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Ed Wood (3) vs. Alan Turing (2); Levi-Strauss advances

I was going to call yesterday‘s match for Leonardo, based on Tom’s comment:

I’ve been wondering how often a weak player / team gets to a final because they mostly come across weaker opposition and get a bit of luck.

I think that Leonardo is the type of guy who could invent a remarkable device that might help answer that sort of question (some sort of mechanical Monte Carlo device).

That would indeed be cool, to see Leo go meta on us. But then I was thinking: if we really want a meta-style talk, who better than the great structuralist, a man who, despite being in the French Philosophers category, was apparently a really thoughtful guy. So, Tom’s argument rebounds to Levi-Strauss’s benefit.

And today’s second-round matchup features the director of the worst movie of all time, vs. the inventor of computer science.

What I want to see is a robot that can beat Turing at round-the-house chess. It’s gotta be able to run and play.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I vote against Turing — he might just send a computer pretending to be him, and no one would be able to tell the difference.

  2. Tom says:

    Well – according to wikipedia Turing invented chess playing software for which no computer was powerful to implement, so he would play people going through the calculations manually. He was also apparently a good runner – only just shy of times that got an olympic marathon silver medal. So – round the house chess could indeed be interesting.

    None of this is why I want to see Turing. There are few parts of life that are now untouched by Turing machines, and I would like to know if Turing could possibly have imagined how people would otherwise have shared pictures of cats doing ‘cute’ things….

  3. Adam says:

    Alan Turing liked to bathe (as in swim in the sea) in the nude. That makes him a winner in my book.

  4. Dan says:

    Ed Wood is the clear winner for two reasons:
    – Allen Turing never produced an octopus scene this realistic:
    – Biopic transitivity: Ed Wood = Johnny Depp = Hunter S. Thompson > Julian Assange = Benjamin Cumberbatch = Allen Turing

  5. Chris says:

    Ed Wood had a keen appreciation for the difficulties associated with drawing an audience, which might make him much easier to work with from an administrative standpoint. Toward that end, he’d probably be willing to drag Bela Lugosi along (dead or alive, depending on what the competition’s rules permit) for a guest appearance. So even if the talk is terrible, we’ll be able to put Dracula on the poster.

  6. Keith O'Rourke says:

    > Claude who? !!!!
    What, OK I have been distracted by active realism, but

    But, listen to someone (sorry Bob), he is the only one who makes sense around this insane asylum.

  7. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Ed Wood = Odd Woe
    Alan Turing = Urinal Tang
    You make the call.

  8. zbicyclist says:

    Ed Wood’s best thoughts are probably on the screen.

    Turing’s likely aren’t. Imagine the 1954 Turing speaking on the future of computer science as if it was 1954. Would he have been as wrong as most everybody else?

    • Andrew says:

      Uh oh. If Ed Wood’s best thoughts are on the screen, that’s bad news!

      Regarding Turing, we could ask him about that 1950 quote about ESP. But his response would probably be disappointing. For that matter, Daniel Kahneman is alive and I know several people who know him well, so I could probably directly ask him about his 2011 quote. But I’m kind of afraid to send Kahneman that email, I’m worried he’d feel like I’m harassing him. I’m sure it wouldn’t be as bad as my experiences with David Brooks and Ron Unz, but still.

  9. Ethan Bolker says:

    I’ve been intrigued for a while about this story – Gleason was my thesis advisor.

    Turing and Andy Gleason were talking over lunch in Washington DC during the war – maybe about the problem of estimating the total number of taxicabs when you’d observed a few and recorded their (known to be sequentially assigned) license numbers. When a patron overheard the conversation and indicated that he was worried that secret stuff was being discussed Turing suggested continuing the conversation in German …

    (Paraphrased from Hodges’ book –

    I’d like the chance to ask about it. Did it happen that way? Was that the problem they were discussing? What solution did they come to?

    Note: it’s hard to find new winning arguments when the best ones have come up in earlier rounds. And I can’t push the Stan button for a third time …

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