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Essere Umani (2012)

by Brian Christian(Favorite Author)
3.9 of 5 Votes: 1
Le Scienze
review 1: This book was recommended to me by Goodread after I read “Incognito” by David Eagleman. I chose this among other recommendations because 1) I am always interested in Philosophy of ‘self’/consciousness but I am never on the level to understand the concepts coming from well-known philosophers like Aristotle, Lao Tzu or David Hume. The closest thing on this subject matter I read and was partially able to stick in my head was Nagel’s essay on “What is it like to be a bat?”… Since this book sits on the easier spectrum of Philosophy readings, it was natural for me to choose this. 2) I find the reason behind the book funny - The author wrote this book because he joined a computer/human conversation contest (the Turing test, not unfamiliar to people who study philo... moresophy, I know!) where he had to prove himself against some robots, that he is a HUMAN (LOL! Thus the title!)This book does not disappoint me! It is a must-read if you constantly think about meanings of being yourself/human.First of all, it’s easier to understand in relative to many other philosophy books I attempted. The analogies he uses to explain his points are easy to grasp, you don't need background knowledge to understand his ideas.Second, the wide range of knowledge offered in this book is simply fascinating. Upon finishing the book, you will learn about funny trivial anecdotes of the author himself, how pickup artists view human relationships, how the world champion chess player lost against a computer, what life lesson you can learn from file compression algorithms…. and many more. I am still trying to let all these ideas sink into my head by rereading some sections.Finally, I really like that the author is encouraging readers to be more ‘human’. As the author pointed out.. while we human beings are designing machines to do more human tasks, some of us are also becoming more like machines or becoming a clone of the majority…Isn’t that funny?? Reading this book, I am really pleased to find a voice that protest against this kind of machine-sque life.However, like most other reviewers mentioned, the thoughts in the book tend to be disorganized. Even with my enthusiasm towards all his ideas, I found myself having very difficult time to follow. Sometimes I went back a few paragraphs to reread again and still couldn’t quite find the correlations between the subsections of a chapter… It also doesn’t help that many paragraphs were made up of lengthy, choppy sentences…Nonetheless, I am nobody to judge somebody’s writing style. So, given the inspirations this book has given me, I am giving it 5 stars!!
review 2: Brian Christian brings us into the world of computer intelligence and the Turing test to ask and partially answer the question of what makes us human. Along the way, he wool gathers into the areas of computer chess, mathematics, the pick up artist, the novelist and the brain damaged.His book is incredibly information dense and diverse.I can see it used as the basis of a semester or even year long class about the hallmarks of humanity.He also asks the question, are humans becoming more like computers. Mathematics, long considered the apex of human development is where computers excel. Is it possible that in making ourselves computational experts we are in danger of losing some of our humanity. Let's face it, there is no way to review this book without the review being nearly as long as the book. It touches on everything. It is interesting to note that Christian often refers to the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter. I think I am overdue for a reread. less
Reviews (see all)
One of the most enjoyable nonfiction books I've read in a long time. Brian Christian is a poet as well as a computer programmer, and both sensibilities inform this book. Christian uses his experience serving as one of the human "controls" at the big annual Turing Test as the jumping-off point for a clearly and warmly written popsci survey of various topics in cognitive science, linguistics, information theory, and AI research. Lots of clever lines, lots of great quotes, lots of subtle and overt encouragements to the reader to be more the kind of person I also want more people to be: curious, idiosyncratic, novelty-preferring, dissatisfied with confining, predictable roles and language. I find Christian to be a kindred spirit -- I liked his book, and after reading it I liked him.
This is a book about the Turing Test, where computers compete for the Most Human Computer Award, trying to convince judges they are not a computer. To do this, they have to also include humans--referred to as confederates--in the competition. The humans all compete for the Most Human Human Award. As Brian Christian talks about his experience being a confederate in 2009, he brings up many interesting points that arise from a competition like this. Aspects of Philosophy, Humanism, Identity, Communication, and Language are discussed throughout this book, all trying to answer the question of "what does it means to be human?".
Endlessly interesting, and informative about both humans and computers.
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