The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Poetry and computer science need to get together more often.
This book was, in many regards, profound. I have never considered using computers as a foil to better understanding what it means to be a human. Christian thoughtfully leads the reader though a variety of themes and topics pertaining to the human condition and considers the struggles and barriers computer scientists and AI leaders have faced in trying to simulate or replicate the ineffable attributes of mankind. He does so in a very balanced way though, never slamming the AI community or getting lost in a frenzied Orwellian tone. The themes consisted of things like conversation, identity, compression, innovation, memory, routine, culture, and relationships. I listened to this book, which I think added to my enjoyment of it because it is very poetical. I think some of the imagery would have been lost to me in reading it, and some of the thoughts provoked might have been lost in the cognitive load of pulling meaning from written text.
Being poetical, this book was a bit hard to follow in terms of overall point or theme. I didn't mind it that much, but as mentioned above I think I would have struggled with it a bit more if I had read it instead of listened to it. However, one should really spend time with this book. It is by definition and subject more about spending time with the thing than getting through it. I loved how it expanded my thinking about what it means to be a human, and what the future of machines might be like. Indeed, what the future of THINKING ABOUT machines might be like!
Be ready for some fascinating bits of thinking around things like programmed chess, autocorrect, the phrases "um" and "ah" in language, and the comparison of lossless compression to our daily lived experience. This is a fascinating read and offers increasingly more important food for thought in our technology saturated world.
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I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.