Each year, journalists, politicians, writers and newsmakers from our Pacific Northwest community and around the nation come together at Crosscut Ideas Festival to take a hard look at the people, politics and events that shape our lives. The 2023 Crosscut Ideas Festival will take place in a hybrid in-person and virtual format. (fascinated? Get tickets.)
Jennings rose to unexpected fame in 2004 with his 74-game quiz winning streak Danger! In 2020, he won Danger! “Greatest of All Time” championship, and in July 2022 was named co-host, with Mayim Bialik, following the passing of longtime host Alex Trebek. He is the co-creator of the Omnibus podcast and the author of 13 books, including New York Times best Sellers Brainiac and Map head.
Before joining us this year, Jennings took the time to participate in a Crosscut Q&A. Or should we say A&Q? Here’s what he had to say about it Danger!, ChatGPT v. Watson, life in Seattle and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What would be your dream Danger! category?
Professional wrestling from the 1980s.
After Danger!, we are not surprised that you know a lot… about many subjects. And you have written books about humor (Planet funny), geography (Map head), trivia (Brainiac) and more. What are some ways you recommend that we all continue to learn? Or how do you stay sharp?
Just be aware of the world around you. The participants you are watching Danger! every night there aren’t fans sitting at home memorizing the encyclopedia. They learn about things the same way everyone else does: doing a crossword puzzle, listening to a podcast, reading the ingredients list on the back of cereal boxes.
Probably the easiest change you can make is to be more curious in the conversation. If someone mentions a place or topic or career you know nothing about, don’t listen! That’s when I really freshen up. A new thing! I’m like a dog with bones. Be interested, nudge them with follow-up questions. They won’t even register what may feel to you like a strange, unwarranted level of interest. They will be flattered!
Who would win on Danger!, Watson or ChatGPT? In all seriousness, I know you’ve put a lot of thought into it case for good old-fashioned human knowledge. Any thoughts on ChatGPT?
Watson walked so that ChatGPT could run. And when I say “run,” I mean “tear down the already crumbling remains of Western civilization around our heads.”
Danger! is known as a smart show for a smart audience. Seattle has a reputation for being a literary and innovative city. What is one Danger! The champion’s take on calling Seattle home?
I was born here, so I’m not entirely sure. I guess it’s the weather? Many long, dark, rainy days in my childhood were spent sitting at home watching game shows. Bill Gates wrote MS-DOS and I watched Fighting games.
Join Ken Jennings and more personalities at the Crosscut Ideas Festival. Get your tickets now.