Douglas R. Hofstadter ( ebook PDF ) Gödel Escher Bach An Eternal Golden Braid
Tellectually high end outputAt some point he got sent a completely insane looking ms ridiculously long bits of paper stuck on bits of paper all these pictures which hadn t any copyright permission and as for the titlewell who was going to buy a book called thathe sent it back with a polite letterSome years later he was in NY lunching with the boss of Basic Books a US academic publisher He wanted to publish this strange ms he d been given As he was describing it John interrupted with Godel Escher Bach I presume Evidently Hofstadter had gotten lucky and had on loan a very early word processor The whole thing was no longer the shambles it once was Basic Books was een John got talked into taking some thousands of copies This turned out well for him but What he had lost Ouch Godel Escher Bach in English and in translation would have made him many millions I won t say he cried about it but he did ask for a discount on the books he was buying After such a sad tale it was impossible to say no Expand your mind Not for the faint of heart yet by no means dry Hofstadter makes some fascinating observations about emergent properties such as intelligence and diverts us into the extremely heavy mathematics of Godel via the self referencing systems that are Bach s fugues and Escher s optical illusion style artworkBefore too many chapters have passed though you ll be firmly in number theory land albeit doled out as painlessly as is possible with such stuff leavened with imagined philosophical debates between ancient Greeks and other proxies I seem to remember Achilles spends a lot of time talking to a tortoiseNumber theory reuires no great resource of mathematical The Art of Memoir knowledge just an extremely agile and open mind If you let him Hofstadter will show you how Godel destroyed Betrand Russell s Principa Mathematica his attempt to logically deduce all of mathematics from a set of axioms Godel shows us that I paraphrase drastically that all logical systems allow statements about natural numbers that are true but unprovable within the systemAnd somehow this isn t even what the book s about As the pages turn you will be steadily tested and at some point it will become apparent you ve not been paying close enough attention However even without taking pen to paper and labouring through the instructive exercises you can get a pretty decent glimpse at some exciting and fundamental thinking Join my 3 emails a year newsletter prizes If I were clever enough I would write this review as a fugue This is the formal structure that Hofstadter uses throughout G del Escher Bach Whether the whole book is a fugue I m not smart enough to tell But the fugue is used as a metaphor for layers of brain activity thoughts superimposed over the hardware of the brain the neuronsIn fact though I would recommend starting at the beginning of the book I suppose one might begin anywhere and read through and back again a la Finnegan s Wake No the book isn t designed this way but considering that I couldn t discern a solid central idea until page 302 of the book and that this was only one of several theses in the book I wouldn t be surprised if it proved possible to begin anywhereThe idea presented there is To suggest ways of reconciling the software of mind with the hardware of brain is a main goal of this book The uestion is does it succeed I would argue that it does notAnd it does not matterThere are some works such as Giorgio De Santilliana s Hamlet s Mill or Daniel Schacter s Searching for Memory that are so vast and all encompassing that it is difficult to pin down one central thesis These are theind of works that you might not understand in your lifetime the thoughts of a genius transposed directly to paper that unless you are an eually gifted person or a savant you cannot hope to fully comprehend Still the threads and nuggets of gold that are spread throughout make it worth the time spent in the dark mines of incomprehension if only to find that one fist sized chunk of precious metal and appreciate its beauty set against the background of your own ignoranceAs far as I can tell the book is really about intelligence both human and artificial Hofstadter does a lot of preliminary work priming the reader s brain with assumptions taken from theoretical mathematics and computer programming But don t let that scare you off I m no math whiz but I found most of the logical puzzles at least comprehensible after a few careful reads Hofstadter also gives the occasional exercise leaving the reader without an answer to his uestion Like all good teachers Hofstadter understands that the students who work things out on their own are the best prepared students That doesn t mean that you won t understand many of the book s salient points if you can t successfully answer his uestions You can But in order to understand the finer points I suppose one would have to have a pretty good grasp on the answers to those uestionsI don tAnd it didn t matterWhat did matter for me was having a little bit of a background in the idea of nested hierarchies