Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Makes Us Human?

As some of you may already know, I am a member of several book clubs in real life. On of them is called People, Places, and Perspectives. The books tend to be non-fiction and cover a variety of topics. While I love novels, a good non-fiction book can give me the insight and new perspective that I need from time to time.

The book we discussed was The Most Human Human by Brian Christian. It is based on Christian's experience as a confederate for the Turing test that occurs every year. In a Turing test, a judge sits before a screen and chats with someone for 5 minutes. They then give their best guess as to whether they were chatting with a computer or a human. Pretty cool, right?

Every year, The Most Human Computer prize is awarded to the programmers of the computer that fooled the most judges. Another prize that is given is The Most Human Human, awarded to the human (referred to as the "confederate") that convinced the most judges that they were indeed human.

What is it that separates us from computers? What parts of our dialogue, conversations, and thinking separate us from everything else? For centuries, we have prided ourselves as the only beings that could think, separating ourselves from all other animals. But now that computers can think and make calculations, what separates us from them?

This book was a great read, and the dynamic discussion made it even better. Good food, good company, and a good book -isn't that all we really want out of life? Ok, maybe not all of us.

I really learned a lot from this book. He covered a lot of different topics that I had no idea would tie into the subject, like early philosophy, chess, etc. Some parts are very technical, but skimming them won't hurt. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who has not read much non-fiction because it can be heavy at times. If philosophy and science is your thing, this would be a great read for you.

If you decide to pick it up, let me know what you think! Also, I'm always taking book recommendations, so if you know of a similar book, tell me about it.

Love and (a book) light,



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