Friday, February 23, 2024

theory in practice

So I've been watching, on YouTube, early episodes of the BBC quiz show Only Connect, which I'd long avoided because I hate the title. In practice it's strangely hypnotic. Its aim is to test both knowledge (over a broad field from academic and technical to British pop culture) and imagination. No one person is expected to display this; it's played in teams of three. I get the answers a lot less often that the teams do, but often enough that I could imagine myself being on a team, and every once in a while I get the answer faster than the teams do.

My favorite of its quizzes is the one where you're given up to three clues and have to guess what the fourth in the series is. Extra points if you guess the fourth after only two or (very rarely) one. (One case where they got it after one was where the one was the text of a 401 web error code and a contestant guessed very reasonably that the fourth would be the classic 404.) Some of the ones that I had no trouble guessing right faster than the teams did, and after only two clues, were
  1. Alexander the Great
  2. Aristotle
  1. Victoria
  2. Edmonton
  1. Ares
  2. Gaia
But my absolute favorite was the one which read
  1. Fear
  2. Surprise
The team given this was absolutely stumped. They were imagining something akin to the Five Stages of Grief (which has also been used in this quiz segment). Meanwhile the other team was chomping at the bit to answer it, and so was I. We knew that the fourth in that sequence is "devotion to the Pope," because "fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope" are the chief weapons - pardon, amongst our weaponry - of the Spanish Inquisition in the Monty Python sketch.

And this comes to mind because I was reading Ada Palmer's wise essay about censorship. And yes, she mentions the Spanish Inquisition. Amongst the article's weaponry is the point that censorship doesn't have to be formally conducted by governments. They can lure people into censoring themselves, and their chief weapons for doing this are described as
  1. fear
  2. deliberate unpredictability (i.e. surprise)
So you can see that, silly as Monty Python is, it's based on reality.

Answers to the unanswered quiz items above. Remember we want the fourth in the sequence.
1. Socrates (each was taught by the next).
2. Winnipeg (Canadian provincial capitals from west to east).
3. Hermes (planet names, inbound, in Greek).

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