The Most Human Human

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and read Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive.

The Most Human Human is an exploration of humanity, which uses the Turing Test as its launch point for the conversation that follows. The Turing Test is a blind contest where judges chat online with programs or human confederates to see if they can tell the difference between the true humans and the chat imitation programs. The machine that most often fools the panel wins the Most Human Computer Award. But there is also a prize for the Most Human Human (for the confederate that most often is identified as a human by the judges), which is the prize that Christian sets off to win. This is a memoir, but it’s also a philosophical exploration, comedic romp, and tech textbook all in one. You can also see Christian discussing his work on The Daily Show, here.

But what does all of this have to do with crowdsourcing? Well, I recently read an article in New Scientist that discusses the shortcomings of smartphones when it comes to pre-populating with words or phrases, particularly for predictive communications that are geared towards users who struggle with traditional typing methods on Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. Researchers asked Mechanical Turk workers to submit phrases that might be employed by people with cerebral palsy or motor neuron disease, resulting in an initial 6,000 phrases. Those results were combined with extracted sentences and phrases of similar structure from Twitter and other social media posts, bringing the total to tens of millions of entries. The result? A system that needs 11 percent fewer keystrokes.

So it turns out that even though machines are closing the gap between technology and the rest of humans, they can only do so with the help of, well, humans…

What else separates the humans from the machines? Is the intelligence of the crowd a distinct intelligence from that of a single human? Is this post getting too philosophical?





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