Friday, January 25, 2008

The Book of Heroic Failures

Yes, as several of my readers have noticed, the Daily Mail finally picked up on the man versus monkey memory marvel and ran an article about it today. Channel 5 were supposed to be calling me to get a couple of soundbites to give to them, but either they didn't bother in the end or they didn't manage to catch up with me, so they just used snippets from next Tuesday's documentary. And the Sun ran a similar story by copying what the Mail had written, changing it slightly and passing it off as an original scoop. This is exactly the same thing that they did with an article about me and the world championships last year - I suspect that the Sun no longer employs any actual journalists.

Anyway, this has in turn piqued the interest of Richard and Judy, one of whose minions phoned me this afternoon to say they're thinking of previewing the documentary on next Tuesday's show, and might want me to come on and talk about it. This is interesting, because years ago, when I won the world memory championship, Richard and Judy made noises about wanting to talk to me and then eventually decided against it (possibly bumping me in favour of Aubrey, who was on the show around that time). If they do decide to put me on the show this time round, it will clearly show that losing a rigged contest of short-term memory against a chimpanzee is a much more impressive feat than winning a gruelling three-day memory competition against the rest of the world.

The funny thing is that I find myself making excuses about how I could have done as well as or better than Ayumu in the memory test if I hadn't been doing it for the first time in my life, and if we hadn't been using a flawed program where my hand obscured the numbers because the start button was in the middle of the screen, but when I'm thinking or saying all this, I completely forget that the opponent I'm talking about isn't even human. It's like, say, Daniel Tammet performing some memory feat and claiming that makes him the best in the world - my instinctive reaction is to acknowledge that Ayumu has done something impressive, but assert that I could do the same thing with a bit of work. I'm seeing him as a rival rather than an educated ape, and that really is pretty darn cool.

I look forward to the day when the world memory championship is contested by representatives of multiple species.

13 comments:

Ian said...

I read your article in the Daily Express! Seems you featured in a few papers today! Brilliant. Looking forward to seeing you on the telly again!

Anonymous said...

That show will be on at the same time as Batman versus The Bookworm on BBC4 (another enemy I have never heard of, like King Tut).

Zoomy said...

King Tut was in lots of episodes, though I'm not sure that he ever appeared in the comics. The Bookworm was one of the lame one-off villains, although he was played by Roddy McDowell - star of Planet Of The Apes. Real monkey theme on TV next Tuesday evening!

Anonymous said...

And Roddy McDowall plays The Bookworm... and was a chimpanzee in Planet Of The Apes. I love it when a plan comes together.

Anonymous said...

Ah you just beat me to it.

Zoomy said...

I may not be able to beat a chimp in a contest of speed, but I can still beat a chimp-comment-posting anonymouse!

Anonymous said...

Could be a possibility - a wolf often represents France in the World Othello Championships, lol.

SamT said...

Hold on Richards and Judy?
Now if it was Paul OGrady and Buster.... lol.
Oh I suppose the idea of a monkey vs a human appeals to the dim wit called Richard. You'd not get a word in with him being an expert on all things. But if you are going on let us know so we can try and see you!!

Anonymous said...

I'm the chimpion! Ape trounces the best of the human world in memory competition. -by FIONA MACRAE

David said...

Well Richard and Judy know all about rigged contests, don't forget so they're bound to be interested!

Anonymous said...

Only Cat Woman can save this blog from the Anonymice.

CVDK said...

Hi Ben.
I'm wondering how this test you did against Ayumu was done. Was it only the 5 digits or the full 9 digits? There seeems to be several stories about what Ayumu can do.

Personally I've tried two versions of the test, the flash version of lumosity with 5 digits which was relatively easy to pass, after a few attempts. I've also tried another test in our local zoo in Copenhagen. This test features 5, 7, and 9 digits shown for a split second, I'm not sure how long exactly. I tried the hardest test with 9 digits and managed to complete the test in my second attempt. The computer responded with incredible but I'm not sure how incredible that really is. I mean when I can do it, I guess a lot of other people should be able to do it as well.

Best regards
Christian

Zoomy said...

As far as I can remember, all nine digits. Although the screen was set up so that I had to touch the centre of it to start the test, meaning my arm obscured some of the screen - that's my excuse, anyway!