How human are you? It’s a question that strikes me as both absurd and deeply important. Brian Christian probably would agree. He was one of the humans used to evaluate if computers can fake out humans in pretending to be real people. In 2009, Christian participated in the Loebner Prize, an annual competition for the Turing Test. Judges had short, five minute conversations via chat with Christian and his fellow human confederates, along with several chatbots – computers that have been taught to type messages so they would sound like a person. The chatbot that fools the most judges is deemed the Most Human Computer, while the human that is recognized as such most often is deemed the Most Human Human. It was a title Christian felt he simply had to win. His book on the subject, The Most Human Human, is now in stores, and the young author recently visited Jon Stewart on The Daily Show to discuss his experiences. Watch his interview in the video below.
This brief and funny conversation between Christian and Stewart is a good introduction to the Turing Test, and an even better example of how mainstream media is finally becoming fascinated with the real challenges we face with the growth of artificial intelligence.
Christian’s attempt to become the Most Human Human is remarkable in its own right. I’m looking forward to reading his book to learn the details of that journey. Yet I find Stewart’s fascination with Christian’s experience almost as interesting. So often when mainstream media discusses the future of artificial intelligence it’s couched in references to apocalypses of Terminator-like origins. This interview, however, really just focuses on the shrinking (but still important) differences between human and machine intelligence. In between the hilarious jokes, the audience actually gets a chance to hear about what sets us apart from our creation: whether it’s moodiness or our ability to master social interactions. This level of dialogue is a really good sign. Between books like Christian’s and Watson’s wins on Jeopardy!, mainstream media may finally be able to understand that the best story about AIs isn’t how they may or may not kill us in our sleep…it’s about whether or not we’re going to wake up some day and realize that the things that make us human may help AIs become human too.
[screen capture and video credit: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart]