Random Thoughts – Randosity!

The Million Dollar Money Drop: $800k loss analyzed

Posted in botch, business by commorancy on January 6, 2015

Fox aired a game show entitled The Million Dollar Money Drop in late 2010. This show’s gimmick had contestants placing money piles (starting with $1 million dollars in $20 wrapped bill piles) on answers. If you answered correctly, the money stayed on the table and you got to answer more questions with that money. If the money fell, you lost that money. After a number of rounds, you might get to keep some or all of the money depending on how many answers you got right. The show ran for 1 season for a total of 12 episodes before being cancelled.

In 2010, a couple is seen placing $800,000 on an answer only to lose it all based on an incorrect answer. Let’s explore.

The Controversial Question

Category: Inventions
The answers:

  1. Macintosh Computer
  2. Sony Walkman
  3. Post-It Notes

The question: Which of these sold in stores first?

While this may seem like this question has a definitive answer, it doesn’t. In fact, it is in every sense of the word a trick question and should have never appeared on this show. Let’s understand why.

Point of View

While a predecessor to Post-It Notes may have been on sale during a limited test market run in 1977 as Press ‘n Peel offered by 3M (performing dismally), the product officially branded Post-It Notes didn’t go on sale nationwide in the US until 1980. But, the trick to these answers doesn’t stop here. Sony also introduced the product brand named Sony Walkman in the US in 1980. However, the Sony Walkman was on sale in Japan in 1979. But, since the question wasn’t explicit on where those stores were, the correct answer is still that there is no correct answer because of too much ambiguity based on the person’s point of view.

If you take the answer literally by looking only at the brand names, then Post-It Notes and Sony Walkman both went on sale in the US during the same year: 1980. Why is the US piece important? Let’s understand that this show was geared towards a US audience. This means that neither the contestants nor most of the audience would be aware of sell dates of products in other countries. So, the ‘first sold in stores’ would have to be taken implicitly to mean ‘in the US’. Taking only US sales of these explicit brand names into consideration, the answer would be a draw. They were both sold in stores the same year in the US.

If the question had asked more explicitly about worldwide sales, then the correct answer to the question would be Sony Walkman (still going by the product’s literal name) because of the sales in Japan in 1979.

Category Inventions

Because this category is explicitly discussing inventions, you have to ask if this question covers all incarnations of the invention branded or not? Which means that if you aren’t literally using the brand names and are covering all incarnations and names of the product before it was finally sold as these names (i.e., covering the entire invention history), then 3M’s product is the winning answer as Post-It Notes because they were introduced and sold in test markets as early as 1977. However, that also means that early Sony cassette players may also be considered Walkmans even if not branded explicitly with that name. Again, this adds even more ambiguity to this answer.

The Million Dollar Money Drop

Let’s bring this back around to the show. Why would a show ever put such a trick question on a show? Some people blame the show’s research department for (im)properly researching the answers. Personally, I don’t think this is true. I believe the question was properly researched and was used intentionally for one reason: To thin out the contestant’s money. Because this question was a trick, the answer that had the most money would have been the wrong answer. In fact, any answer with the most money would have been the wrong answer. The show could have justified that wrong answer by taking any of the above ambiguous points of view to justify dropping the money.

The point to the questions on shows like this is not to give you a chance to keep the money, but to take it away. These shows are in business to be, first and foremost, a TV show… to be entertainment. They want to give away the least amount of money possible. They do this by asking questions without simple answers.

Answer Controversy
 

Infamous clip from the show.

 

In this particular case, the show went way overboard with this question. But, their ultimate goal was achieved by taking away $800,000 from the contestants. That was entirely intentional by the producers. The point is to take away as much money as possible from the contestants.

Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding this entire issue left the show in a tough position. Because so many people believe that the 1977 date is the ‘correct’ date for the 3M product, they also believe the couple lost the money on the ‘correct’ answer. They didn’t. This was a trick question that had no correct answer. They didn’t lose the money either because it wasn’t theirs to begin with. The show gives you the money as part of the show to ‘gamble’ with and that’s exactly what the contestants did. They gambled on that answer and lost. The contestants couldn’t have walked away with that money at that time. They had to answer the question. If they had walked away, they would forfeit the game and the show. Were that to happen, the show would likely have never aired.

If the couple had actually realized the controversy surrounding this question at the time of the show (which was evident in their own bickering), they could have hedged and placed 50% on one answer and 50% on the other. This would have at least kept 50% for further questions. The show was going to pull the drop on whichever answer had the highest amount of money. It just happened to be Post-It Notes. But, if they had placed all or most of their money on Sony Walkman, it would have dropped as the wrong answer. If they had put 50% on the two answers, the show couldn’t drop both. So, they would have at least kept $440,000 to continue playing.

If anything, what this says is that in the age of the Internet search, Game Shows would be wise not to use such ambiguous questions and answers. As soon as people walk away from a game show, they’re going to Internet search for the right answer immediately. If the contestant had had a phone on stage, I’m sure he would have looked it up right then and there.

