The Most Human Human is a provocative, exuberant, and profound exploration of the ways in which computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human. Its starting point is the annual Turing Test, which pits artificial-intelligence programs against people to determine if computers can "think". Named for computer pioneer Alan Turing, the Turing Test convenes a panel of judges who pose questions - ranging anywhere from celebrity gossip to moral conundrums - to hidden contestants in an attempt to discern which is human and which is a computer. The machine that most often fools the panel wins the Most Human Computer Award. But there is also a prize, bizarre and intriguing, for the Most Human Human.
In 2008, the top AI program came short of passing the Turing Test by just one astonishing vote. In 2009, Brian Christian was chosen to participate, and he set out to make sure Homo sapiens would prevail.
The author’s quest to be deemed more human than a computer opens a window onto our own nature. Interweaving modern phenomena like customer service “chatbots” and men using programmed dialogue to pick up women in bars with insights from fields as diverse as chess, psychiatry, and the law, Brian Christian examines the philosophical, biological, and moral issues raised by the Turing Test.
One central definition of human has been a "being that could reason". If computers can reason, what does that mean for the special place we reserve for humanity?
©2011 Brian Christian (P)2011 Random House Audio
"This book will surely change the way readers think about their conversations." (Booklist)
"A heady exploration of the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and human nature. Christian's examination of the way machines are forcing us to appreciate what it means to be human leads him to explore everything from poetry, chess and existentialism…[and] offers an overview of the history of AI." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This is a strange, fertile, and sometimes beautiful book. It has been said that man creates images of himself, then comes to resemble the images. Something like this seems to be going on with the computer. Brian Christian writes with a rare combination of what Pascal took to be two contrary mindsets: the spirit of geometry and the spirit of finesse. He takes both the deep limitations and halting progress of artificial intelligence as an occasion for thinking about the most human activity - the art of conversation." (Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft)
l'enfer c'est les autres
The writer really knows how to talk about what it means to be human. The Turing Test competition is a device for the author to talk about what it means to be a human versus being a computer. The actual competition that the author wins is not as exciting as his preparation for the competition and his expositions on thinking machines (both humans and computers).
I really enjoyed this book, and learned a lot at the same time. It's not like a textbook with unbiased, plain facts, it's put into the context of humanity with many interesting anecdotes.
While I never found myself bored, or not smart enough to understand, I found his tangents that turned into full chapters slightly annoying. While he's in the middle of one thing, he branches off into a side note, or anecdote, and that's fun, but they occasionally drag on for 45 minutes and you completely lose sight of the original message.
This book was well researched, wide ranging, well organized, full of new ways to draw conclusions and make connections, and utterly fascinating. I am a computer scientist and mathematician and I love to see how theories and algorithms apply across genres - art, compression, literature, entropy, text games, chess, and of course The Turing Test. I am definitely left with a greater sense of what humanity is, and what it is not, and I feel inspired to become a more human human.
I come from more of a technical background in regards to AI, and found a more philosophical treatise on man vs machine refreshing. Many of my personal interests (computer chess, neural networks, the singularity, speculation on the soul) crossed here, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I did find some of the conclusions to be a bit self aggrandizing of the liberal arts, which unfortunately tainted my views on many of his arguments.
The writer is extremely precise with his choice in language, which is not surprising given his background in poetry, and his philosophical arguments were well laid out. From a technical perspective, this book targets a more lay audience, and thus was not difficult to follow.
It wasn't a book that really had characters other than the author himself.
It read a little slow at times, and tended to drift towards the end. It was interesting, but not a page turner by any means.
Awesome read. Not just about AI (though you can pick up lots if computer science jargon), but about language, philosophy, life... Lots of interesting discussions, though I'm slightly disappointed that in the end he merely related the results of the Turing test, and offered no transcript. I think it would have been fun, after learning about the strengths and weaknesses about programming bots and characteristics of computer vs human conversations, to read and see for ourselves if we could judge or pick up on nuances that help distinguish a bot's response from a human's. Left me with an optimistic kind of feeling though, like I want to go out and absorb reality in its fullest and live as unique, un-anonymous and "incompressible" a life as I can.
Interesting subject! However, the authors superfluous ramblings add up to very little in the end. If you must, go watch his talk at the Santa Fe Institute online - it's actually quite good.
I have often heard speakers use humans for inspiration in their attempts to build better A.I. - this is the first time I have heard an author use A.I. as a modus for building a better human. The erudition in this book is staggering, but it is never used boastfully. Instead the ideas get layered one on the other, building an artful and logical thesis. I was particularly inspired by his comparison of chess games to daily conversation; the beginnings and the endings are largely already known, the real chess playing lies in the middle game where the personality of the player comes through. In a conversation the work and the weather are standard openings - how we get away from the standard is where the real conversation starts.
One listen will not do for this book, I imagine I will be coming back to it many times in the years to come, as well as purchasing the hard copy in order to foist it on loved ones.
Depends on the friend's interests. This book is entertaining, but also thought-provoking.
This is really a philosophy book with the theme of the Turing competition between humans and computers to appear human as a theme to create some suspense. The thought and research that the author put into what makes us human, and the nature of human discourse is fascinating, but the Turing test is almost a distraction. (I must admit a prejudice. I think the idea of computers emulating humans is a waste of time and discussion, and not a valid direction for research. I published Computer Oriented Approaches to Pattern Recognition in 1972 and The Software Society this month that goes into this further.)
Christian's ideas, independent of the Turing test theme, are interesting and thought-provoking. They are well-written and enthusiastically presented in audio form. It seems today that we must come up with titles that grab a potential readers attention, but a title like "What it means to be a human" describes his focus better. Too bad that more readers aren't simply interested in philosophy and ideas.
It seemed like a personal message.
No one moment I can cite, but the discussion of how we converse, with its subtleties and meaningful pauses, is a subject that I found persuasive and haven't seen elsewhere in general reader sources.
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