Notes on The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

Direct quotations from the book and John Kendall's reading notes

epigraph: "As President, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to purse science and engineering. And I also want to keep an eye on those robots, in case they try anything."
--Barack Obama

"Remarks by the President on the 'Education to Innovate' Campaign press release, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, November 23, 2009

p. 5, top the Loebner Prize, begun in 1994, an offshoot of the Turing Test (first proposed in 1950)
explaining the two categories: "the Most Human Computer" (the one that fools human judges into thinking they are talking to a human being the longest) and the “Most Human Human” category, for a human who convinces the same judges that they ARE a human being

p. 9 using the Turing Test as a larger metaphor: "All Communications is a Turing Test."

p. 17 "verbal style" used to detect and filter spam

p. 18 "Intimacy has both form and content."

p, 32-33 "Fragmentary humanity isn’t humanity." referring to being bounced around by numerous customer service operators, none of whom had a vest interest in the author, vs. the one operator who stayed on the line, when trying to find a one-cent replacement for a tiny plastic tab on his cell phone. Humanity is established through interpersonal contact, the essence of good service

p. 48 discussion of "logic gates" like "and," "or," "not" the mathematician and philosopher George Boole established a system for describing logic, hence the phrase "Boolean logic"

p. 75 description of the famous ELIZA program, one of the first widely distributed forms of Artificial Intelligence

p. 80-81 Timothy Ferriss, an author on business: "It's amazing how someone's IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them." referring to a large company with service issues; instead of trying to solve them from the top down, the CEO invited the service reps to propose their own solutions and then incorporate them into a system-wide bank of information

p. 82 "Software development gurus Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas make the point that with a certain latitude of freedom and autonomy, a greater sense of ownership of a project merges, as well as a sense of artistry; as they note, the stonemasons who helped build cathedrals were far from drones-they were 'seriously high quality craftsmen.'" the direct quotation of the gargoyle example was illuminating (see photocopy in file)

p. 85 derivation of the term "Luddite", a present-day technophobe from a group of British workers who from 1811 to 1812 protested the mechanization of the textile industry by sabotaging mechanical looms eventually leads to the metaphor of the "mechanization of mental work"

p. 87 Need to experience machines in order to appreciate being human. Pauline Kael, the noted movie critic: "Trash has given us an appetite for art."

*p. 88 It's not really AI that's the enemy, although many people not involved with software development may misunderstand the process: Show to Peter R and John M "I think, quite earnestly, that all high school students should be taught how to program. It will give our next generation a well-deserved indignation at the repetitiveness and rule-bound-ness of some of the things they'll be asked to do. And it will also give them the solution."

p. 90 In favoring reflection and non-speed, he cites architect Glenn Murcutt: One of the great problems of our period is that we've developed tools that allow rapidity, but rapidity and repetitiveness do not lead to right solutions. Perception gives us right solutions."

p. 92-94 My Dinner with Andre a film entirely about conversation between two long-time friends illustrates the value of human verbal interaction (see photocopy in file)

p. 96 Pablo Picasso: Every child is born an artist. The trouble is how to stay one as you grow up." "Art doesn't scale."

p. 101 origin of "cliche" (coming from a French onomatopoeia for the printing process, words being reproduced without either alteration or understanding")

p. 114-116 letter writing for humans is a form of programming (salutation, conclusion, etc.)

p. 121 "Rote memory is useless without understanding." Gary Kasparov, on how many young chess students blindly memorize openings of games w/o a sense of what comes next

p. 129 a "Proust questionnaire"

p. 133 Sartre's idea that "what defines us is that we don’t know what to do" humans are not pre-programmed

p. 134 "[Human] purpose must be invented . . . can never be found."

p. 138 "Computers are the first tools to precede their tasks."

p. 140-141 defining games

p. 147 books read list on the web

p. 149 "animals who play" and "animals who are smart" are almost the same list; the intrinsic important of playing

Return to Main Page of Books on Learning, Thinking, Creativity and Technology