Thursday 25 May 2017

North Sporclea

Before Dau.II left home 4 years ago when she was almost 18, she spent days on the sofa watching boxed-sets and doing quizzes on Sporcle. It was her last ditch attempt to learn some stuff before she enrolled full time in U.Life. Ask her now and it's a racing certainty that she'll be able to tell you the capital city of any country on this planet. She could also point to almost all of them on a map. Maybe she is an idiot savant about geography; it's true that she was at a much younger age able to identify the counties of Ireland (we had a jigsaw puzzle) by their silhouette either in forward or reverse mode.  But I suspect it's just that she had the curiosity to find out and the ability to retain the information once she had discovered it.

It turns out this is a rarer quality that you might think. So rare indeed that you might be worried about just how plug ignorant [= uncurious, complacent] that most people are. After a lot of recent news coverage about North Korea - one of the legs of the Axis of Evil if you can remember back to George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union address - and nuclear missiles, someone asked 1700 US citizens to point to North Korea on a map of the world. Only 36% of adults could do this correctly. The odds were better if the respondent was a man; over 65; having a post-grad degree; knew any Koreans; or had travelled outside of the USA. If this doesn't depress you too much you can check out how well the knowledge of where is N.Korea agrees with how much the people favoured sending in troops or air-strikes against Pyongyang - that's the Capital of the country.

If you like geotrivia, I did an analysis a few years ago on Geoguessr - it's fun and relies on other info rather than reading and memorising lists. I'm not too judgemental about this - no, really: I don't expect normal people to be as good at Pub Quizzes as me; normal people have friends.  But some classes of trivia / sporcle-like information are of more immediate value in our day-to-day digestion of what passes for news. If 4 people die in a train-crash outside Thessaloniki, that's unfortunate but it's not going to help them or us if we know, or don't, if Thessaloniki is in Greece, Turkey or Bulgaria. But if a foreign power is rousting out the rhetoric and pooping off nuclear missiles, then it might be as well to find out where Pyongyang is before anyone looses a pre-emptive strike on Povelskoy Полевской because it begins with P, has nine letters and is full of foreign Johnnies.

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