Okay, so I must be easily impressed. From this post on Boing Boing I found the 20Q.net site and began trying to stump the system. I can’t do it. No wonder; the guy that created the neural net (a type of artificial intelligence software) started it back in 1988, and it’s been “learning” ever since, entirely by people playing 20 questions with it. Crazy.
I remember having a 20 questions “A.I.” game that came with the Logo programming language for the Commodore 64 (way back in the day). Same deal, it was preprogrammed with maybe three items, but as you played it, it remembered every new item you fed it and got “smarter” each time it played. The only drawback was that on a Commodore, you couldn’t really save the state of the program, so it would “forget” everything each time you started it up.
Funny part is, I remember the first time I played it, I figured I’d stump it with “ostrich.” I just about fell out of the chair when, after about five questions, it says, “Are you thinking of an ostrich?” I was hooked, but ultimately didn’t fully capitalize on that for another few years… at the time, I simply considered it to be an exotic toy. Now I write software for a living. Go figure.