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

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,198 ratings  ·  292 reviews
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 pan
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ebook, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nikki
I was hoping for more of the artificial intelligence part of this book, but it turned out to be more "what we can do better than AIs", which wasn't quite what I was interested in. It's an interesting meditation on what sets us apart, in some places, though it's lacking in organisation -- if I tried to turn in my dissertation with such random chaptering and subtitles, I'd be whacked over the head with the red pen of loving correction by my supervisor. It didn't flow at all well. And I know it's n ...more
Gendou
This is one of the most poorly written must-reads I've ever read. The topic of artificial intelligence is very important and well-researched by the author. But the delivery is couched in half-baked philosophy and capital abuse of the poetic license. Many times I paused the audiobook to yell at Brian Christian.

"Just say what you MEAN!"
"I don't think that word means what you think it means!"

This book's saving grace is that he did a really cool thing. He was a human "confederate" on the Loebner pri
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Paul
Quite simply, the best book I've read, ever. I'm compelled get up out of bed and write down some thoughts after finishing The Most Human Human. I did a double-take when Christian wrote about listening to the Spice Girls in middle school. He writes way beyond his 26 years. On the other-hand maybe those further along in years are writing ever so slightly off the pulse of the intersection of humans and technology. In contrast to What Technology Wants by Kelly, a journalist and also a favorite of mi ...more
Danny
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mishehu
At last, proof positive that degrees in philosophy and poetry superbly complement a degree in computer science! TMHH is an extended think piece, thread through with prose poetic writing, on how human minds and silicon ones are alike and how they differ. It is a hugely thought-provoking book, sentence after paragraph after page after page. Judging from its jacket photo, the author is a pretty young guy (a striking contrast with the depth and maturity of the book in review). May he have a long and ...more
Ben Iverson
I loved this book. I found it surprisingly profound, and I'm still thinking about some of the ideas in the book a month after finishing it. I expected it to be a kind of Malcolm Gladwell-esque book that was interesting and well-written. It wasn't actually all that well-written, but it more than made up for it in super interesting material. What really surprised me was how much it made me really re-think how I can make myself more human. By looking at what things computers can easily copy when th ...more
Corwin
This book is an excellent rebuttal to the sophomoric truck-stop argument that computers are dehumanizing and dumbing down human beings by using the author's experience in the annual Turing Test ... itself a fascinating story about humans and artificial intelligences ... and also effectively demolishing the sci-fi convention (also sophomoric) fears of artificial intelligences culminating in a Terminator- or Matrix-esque doom of humanity. If you want to wrestle with something counter-intuitive but ...more
Pierre Menard
Oct 01, 2014 Pierre Menard rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who loves the delight of a good conversation.
Avete mai sentito parlare del premio Loebner? No? Allora questo è il libro che fa per voi! Si tratta di una competizione organizzata dall’imprenditore Hugh Loebner e aperta ai programmatori di Artificial Intelligence (d’ora in poi AI): i partecipanti sono programmi di AI in grado di sostenere una conversazione con esseri umani, meglio noti come chatterbot o chatbot, e devono superare una particolare versione del cosiddetto test di Turing. Il matematico britannico Alan M. Turing, una delle menti ...more
Harold
The Most Human Human is about the Turing contest in which computers and people have separate 5 minute text conversation with judges who try to pick which are humans and which computers. So far the computers have not yet sufficiently fooled the judges to win. Each year the judges also determine the most human human, and the most human computer -- the ones who get the most human votes in each category. The author volunteered to be one of the humans. and then tries to win the most human human label ...more
Susan
Fascinating subject - artificial intelligence and the Turing test: Alan Turing (Google celebrated his 100th birthday recently) developed the annual test to see if an AI program can fool a panel of judges into thinking they are conversing by text with a human and not a machine. Brian, the author, was one of the 'ringers' - they mix up real human contestants in with the AI programs - and was voted the 'most human human' at the end where they also vote for the 'most human' AI program. As a fellow B ...more
Matt Musselman
What obviously started based on the premise of entering to be a confederate in the annual Loebner Prize (based on the Turing Test), where the author would be a human trying to differentiate himself from various chat software programs attempting to pass as human, and what it means to win the award of being "the most human human" in this contest, Brian Christian delves into a delightful examination of:
- What differentiates human thinking from computer "thinking"? Or from the cognitive processes of
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Bastian Greshake
I seem to have a thing going for books that describe how the author tries to achieve some weird self-set goal (reading the Britannica in order to win a game show, reading through the complete OED, becoming US memory champion). In this instance the goal is to win the 'most human human' award that is given out at an annual Turing test.

