Monday night, Miami University’s Department of Geography hosted the longest reigning Jeopardy winner, Ken Jennings, for a lecture entitled, “The Rewards of Geographic Curiosity.” Jennings stood in front of a crowded Hall Auditorium filled with Miami students, faculty members and Oxford residents and spoke about his experience being on Jeopardy and the importance of obtaining knowledge in a society that makes it easy to rely on technology for information.
He began the lecture with some insight into the process and experience of filming episodes of Jeopardy saying it is very different from watching at home.
He also briefly described his practice techniques, which began when he was informed about being a contestant, three weeks before he began recording his first episode. He said his practice routine consisted mainly of watching 12 rerun episodes of Jeopard every day for the three weeks before he began filming.
After acknowledging that most people are suspicious of intellectual people and admitting that he sometimes gets weird looks from people because he knows so much, he argued that people should not be suspicious of intellect and defended the stereotypical nerd-figure. While he said some people are still stuck in a mindset from the 1980s when the athletic jock-types were in control and the nerds and geeks were made fun of, he argued that it is actually the opposite in today’s society.
“I was surprised to find out that no one had told Glenn Beck that the nerds had already won ten years ago,” Jennings said. “Kids today now aspire to be the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg types.”
He also argued that knowledge is still important today.
“You’re never going to regret learning something,” Jennings said. “There are things out there that are more strange and wonderful than we might have suspected.”
Jennings cited four main reasons for his belief in the significance of learning and trivia in such a technology dependent era. First he explained that the things people know make it easier for them to learn new things. His second reason was that trivia can serve as bait because it is the fun and interesting part of learning.
Another reason he discussed was that all decisions people make are based on things that they know.
“All the important decisions we make are based on things we already know,” Jennings said. “When you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I want to live in this city or that one?’ or, ‘Should I vote for this candidate or that one?’ you pull on information that you have stored up to make an informed decision.”
He claimed that people now live in a world increasingly dependent on knowledge of other countries.
“Now we live in a world where people and events that take place halfway across the world can affect you in very real ways,” Jennings said.
He also said he thinks that the most important reason for learning trivia and facts is the connection it forms between people.
“For me, to only value knowing facts is when you can connect with someone over it,” Jennings said. “It makes it easier to get to know a lot of people. And people are always flattered when you remember facts about them. It shows that you took an interest in them and creates and instant connection.”
He said the niches that people’s occupations and education put them in tend to isolate them and that with the increasing amount of media today, there are fewer pieces of culture that link everyone all together than there used to be.
This particular reason stood out to junior Matt Dombrowski.
“I liked how Ken said the more knowledge you have, the more you can relate with other people,” Dombrowski said.
Jennings concluded the lecture by encouraging the audience to be inquisitive and curious about their surroundings.
“The secret to Jeopardy is being a curious person and spending a lifetime paying attention,” Jennings said.
He claimed that everyone can be learning every second of the day as long as they are paying attention and that most of his knowledge did not come from reading encyclopedias and almanacs, it came from paying attention to things like the flags during the Olympics when he would watch them as a kid.
Jennings encouraged the audience to be curious and to question and try to figure everything out.
“I think it would be great if we could live life as a question,” Jennings said.