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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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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,146 ratings  ·  440 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 pane
...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Gendou
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
B Schrodinger
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Algorithms To Live By" was such a special find. It spoke to me and how I think in so many ways. I know human behaviour is weird and varied, but there are patterns. And I am always looking to streamline what I do. And I am always asking why do we do it that way? Surely there's a better way to do this!

So, I've been getting around to Brian's previous book for a few months. And it was also magnificent. Not quite so good, but still a humdinger!

Brian takes us into his world of the Turing Test. Of be
...more
ash c
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have a special interest in the philosophy of the mind - and I love reading and re-reading what people have to say about the brain, or mind, or soul. The computational theory of mind is the main angle that Christian explored in this book through the Turing Test and its implications. An AI passes the Turing Test when it's indistinguishable from a human, usually determined through conversation with another human. And there were times throughout history where different AI programs did pass the tes ...more
Paul
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Bill Horne
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
In principle, I should have loved this book. I did my PhD in machine learning. I have a fascination with philosophy. But, I found it somewhat tedious at times. I kept wanting to hear more about his actual experience with the competition. He should have included the transcript, or at least more excerpts. But, there was not very much about his experience with the competition at all. Instead it was a collection of examples of how humans differ from computers, or how ideas from AI apply to humans, e ...more
Bruce
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicky
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
Mishehu
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Xavier Shay
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. Very readable and surprisingly interesting given how much of the referenced material I've already read. ...more
Ivy
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
...more
Danny
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fact, popcomp
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
Jane
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sheri
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an interesting read. Not for the reasons I was expecting when I started it, but interesting nonetheless. Christian starts out with his raison d'ecrire (hah..try Shannon Gaming that one!) as the Loebner prize 2009 Turning test competition, but quickly veers off into a discussion of, well lots of stuff. As other reviewers have noted, he does not always follow a tangential line of thought and it is not always clear how all of his details are relevant. Nor does he really describe the Loebne ...more
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
...more
Jim
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jesse
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Karel Baloun
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exceptional book on what it means to be truly human, truly empowered for uniqueness and collaboration.

Also, as literature, so many precise words and exquisite constructions. Stretched my mind.
Kevin
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: computer, non-fiction
Christian writes from the perspective that it will be bad if and when machines are intelligent, he's kind of an anti Ray Kurzweil. I completely disagree with his viewpoint but his book is interesting and illustrates lots of Turing problems that I'd never considered.

He goes on to say that it will not happen that the same bot will win year after year but is proved wrong just 2 years after the book is written by Mitsuku who won in 2013,2016-2019

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsuku
...more
Tadeas Petak
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My favourite trait of Most Human Human was its optimistic tone. I have read a fair amount of AI criticism, lamenting that it might be very dangerous, moaning about it taking jobs away from people and whining that it is making us more stupid or at least less intelligent. Instead, this book embraces human endeavours directed into this field, highlights the achievements and their implications and treasures the foreseeable future of AI. The author has a very good reason for this, too: artificial int ...more
tisasday
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
A lot of interesting data and theories shared about AI and perspectives we forget about as we just keep using tech every day.
Harold
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
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
Matt Musselman
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Susan
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Soracha Hardin
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Socraticgadfly
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Good, but oh, it could have been better.

There's an annual Turing test event in Britain every year. A group of top computer programs compete against a group of human confederates, as the computers try to prove, per Alan Turing, that they're really humans, just as the humans do.

So far, no computer has won this test, but, given the relatively narrow parameters of the test at this particular contest, that may not be too far off.

Christian, who successfully competed to be a human "confederate," takes
...more
Edward
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
This is an interesting book that looks at AI and bots (particularly chatbots) from a different angle with a unique perspective. It was written a few years ago in 2011 but it is still timely read for me in 2016 given bots, digital assistants and AI are just starting to get more mainstream recently. A series of conscious thoughts are provided by the author, Brian Christian, who in 2009 participated in the Loebner Prize Turing Test competition as a human participant (called a human confederate). Br ...more
Stephanie
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Daniel
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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Brian Christian is the author of The Most Human Human, which was named a Wall Street Journal bestseller, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and a New Yorker favorite book of the year. He is the author, with Tom Griffiths, of Algorithms to Live By, a #1 Audible bestseller, Amazon best science book of the year and MIT Technology Review best book of the year.

Christian’s writing has been translated int
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News & Interviews

  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
11 likes · 5 comments
“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.” 25 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.” 17 likes
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