To bring everyone up to speed: the Turing test was meant as a measure how well artificial intelligences perform. Judges have to have a 1:1 chat with a computer and
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Jim
The context for this exploration of human intelligence is an annual contest in which judges engage in casual 'chats' with computers and humans and try to determine which is which. The point of the contest, of course, is to determine the "most human" computer, a modified Turing test. The risk to the human entrants is that they might be judged a computer! The author was determined not to let that happen to him and so he engages in one of the most entertaining explorations of what it means to engag ...more
Stephanie
I know loving this book seals my geek status, but I don't care! Brilliantly conceived and written. I learned this new word, and I'm still trying to work it into my vocabulary: entropy. I also loved learning about the Shannon theory of entropy.

Check this stuff out:

P 143: “With poetry, as with philosophy, there is no exterior, only certain well-behaved interiors: in philosophy we call them sciences (physics originally began as the largely speculative field of ‘natural philosophy’), and in poetry
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Bruce
First there was Eliza. Then fractal music giving way to database-rich Bach- and Beethoven-simulators. Then Deep Blue. Then Watson. Soon… R. Giskard Reventlov of Aurora? Philip K. Dick’s Preserving Machine? Suffice it to say that The Most Human Human is one of the best nonfiction books it has been my pleasure to read. It touches on all my favorite topics -- recreational math, information theory, philosophy, social psychology, virtual vs. genuine identity – it’s like John Searle meets William Poun ...more
Nathan
I didn't know what to expect from this book, but it surprised and delighted me with its thoughtful but not stodgy exploration of what it means to be human. The author entered the annual staging of the Turing Test--not as an author of a chatbot, but as a human. The Turing Test is where judges blindly IM with chatbots and humans and try to tell them apart; if a chatbot is reliably mistaken for human, the creator of the test proposed, then it could be said to be artificially intelligent. The book e ...more
Ivy
This is a fine book. Which is a huge disappointment, because it could have been excellent. It has one of the best premises--and best titles--of any book to come out recently. It got a lot of press, because the interest in the topic is immediate and obvious.

With all that, I wanted a story of the Loebner Prize and the author's quest for the Most Human Human award, along with some computer science and philosophy. I didn't get a story of the Loebner Prize--at all. He talks about leading up to it, ma
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Jane
A competition called the Turing test takes place each year. Judges at computer terminals interact with unseen correspondents. Each judge has two correspondents, one a human being and one a computer program, and the judge tries to tell which is which after a five minute online conversation with each. The program that receives the most votes and highest judge confidence score is named the Most Human Computer. This title is highly coveted by programmers. A side result of the voting, however, is tha ...more
Jesse
I loved this book. I started with rather low expectations; sort of expecting a new york times style high level view of machine learning and its implications. What I got instead was profound insight into what machine intelligence can tell us about what it means to be human. I suspect I'll look at life differently, both my human interactions and my observations, for weeks to come. I wish I'd been taking notes, because every time there was a great concept which I thought deserved more thought or re ...more
Erica
Brian Christian uses the Turing test as a framework for discussing everything from neuroscience to education, economics, sex, and language. In a lot of ways I felt like I was reading a podcast, perhaps because I had already run across some of the stories he used on This American Life and Radiolab, but also because the information was presented without a central argument or thesis. That was probably the most disappointing aspect. On the other hand, I was delighted by the often whimsical footnotes ...more
Anais Schricke
this book is boring and i do not recommend
Hope Yoon
A delightful nonfiction- I savored every chapter. Starts from the roots of our existence and the question that haunts us, then pulls in deep insights from the world if AI, part psychology, part computer science, part philosophy, and all the way intriguing.
The content is one thing, but the writing is another. The nonfiction prose is strong, simple, and flawlessly smooth. Had a few gem phrases that put me into some sort of a reader's euphoria and a writer's despair, thinking 'when will I ever wri
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Ian
"One of the strange things about lossless compression is that certain things turn out to have a counterintuitively high information entropy. One example is static. Because static, both audio and visual, is random, by definition there aren't patterns that a compressor could exploit; thus it has essentially the highest information entropy. What seems strange about this is that the stakes of that information are low–how can we have a lot of information, yet none of it worthwhile" (pg.s 234-235)?
Damon Young
Computers are deft with formal, rule-based language but clumsy with casual, contextual conversation. They often fail to understand "um" and "er", for example. Like a Google search regurgitating a million other searches, AI programs can steal human phrases to seem worldly, but lack the style that suggests a single consciousness. "A bot that can't keep track of the coherence of its own identity," Christian writes, "wouldn't be able to keep track of the judges' either."

