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The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive | [Brian Christian]

The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Pavel Czech Republic 07-24-12
    Pavel Czech Republic 07-24-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining and interesting"

    It is a must read for any computer savy person. Funny but it made me think. What are the limits of computers? What the substance of human and how it could be evaluated via quick interview?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mann 07-16-12
    Mann 07-16-12

    Hi. My name is Mann & I am an Enterprise Communications expert by profession. I have always loved reading books and primarily enjoy books on Finance, Science & Technology and History. I do hear an occasional Fictional book though I prefer to read them instead.

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    "When computing meets humanity."
    Would you listen to The Most Human Human again? Why?

    Definitely. The book specially gains momentum in the second half with some extremely thought provoking essays and insights into the realm of artificial intelligence and what computing holds for us in future.


    What other book might you compare The Most Human Human to and why?

    Information. Though I prefer The Most Human Human more than information. This book is about a human struggle to define his humanity against computing. Its more philosophical in nature too.


    What about Brian Christian’s performance did you like?

    I loved his intonation and pauses. His grasp over the subject matter seemed complete. He navigated the complex terrain of computer science with remarkable poise.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The Most Human Human.


    Any additional comments?

    A great read of people involved with technology. This book offers some beautiful essays into the nature of technology and how AI may unfold in future. But yeah, it is a little slow in the beginning but gain momentum in the second half.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel DECATUR, GEORGIA, United States 03-29-12
    Daniel DECATUR, GEORGIA, United States 03-29-12 Member Since 2011
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    4
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    "What makes us human?"
    Where does The Most Human Human rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Easily among the best!


    What did you like best about this story?

    This book made me revisit the philosophical question,


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Cork, Ireland 03-19-12
    Martin Cork, Ireland 03-19-12 Member Since 2004
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    "You v R2D2"
    What did you love best about The Most Human Human?

    I loved the mix of science and anecdote in this book. As a software engineer with an interest in all areas of science, I found the meditations on what it means to be human and whether machines could ever qualify for the title fascinating. I think the book would appeal to a broad range of people. It is written in a really accessible fashion. The narration is also excellent.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Most Human Human?

    I really liked the story behind the title for the book


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie launceston, Australia 02-03-12
    Jamie launceston, Australia 02-03-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Some very insightful moments!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book builds some great insights into both humanity and and computer science. i would defiantly recommend it to anyone with technical interests


    What other book might you compare The Most Human Human to and why?

    I dont think i have read much that goes along these lines, but it looks like there is plenty out there


    What three words best describe Brian Christian’s performance?

    animated and articulate but at times a little unclear


    Any additional comments?

    i think this book says quite a lot for its length compared with many other books, defiantly worthwhile...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew San Diego, CA, United States 11-07-11
    Matthew San Diego, CA, United States 11-07-11
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    "Interesting Philisophical Ideas"

    Although I thought this book would go into more depth about AI, the philosophical questions about what it means to be human and conscious that Brian Christian brings up were quite interesting and thought-provoking. I started to get a little lost in the final chapters, but overall, this was an enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 07-27-11
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 07-27-11

    Business owner , philanthropist.

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    "Fun and interesting."

    My only snag with it is it pretty much contains the same information that a whole lot of other books written my journalist write. If your looking for this kind of concepts read something by malcolm Gladwell. If you like a good story and and have already gone through the other journalists this is worth the listen.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. F. Bell 06-26-11
    C. F. Bell 06-26-11
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    "Sometimes personal experience is not enough."

    This book is claimed to be "an examination of the way machines are forcing us to appreciate what it means to be human, and Brian Christian examines the philosophical, biological, and moral issues raised by the Turing Test." Well, in my opinion, not really, on both accounts. Although personal remembrances on having taken the Turing Test and other anecdotes is worth a read, Christian's sophomoric attempt at examining the philosophical and moral issues of AI and on the question of whether AI can ever be sentient, let alone human-like, goes no where intellectually, and one is left with the untenable opinion, by default, that the answer to that question is positive -- just not yet. The main philosophic/cognitive-scientific point on language for humans is that a word represents a concept, not just a way to communicate, whereas to a machine, a word cannot represent a concept -- that a machine can communicate but cannot form a concept, and yet the mythology of the coming of the sentient AI remains solid for the faithful. Brian Christian's book is like a "fair and balanced" story on Roman Catholicism from a priest where the Church is Computer Science and the priest is a computer geek.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Fredericksburg, VA, United States 11-29-11
    Charles Fredericksburg, VA, United States 11-29-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Too technical"

    Book made a lot of good points, but just a hair too technical for the average reader.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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