and a smidgen of nowledge in non linear dynamics aka chaos theory For the former I d recommend Valerie Ahl s seminal Hierarchy Theory A Vision Vocabulary and Epistemology For the latter just do what you were going to do anyway and look it up on Wikipedia I won t tell anyoneThe idea of nested hierarchies is central to the understanding of what makes human intelligence different from machine intelligence The short story is this human thought is structured from the ground up according to the basic laws of physics in particular electricity because it is through electricity that neural networks well network The issue is that the layers interceding between neural electrical firings and human thought are tangled They are explainable or ought to be explainable by a series of tangled layers that lead up to the higher functioning of thought Again this is one of the central points of the bookAnd this is the point where Hofstadter utterly failsAnd it doesn t matterYou see Hofstadter never convincingly shows those transitional layers between neural activity and thought though he claims they must be there He claims that it should be possible to create an Artificial Intelligence AI that is every bit as human as human intelligence The problem is how do you define human intelligenceHofstadter presents the problem like this Historically people have been na ve about what ualities if mechanized would undeniably constitute intelligence Sometimes it seems as though each new step towards AI rather than producing something which everyone agrees is real intelligence merely reveals what real intelligence is not If intelligence involves learning creativity emotional responses a sense of beauty a sense of self then there is a long road ahead and it may be that these will only be realized when we have totally duplicated a living brainOne of the big issues in identifying whether an AI is actually intelligent is the notion of slipperiness The
concept here is that human thoughts can deal in a larger possibility space my words than here is that human thoughts can deal in a larger possibility space my words than intelligence Hofstadter uotes from an article in The New Yorker in which two statements are made that while possible would constitute lunacy on the part of anyone who actually believed them They are If Leonardo da Vinci had been born a female the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel might never have been painted And if Michelangelo had been Siamese twins the work would have been completed in half the timeThen he points out another sentence that was printed without blushing I think he Professor Philipp Frank would have enjoyed both of these books enormouslyHofstadter comments Now poor Professor Frank is dead and clearly it is nonsense to suggest that someone could read books written after his death So why wasn t this serious sentence scoffed at Somehow in some difficult to pin down sense the parameters slipped in this sentence do not violate our sense of possibility as much as in the earlier examples This allowable playfulness is something so complex and multi layered that an AI would be hard pressed to correctly parse an appropriate reactionThis is just one case portraying the difficulty inherent in trying to define and understand intelligence and the connection between brain hardware and mind thought The book is rife with them I m not convinced that Hofstadter was fully convinced that there will ever be a machine so intelligent as to completely mirror human thoughtAnd one last time it doesn t matterThis book has set me to thinking thinking hard about what it means to be human Not merely as an intellectual exercise but deep in my emotional breadbasket if you will I feel human in a way that I can t explain when I think about the difficulty of trying to translate my hopes fears love creativity wordplay happiness sadness and ambitions into machine language There has been a lot of talk lately about singularity that moment when machines become self aware I m beginning to think that it will never happen And I m fine with thatBesides Hofstadter gives an implicit warning when uoting Marvin Minsky who said When intelligent machines are constructed we should not be surprised to find them as confused and as stubborn as men in their convictions about mind matter consciousness free will and the likeIn other words if we do somehow construct true Artificial Intelligence with the same capacity for thought and feeling as human beings whose to say the person we create isn t going to turn out to be a real douchebag Terminator anyone I could not with a clear conscience going to turn out to be a real douchebag Terminator anyone I could not with a clear conscience this book to everyone because I m simply not that cruel It would be like recommending large doses of LSD to everyone some small minority will find the experience invaluably enlightening but for most people it s just going to melt their brainWhile you do not need to be a professional mathematician to appreciate this you really have to like math a lot You can t just sort of like it You can t just differ with the masses in not