From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In a fast-paced, witty, and thoroughly winning style, Christian documents his experience in the 2009 Turing Test, a competition in which judges engage in five-minute instant-message conversations with unidentified partners, and must then decide whether each interlocutor was a human or a machine. The program receiving the most "human" votes is dubbed the "most human computer," while the person receiving the most votes earns the title of "most human human." Poet and science writer Christian sets out to win the latter title and through his quest, investigates the nature of human interactions, the meaning of language, and the essence of what sets us apart from machines that can process information far faster than we can. Ranging from philosophy through the construction of pickup lines to poetry, Christian examines what it means to be human and how we interact with one another, and with computers as equals—via automated telephone menus and within the medical establishment, for example. 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. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Each year humans and computers square off for the Turing test, which Christian describes as a kind of speed dating via instant messaging, with five minutes to prove which is human. In 2009, Christian traveled to Brighton, England, to compete in a contest matching four humans and four computers. Christian chronicles his preparation and time spent devising strategies to trump the chatbot computers that can imitate humans. Along the way, he draws on philosophy, neurology, linguistics, and computer science, recalling chess master Garry Kasparov losing a match to IBM�s Deep Blue computer and more recent developments in artificial intelligence. He explores how computers have challenged our bias toward the left hemisphere of the brain (logic) versus the right hemisphere (emotions) and how he and others have come to a deeper appreciation of emotional intelligence. He laments how so many jobs have trained employees with limited scripts that render them human chatbots. Christian intersperses interviews and musings on poetry and literature, observations on computer science, and excerpts from post-Turing test conversations for a fascinating exploration of what it means to be human. This book will surely change the way readers think about their conversations. --Vanessa Bush