Ostensibly, The Most Human Human by Brian Christian describes the author’s quest to beat the bots competing for the Loebner Prize, the world’s most famous Touring Test. In the contest, judges talk with humans and bots via instant messaging and then vote on who is human and who is not.
But Christian explores beyond the Turing Test using his preparation for the competition to research computers, language, randomness, serendipity, compression and more.
Christian’s breadth first approach weaves together concepts from theories of love to chatbot algorithms into a picture of what technology and science tells us about the human condition.
Christian builds a view of humanity informed by technology and science. Christian’s following book, Algorithms to Live By, explains how theoretical computer science give us insight in how too lead a better life.
In 1974, Thomas Nagel wrote a paper “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?” setting up the hard problem of consciousness — how we understand the experience of other consciousnesses. Nagel highlights bat’s sonar sense as something profoundly different from our experience.
But Christian tells of Kevin Warwick who implants electrodes in his arm allowing him to sense nearby objects. We now have the technology to understand, in part, what it’s like to be a bat. Science has answered a previously ineffable mystery.
Christian synthesizes thousands of years of philosophy with respect to the machines and computers surrounding us to give a better understanding of what tit means to be human.
This book reminds me of one of my favorite books, Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams. Einstein’s Dreams apples what science, especially General Relativity, has told us about spacetime to further explore the human understanding of time and space. The Most Human Human looks at nearly all technology developments and how they affect what it means to be human.