Mind vs. machine

February 14, 2011

Brian Christian describes his experiences preparing for and playing a human "confederate" at the annual Loebner Prize competition (whose format is that of a standard Turing Test), where artificial intelligences compete to be the Most Human Computer and confederates the Most Human Human.

The story of the 21st century will be, in part, the story of the drawing and redrawing of these battle lines, the story of Homo sapiens trying to stake a claim on shifting ground, flanked by beast and machine, pinned between meat and math.

After recognizing the rigidity and "insensitiveness" of the computer programs, Brian offers the following:

As computing technology in the 21st century moves increasingly toward mobile devices, we've seen the 1990s' explosive growth in processor speed taper off, and product development become less about raw computing horsepower than about the overall design of the product and its fluidity, reactivity, and ease of use. This fascinating shift in computing emphasis may be the cause, effect, or correlative of a healthier view of human intelligence--an understanding, not so much that it is complex and powerful, per se, as that it is reactive, responsive, sensitive, nimble. Our computers, flawed mirrors that they are, have helped us see that about ourselves.

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