Note that this show offered for these contestants a second chance to ‘try again’ because of this issue. Though, I’m sure that after this public humiliation, why would they want to do it again? After all, this YouTube video is likely to be around forever. I’m also certain that the controversy around this entire issue is what caused the cancelation of this game show. Fox just wanted to distance itself as far away from this as possible. The best way to do that was get rid of the show, and that’s exactly what Fox did.

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State of the Art: What is art?

Posted in art, images, render, terragen by commorancy on May 17, 2009

This debate has raged for many many years and will continue to rage for many more.  In certain internet digital art communities this debate is again resurfacing.  Some people put forth that using found digital materials like, for example, 3D models available through such sites as Daz3d.com and ContentParadise.com aren’t art when rendered through tools like Poser.  Well, I put for this response to these people.

What exactly is art?

That is an age old question. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about ‘old’ mediums such as paint, canvas, pencil, clay, or metal or if you are discussing ‘new’ mediuma such as Poser, Daz, Bryce, Photoshop, Z-Brush or even Maya. The question is still valid and still remains unanswered. Basically, the answer mostly lies in the eye of the beholder. Thus, whether or not something is art is all based on opinion. Some people never believed that Marcel Duchamp’s urninals were art. Some people never believed that Jackson Pollack’s paint splatters were art. Some people never believed that Robert Rauschenberg’s mixed medium works (including tires and other found objects) were art. Some people still don’t.  But, does that make them not art?  No. Clearly, these men have been recognized as artists in art history.  Thus, what they have created is art.

The fact is, controversy has always surrounded new forms of art and new art mediums. There have been many artists who have taken existing pre-made structures and turned them into ‘art’.  In digital media, this is no different than inserting an existing Poser figure and using it in any given digital artwork.  Simply using Poser and a Poser figure does not necessarily make the work less profound as art.  

Creating things from scratch

For those who believe that you must create everything from scratch in 3D, I put forth this argument. Most artists who paint today do not make their own paints, construct their brushes and create their canvas (down to spinning the yarn and looming it into a fabric). If it were required by artists to create everything simply to ‘create art’, not much art would be created.  Most people would spend their time creating the tools they need to create the art.  Should you be required to create the graphite and shape the wood just to turn it into a pencil? No.  Sure, I admire those who want to create everything from scratch and I applaud them. But, that doesn’t mean every artist needs to work in that way.

If you want to take this argument further, then you should be required to write your own Photoshop application each time you want to modify an image.  Clearly, this is silly and no one would think this.  So, why is it that people believe that you must create every object you place in a 3D realized world and rendered image?  You don’t create every object you put in your home, why should you have to create every object you put in 3D world you create?  Again, this argument is completely silly.

Creating 3D objects

Yes, creating 3D objects using a modeling program is an art in itself.  It takes a lot of patience and consumes time creating these objects.  Again, I applaud these content producers. And I agree that it does make those objects art, but only in the sense of industrial design (very much like the camera or a chair).  The object is nothing, however, without a showplace.  Like the camera, if an object isn’t used in some way and no one ever sees it, then it’s not time well spent creating the object.  Thus, without a showplace, the object is not an artwork.  It is art in the sense of industrial design, functional art.  In this case, though, 3D objects only have functions when used in the context of creating scenes or together with other objects.  So, creating a 3D version of  a Ferrari F40 is great, but as an object on its own it’s really not a piece of artwork (other than industrial design).  However, this F40 could be used within a larger scene combined with other objects to create an artwork.  Then, the object becomes much more than its industrial design heritage.

That’s not to say I don’t respect and admire those who create 3D objects.  I do.  I applaud them and encourage them to create more.  Without such objects, artists won’t have the necessary things to create the imaginative scenes they can envision.

Art is what you make of it

Not to be overly redundant… ok, let’s…Art is what you personally make of it. Good art conveys emotion, makes a statement and usually motivates the viewer into a reaction (good or bad). However, whether a specific work is good or bad art is for each person to decide.  A 3D object, its texture and bump maps and all of its underlying components don’t and can’t both evoke a reaction and make a statement alone.  Only when these objects are placed within an imaginitive scene do these objects take on a new life and become much more than the sum of their parts.

Probably the single deciding factor for whether a specific piece of art is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is whether or not the work was intentional (i.e., makes a statement about something). Thus, if someone intentionally takes a listless figure and does nothing to it and plops it in the middle of a scene seemingly uncreatively with a few simple lights, the deciding factor is if the artist did this scene intentionally to make a point about some subject matter. Intent is the single biggest factor in any artwork. As an artist, you have to understand this single aspect. Everything you put into a scene must be intentionally placed there and and placed there for a reason. If the scene does not seem intentionally constructed, then the artwork has failed as artwork. An artist might copy those who create ‘amateur’ works in a statement about amateur artwork, but which then becomes artwork in itself. It’s the statement itself that makes it art.

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