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Each year, the AI community convenes to administer the famous (and famously controversial) Turing test, pitting sophisticated software programs against humans to determine if a computer can “think.” The machine that most often fools the judges wins the Most Human Computer Award. But there is also a prize, strange and intriguing, for the “Most Human Human.”
Brian Christian—a young poet with degrees in computer science and philosophy—was chosen to participate in a recent competition. This playful, profound book is not only a testament to his efforts to be deemed more human than a computer, but also a rollicking exploration of what it means to be human in the first place.
“Terrific. . . . Art and science meet an engaged mind and the friction produces real fire.” —The New Yorker
“Illuminating. . . . An irreverent picaresque. . . . What Christian learns along the way is that if machines win the imitation game as often as they do, it’s not because they’re getting better at acting human, it’s because we’re getting worse. . . . As The Most Human Human demonstrates, Christian has taken his own words to heart. An authentic son of [Robert] Frost, he learns by going where he has to go, and in doing so proves that both he and his book deserve their title.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Absorbing. . . . Christian covers a great deal of ground with admirable clarity but with a lightness of touch. . . . He also has a real knack for summing up key ideas by applying them to real-life situations. . . . Did Christian become ‘The Most Human Human’? You’ll have to read the book to find out.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Exhilarating. . . . Reading it, I constantly found my mind pinging off of whatever Christian was discussing and into flights of exploratory speculation about the amount of information encoded in the seemingly routine exchanges of small talk or the reasons why it’s much harder to tell a false story in reverse chronological order. It’s an unusual book whose primary gift lies in distracting you from itself. I’d like to see the computers come up with something like that.” —Salon
“Fascinating.” —Jon Stewart
“Brilliant.” —Financial Times
“Humorous and thought-provoking. . . . A curious look into the history and potential of artificial intelligence, and a brilliant comparison between artificial intelligence and our natural variety. . . . Christian wants to call attention to how special we are, and his book is a success.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Excellent.” —NPR’s “Radiolab”
“Incredibly engrossing.” —The Onion A. V. Club
“Entertaining and informative.” —The Economist
“A charming, friendly, and often funny read.” —The Boston Globe
“Immensely ambitious and bold, intellectually provocative, while at the same time entertaining and witty—a delightful book about how to live a meaningful, thriving life.” —Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams and Ghost
“A book exploring the wild frontiers of chat-bots is appealing enough; I never expected to discover in its pages such an eye-opening inquest into human imagination, thought, conversation, love and deception. Who would have guessed that the best way to understand humanity was to study its imitators?” —David Eagleman, author of Sum and Incognito
“Remarkable, enjoyable, heartening. A philosophical joyride connecting the thoughts of Aristotle with David Brent. . . . The day that a machine creates work of such wit and originality, we should all be very worried.” —The Times (London)
“This is a strange, fertile, and sometimes beautiful book. . . . 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
“Lively and thought-stirring. . . . An invaluable sourcebook on computing in modern-day life.” —New Statesman
“Fast-paced, witty, and thoroughly winning. . . . This fabulous book demonstrates that we are capable of experiencing and sharing far deeper thoughts than even the best computers—and that too often we fail to achieve the highest level of humanness.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This is such an important book, a book I’ve been waiting and hoping for. Machines are getting so smart that it forces us to take a completely fresh look at what smart is, and at what human is. Brian Christian takes on this very weighty task, and somehow makes it fun. Christian is nimble, insightful, and humble—a very human human, indeed, and one you will like very much.” —David Shenk, author of The Forgetting, The Immortal Game, and The Genius in All of Us