Christian, B. The Most Human Human: What talking with computers teaches us about what it means to be alive (2011)

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Christian’s book is a story (almost a diary) about participating to the annual Loebner Prize Competition as a human confederate. Loebner prize competition is basically a Turing test competition where chatbots compete agains each other and the winner is declared as the most human computer. Chirstian took part in the event as human confederate, i.e. as a “baseline” against which the chatbots are compared. The goal of the chatbots is to trick the judges to think they are human and vote accordingly. The human confederates do not have equal goal. However, the one getting most human votes is declared as the most human human. Thus the name of the book.

In addition of being an entertaining diary or travel story the book is also a very good overview of the current state of softwares’ capabilities to engage in human-like interaction with their users and the inhuman interaction we face in many services. Good examples of the later are customer services that although are provided by real persons feel like talking with computers since the workers are forced to follow certain script or lack the needed competence to divert from the script. Christian goes through chatbots, chess computers and many other fields of artificial intelligence or more specifically human-like interaction mimicking technical solutions. However, almost more interesting are the parts where Christian develops strategies of acting as human as possible during the five minute chats that form the competition.

The most human human is an excellent read for any HCI researcher. It depicts both the possibilities and dangers of aiming to human-like interaction in our products and services.

Posted by Petri

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