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?
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Most Human Human|
|Release Date: 03-01-2011|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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The Most Human Human
1. Introduction: The Most Human Human
I wake up ﬁve thousand miles from home in a hotel room with no shower: for the ﬁrst time in ﬁfteen years, I take a bath. I eat, as is traditional, some slightly ominous-looking tomatoes, some baked beans, and four halves of white toast that come on a tiny metal rack, shelved vertically, like books. Then I step out into the salty air and walk the coastline of the country that invented my language, despite my not being able to understand a good portion of the signs I pass on my way—let agreed, one says, prominently, in large print, and it means nothing to me.
I pause, and stare dumbly at the sea for a moment, parsing and reparsing the sign in my head. Normally these kinds of linguistic curiosities and cultural gaps interest and intrigue me; today, though, they are mostly a cause for concern. In the next two hours I will sit down at a computer and have a series of ﬁve- minute instant- message chats with several strangers. At the other end of these chats will be a psychologist, a linguist, a computer scientist, and the host of a popular British technology show. Together they form a judging panel, and my goal in these conversations is one of the strangest things I’ve ever been asked to do.
I must convince them that I’m human. Fortunately, I am human; unfortunately, it’s not clear how much that will help.
The Turing Test
Each year, the artiﬁcial intelligence (AI) community convenes for the ﬁeld’s most anticipated and controversial annual event—a competition called the Turing test. The test is named for British mathematician Alan Turing, one of t...