on phase: computer system science.

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

Matt Amodio, who held the second-longest successful streak until finally Schneider surpassed him Monday evening, is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science from Yale College. Andrew He, a computer software engineer from San Francisco, won 5 straight game titles in November of 2021. Roger Craig, who held the best solitary-day winnings for just about 10 many years, has a Ph.D. in comp sci from University of Delaware. The man or woman who broke Craig’s report, James Holzhauer, didn’t examine CS, but his mathematics diploma is near plenty of to point out. 

And of program, Ken Jennings, winner of 74 consecutive matches and present host of the clearly show, labored as a program developer all through his epic streak.

Although correlation doesn’t necessarily signify causation, it’s a little something that lovers of the demonstrate have typically observed 


“It’s surely a little something that I have discovered,” says Andy Saunders, who runs the web page The Jeopardy Fan. “There’s two pros. From the computing and analytics side of points, if you look at clues and responses to be bits of facts, [computer engineers] are currently employed to processing big quantities of info. That can carry more than in terms of the very best way of betting, and where’s the Day by day Double possible to be, that in itself is kind of an gain a laptop individual would have when it comes to ‘Jeopardy!’”

“It’s also how an engineer’s brain will work,” he continues. “Often, engineers are quite curious about how things get the job done the way they do in the planet. That normal curiosity about the environment is well-suited to learning and appreciating information and facts in standard.” 

The way an engineering-minded brain normally looks to fully grasp the root of a issue might also give them an edge, because they’re not just remembering a discrete point but have created a series of connections that enhance likelihood of recall (this is also a vital to remembering world wide web passwords).

A different man or woman with some theories as to why laptop experts make this kind of normal champions is J. P. Allen, a College of San Francisco professor who holds a Ph.D. in laptop science and appeared in the “Jeopardy! Professors Event” in the slide.

“I really do not consider it is the written content of pc science,” says Allen. “There’s not that significantly personal computer science information on ‘Jeopardy!’ And you observed Matt Amodio overlook a dilemma about the Turing Award, which is form of the Nobel Prize of laptop or computer science, so it is not about that CS understanding.”

“The way they publish the clues, it’s form of a puzzle to address. It is not just fact remember always. For the reason that they give you a ton of small clues alongside the way. You can see it a ton extra with Matt Amodio, but also with Amy, they buzz in and then they consider they should really get it, and you see them for a second or two resolving the puzzle and figuring out the remedy fairly than just recalling it from their brain.”

Armando Fox, a CS professor at UC Berkeley who hasn’t but been on “Jeopardy!” but who did contend on a comparable trivia present in the 1990s termed “Win Ben Stein’s Cash,” agreed with Allen. 

“CS tends to bring in folks who take pleasure in deep diving into a issue. They get pleasure from holding a large amount of distinctive bits of information in their heads at the same time as they navigate how to address a challenging issue,” Fox points out. “I imagine all those exact same persons also get sucked into points like looking at. My colleagues in CS certainly have a examining variety that is extremely extensive, but it is also deep. They uncover anything they are fascinated in and go at it with laser concentrate.”

Fox went on to describe the huge amount of studying needed when looking into laptop or computer science subject areas. 

“You’re sort of constructing up this corpus of knowledge in your head, and at some position, you’re like, ‘Oh, people two parts could go jointly in that way. No one imagined of that.’ And that’s what I think computer system science typically is.”

Fox also astutely factors out that the cataloging of information and facts is 1 of the biggest simple applications of laptop science (Google states that its firm mission is to organize the world’s details). Moreover, Fox mentioned he feels that personal computer researchers are usually fighting towards sure stereotypes of currently being single-minded or detached from well-known tradition, foremost to an overcompensation.

“If you’re in a specialized subject, and you’re not culturally conversant with the highlights of historical past, of literature, of the high-quality arts, you are observed as a little something of a Philistine. You’re 1-dimensional, you’re fantastic at personal computers or math, but you are not perfectly-versed.” 

All a few experts experienced relatively potent theories as to why computer system science is this kind of a worthwhile skill in a Jeopardy player’s toolbox, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that liberal arts do not matter: The GOAT himself, Ken Jennings, retains each a computer system science and English degree.

According to Allen, that’s portion of what built Jennings, as effectively as Schneider (who has an considerable theater qualifications), these dominant champs.

“Jeopardy is generalist trivia, not professional trivia,” says Allen, “so the individuals who have mastered the two simple places, on 1 hand, math and logic, the figures, then on the other hand, something about the penned language, since wordplay is such a major part of  ‘Jeopardy!’ as effectively … I really feel like it is the killer mix.”




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