Subjects

Brian Christian

Author, Algorithms to Live By and The Most Human Human

The computer science of human decisions

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Biography

Brian Christian is the author of The Most Human Human — a Wall Street Journal bestseller, New York Times editors’ choice, and a New Yorker favorite book of the year — and the coauthor, with Tom Griffiths, of Algorithms to Live By.

Christian’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Paris Review, and in scientific journals such as Cognitive Science. Christian has been featured on The Charlie Rose Show and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has lectured at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, the Santa Fe Institute, and the London School of Economics. His work has won several awards, including fellowships at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, publication in Best American Science & Nature Writing, and an award from the Academy of American Poets.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Christian holds degrees in philosophy, computer science, and poetry from Brown University and the University of Washington. His work has been translated into twelve languages. He lives in San Francisco.

Books

Algorithms to Live By

The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

A fascinating exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind.

All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such problems for decades. And the solutions they’ve found have much to teach us.

In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one’s inbox to understanding the workings of human memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

Henry Holt and Co. (April 19, 2016)

Review

Book ReviewEE Times

Praise

“A remarkable book... A solid, research-based book that’s applicable to real life. The algorithms the authors discuss are, in fact, more applicable to real-life problems than I’d have ever predicted.... It’s well worth the time to find a copy of Algorithms to Live By and dig deeper.”
Forbes

“By the end of the book, I was convinced. Not because I endorse the idea of living like some hyper-rational Vulcan, but because computing algorithms could be a surprisingly useful way to embrace the messy compromises of real, non-Vulcan life.”
The Guardian (UK)

“I absolutely reveled in this book... It's the perfect antidote to the argument you often hear from young math students: ‘What's the point? I'll never use this in real life!’... The whole business, whether it's the relative simplicity of the 37% rule or the mind-twisting possibilities of game theory, is both potentially practical and highly enjoyable as presented here. Recommended.”
―Popular Science* (UK)

“An entertaining, intelligently presented book... Craftily programmed to build from one good idea to the next... The value of being aware of algorithmic thinking―of the thornier details of ‘human algorithm design,’ as Christian and Griffiths put it―is not just better problem solving, but also greater insight into the human mind. And who doesn’t want to know how we tick?”
Kirkus Reviews

“Compelling and entertaining, Algorithms to Live By is packed with practical advice about how to use time, space, and effort more efficiently. And it’s a fascinating exploration of the workings of computer science and the human mind. Whether you want to optimize your to-do list, organize your closet, or understand human memory, this is a great read.”
― Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

“In this remarkably lucid, fascinating, and compulsively readable book, Christian and Griffiths show how much we can learn from computers. We’ve all heard about the power of algorithms ― but Algorithms to Live By actually explains, brilliantly, how they work, and how we can take advantage of them to make better decisions in our own lives.”
― Alison Gopnik, coauthor of The Scientist in the Crib

“I’ve been waiting for a book to come along that merges computational models with human psychology ― and Christian and Griffiths have succeeded beyond all expectations. This is a wonderful book, written so that anyone can understand the computer science that runs our world―and more importantly, what it means to our lives.”
― David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

The Most Human Human

What Artifical Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive

Brian Christian

The Most Human Human is a provocative, exuberant, and profound exploration of the ways in which computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human.

For the first time in history, we are interacting with computers so sophisticated that we think they’re human beings. This is a remarkable feat of human ingenuity, but what does it say about our humanity? Are we really no better at being human than the machines we’ve created?

By mimicking our conversation and behavior, computers have recently come within a single vote of passing the Turing test, the widely accepted threshold at which a machine can be said to be thinking or intelligent. In this witty, wide-ranging and inspiring investigation, Brian Christian takes the recent and breathtaking advances in artificial intelligence as the opportunity to rethink what it means to be human, and what it means to be intelligent, in the twenty-first century.

Competing head-to-head with the world’s leading AI programs at the annual Turing test competition, he uses their astonishing achievements as well as their equally fascinating failings to reveal our most human abilities: to learn, to communicate, to intuit and to understand. And in an age when computers may be steering us away from these activities, he shows us how to become the most human humans that we can be.

Drawing on science, philosophy, literature and the arts, and touching on aspects of life as diverse as language, work, school, chess, speed-dating, art, video games, psychiatry and the law, The Most Human Human shows that, far from being a threat to our humanity, computers provide a better means than ever before of understanding what it is.

Anchor; 2.5.2012 edition edition (March 6, 2012)
Doubleday; First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)

Awards

National Bestseller, The Wall Street Journal
Favorite Books of the Year, The New Yorker
Editors’ Choice, The New York Times
Best Books of the Year, The Boston Globe

Reviews

I Took the Turing TestThe New York Times
More Than MachineThe Wall Street Journal
Inverting the Turing TestAmerican Scientist

Praise

Fast-paced, witty, and thoroughly winning. Fabulous
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Remarkable. A philosophical joyride
The London Times

Lively and thought-stirring. Invaluable
New Statesman

Incredibly engrossing
The Onion A.V. Club

Cogent and quick, heartfelt and thoughtful
Science News

Eye-opening
— David Eagleman, Author Of Sum And Incognito: The Secret Lives Of The Brain

Immensely ambitious and bold — a delightful book
— Alan Lightman, Author Of Einstein's Dreams And Ghost

Strange and fertile
— Matthew B. Crawford, Author Of Shop Class As Southcraft

This is such an important book
— David Shenk, Author Of The Forgetting And The Genius In All Of Us

Topics

Brian tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such problems for decades. And the solutions they've found have much to teach us.

In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary talk, Brian Christian shows how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. He explains how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one's inbox to understanding the workings of human memory, he transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive

“Can machines think?” So begins Alan Turing’s legendary 1950 paper on machine intelligence in which he proposes a practical experiment – the Turing test – for telling the difference. A panel of judges talks via text message with two parties, one human and the other a machine, and attempts to tell which is which. Turing predicted that in the 21st century we would come to a point at which many of us would be unable to tell the difference.

As AI technology increasingly permeates society and the gap between humans and machines continues to narrow, a look at both the history of the Turing test, and the present-day bots that compete in it, offers us a counterintuitive lesson: far from being a threat to our humanity, AI is teaching us, more than ever, who we are.

Videos

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Watson and Artificial Intelligence | The Charlie Rose Show