hating mathematics You can t just find it mildly interesting rather than utterly abstruse and inaccessible For example you pretty much have to find the following joke to be hilariousThere are 10 inds of people in the worldThose who understand binary and those who don tIf you are slapping your nee right now then you might like this book If during the course of slapping said nee all the pens fell out of your pocket protector and landed scattered across the piece of paper you were using to make Venn diagrams to help you decide what to have for breakfast that of course is even betterIf you really like math then this is going to be one of the best books you ve ever read Go get it now But if you really like math then you ve almost certainly already read it If you haven t read it already then you can t possibly like math enough to enjoy it Hmmmmm There s a recursive paradox in there somewhere Best not to think about it It might melt your brain This is a nice book if you want to understand the G del incompleteness proof and get an account that is both accessible and reasonably rigorous There s a lot of other fun stuff as well but it s the G del proof that s the core of the book and if that doesn t turn you on then you aren t really going to think GEB is worth the effort Personally I would say that this is one of the most amazing things ever The you think about it the bizarre it gets there are mathematical theorems that are true but which you can t prove And not only can you can prove that that is so you can even construct examples of such theorems It sounds about as possible as eating your own head but it really works Hofstadter shows you the machine takes it to pieces and then puts it back together again and runs the engine VroomPS I remember not long after GEB came out leafing through an interview with Sylvester Stallone The interviewer asked him what he was reading at the moment Godel Escher Bach said Stallone It s really hardProbably Rambo is in real life a smart well educated person and this is deeply unfair to him but I couldn t help finding it funny. N so too will computers attain human intelligence Gödel Escher Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science meaning reduction recursion and muc. The reading of a book and its interpretation are determined in part by the cytoplasmic soup in which it is taken up This reader s soup consists of a large portion of metaphiction This is how Hofstadter apparently intended to structure his work a Lewis Carroll styled dialogue between Achilles and Tortoise and friends introducing a subject followed by a rigorous but popularly accessible explication of that topic This is how I read Hofstadter s book as a crab canon A crab canon as our musicologists will tell you inverts and reverses the main theme of the canon I reversed Hofstadter s organization of the book reading the dialogues as the primary portion and treating the chapters as their mere explication The fiction is compelling than the non fiction As it should beIs it a difficult book No Not if you were in the top 20% of your high school class paid attention in your biology classes your math classes had some chemistry and physics perhaps took a few 101 courses in college had a course on logic or mathematical reasoning now a bit about music Bach of course have some nowledge and interest in writing computer programs in things like BASIC and other computer programing languages popular in the 70 s and 80 s play chess etc In other words an averagely intelligent citizen in an educated nation ought to have no great difficulty with this book What makes it than a grab bag is Hofstadter s setting side by side a fairly diverse set of topics and tracing out homologies and isomorphisms and analogies all which ought to culminate in shedding some light on the nature of consciousness and the prospect of Artificial IntelligenceSo but what is made clear if the prospect of AI is not is that metafiction is not just a bunch of intellectual masturbation but is a fictioning which takes real things ie metamathematical structures and uses them in structuring a story or fixing them into narrative metaphors Metaphictionists are after all also Realists For instance everybody s favorite metaphictionist John Barth subscribes to popular science journals like Scientific American in order to mine them for metaphor He writes about his fascination with the coast line measurement problem and the prospect of structuring his fiction upon principles similar to such things as fractals Mandelbrot and all thatFictionists and novelists deriving their narrative structures from the sciences and philosophy is nothing new Laurence Sterne borrowed from John Locke the theory of the association of ideas 19th century social realism of the Zola and Dickens sort is inspired in part from marxist and other socialist movements Woolf s studies of experience could not have taken place without Husserl s phenomenology of consciousness How much fictional ink has been spent following Freud or feuding with Freud And you really really have to read Calvino s fantastical Cosmicomics Fiction does not simply come out of