Importantly, the human virtue
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Libby
A very interesting, well researched book on what it means to be human in light of developments in artificial intelligence. The traditional factors that defined what it was to be human no longer apply due to the fact that computers can exhibit most, if not all, of these qualities - especially reason - so where does that leave us? What does set us apart? This book is highly thought-provoking. The author does wander quite a bit and it could have been more cohesive but overall it was very enjoyable.
Daniel
Brian Christian brings us into the world of computer intelligence and the Turing test to ask and partially answer the question of what makes us human. Along the way, he wool gathers into the areas of computer chess, mathematics, the pick up artist, the novelist and the brain damaged.His book is incredibly information dense and diverse.I can see it used as the basis of a semester or even year long class about the hallmarks of humanity.

He also asks the question, are humans becoming more like compu
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Greg
Poetry and computer science need to get together more often.

This book was, in many regards, profound. I have never considered using computers as a foil to better understanding what it means to be a human. Christian thoughtfully leads the reader though a variety of themes and topics pertaining to the human condition and considers the struggles and barriers computer scientists and AI leaders have faced in trying to simulate or replicate the ineffable attributes of mankind. He does so in a very ba
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Melody
This book was recommended to me by Goodread after I read “Incognito” by David Eagleman. I chose this among other recommendations because 1) I am always interested in Philosophy of ‘self’/consciousness but I am never on the level to understand the concepts coming from well-known philosophers like Aristotle, Lao Tzu or David Hume. The closest thing on this subject matter I read and was partially able to stick in my head was Nagel’s essay on “What is it like to be a bat?”… Since this book sits on t ...more
Blanche
I finally finished The Most Human Human, and I could not be prouder to know the author. This book is a beautiful mixture of biography, philosophy, computer science, and humor, as Brian tries to tease out how our humanity has been impacted by computers, and how it could potentially be strengthened. I can't recommend it enough.
Ken Schroeder
I found myself while reading the book eager to share many of the insights I'd gleaned from it. There is a ton of interesting info in this book on AI, computers, neuroscience, and philosophy. Honestly though, the writing style made it almost impossible to get through with any sort of flow. It was a tough read.
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BRIAN CHRISTIAN's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Wired, Gizmodo, AGNI, Gulf Coast, and Best New Poets, and in scientific journals such as Cognitive Science. Christian has been featured on The Daily Show and Charlie Rose, and his work has won several awards, including fellowships at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and an award from the Academy of American P ...more
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“To be human is to be 'a' human, a specific person with a life history and idiosyncrasy and point of view; artificial intelligence suggest that the line between intelligent machines and people blurs most when a puree is made of that identity.” 12 likes
“When I fight off a disease bent on my cellular destruction, when I marvelously distribute energy and collect waste with astonishing alacrity even in my most seemingly fatigued moments, when I slip on ice and gyrate crazily but do not fall, when I unconsciously counter-steer my way into a sharp bicycle turn, taking advantage of physics I do not understand using a technique I am not even aware of using, when I somehow catch the dropped oranges before I know I've dropped them, when my wounds heal in my ignorance, I realize how much bigger I am than I think I am. And how much more important, nine times out of ten, those lower-level processes are to my overall well-being than the higher-level ones that tend to be the ones getting me bent out of shape or making me feel disappointed or proud.” 8 likes
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