nowhere Form and content have always mutually determined each other in any fiction worth readingSo shall we say that the form and content of our beloved metafiction of the past half century is in part derived from discoveries in mathematics and metamathematics G del s contribution A mathematical theorem which is about itself A set which has itself as a member Etc etc but you get the idea perhaps I don t intend to publish a thoroughly researched and exhaustive catalogue of metaphiction with its each and every GEB correlate I m happy to just point the way And make my claim that all these wicked names thrown at metaphiction masturbatory self indulgent cold pretentious etcetc are simply wrong headed Metaphiction is about a real thing our experience of self consciousness and what it makes us do I believe that this wicked name calling in regard to smart fiction is due to a defense formation against the trauma of being the PostgreSQL Server Programming - Second Edition kind of thing we are and theind of world we make for ourselves compulsively And that this defense formation dreams of a time when the recursive habit of thought could come to a comforting end in God s safe arms when consistency and completeness would both be simultaneously and within the same system guaranteed That when God disappears from our metaphysical world it disappears from our fictional world the omniscient in control voice of Author God is gone replaced with G del Author and character become democratic euals providing characters with the metaphysical ladder up which they may escape this terrible mess the author has tried to createExamples gratis for meta than you ll wanna shake your stick at and all of which occurred to my meta thinking brain whilst GEB ing John Barth clearly especially that seven story deep frame tale Menelaiad from Lost in the Funhouse and I ve Been Told A Story s Story from Where Three Roads Meet Leyner s fantastic The Sugar Frosted Nutsack exemplifying the full inclusion of self within self including the inclusion etc MJ Nicholls A Postmodern Belch although he wouldn t have thought that he
had metamathematical bile in his bones and we ll let The Belch metamathematical bile in his bones and we ll let The Belch in for other such character escapcapades such as Mulligan Stew and At Swim Two Birds etc Robert Coover s The Adventures of Lucky Pierre and lot of his other stuff Should we point out obligatorily that DFW was not able to overcome metaphiction for very precise reasonsBut enough about me How about the book Read it It s fun Don t be overwhelmed with Hofstadter s two irritating verbal tics treating mind and brain as interchangeable synonyms and his tendency to characterize his philosophy of mind opponents as soulists Also it s a 30 year old text addressing the uestion of AI much has changed and much has not changed Enjoy the damn thingAlso hey forget the mostly forgettably bland prose It s no matter it merely functions But do notice that he s got a novelist s eye and ear for structure I dare say with a few tweaks we d have a pretty good novelPre Review Highlights pertaining to commentaries 1 8Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say Review tomorrow unless I say but you get the idea This book was so metal G del s incompleteness theorem which states that all consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions is certainly a large part of what made the book so fascinating and addictive The issues of self reference and self awareness and how they relate to both human and potential artificial intelligence were likewise extremely compelling But the magic is in the mathHere is a brief summary of the G del in the bookThe above image Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography knocked my socks off when I first saw it and I m still running around barefoot The longer I think about it the astounding it becomes No matter how many new branches you form on the trees no matter how small they might be there will always be some unreachable truth Wow No socksThe preceding picture by Escher demonstrates anotherey point of the book to wit such twisting back such looping around such self enfolding far from being an eliminable defect was an inevitable by product of the system s vast power G del s second theorem states that neither G nor its negation can be a theorem We have found a hole in our system an undecidable proposition You can even see the corresponding hole in the drawing by Escher it is in fact necessary for the image to make sense The fascinating thing is that any such system digs its own hole the system s own richness brings about its own downfallOnce the ability for self reference is attained the system has a hole which is tailor made for itself the hole takes the features of the system into account and uses them against the system No truly robust system can be consistent and no consistent system can be truly robustThus far I have attempted to summarize the main thematic elements of the book as succinctly as possible Now for some of the pros and cons of the bookPros It was conceptually packed full of food for thought The book had everything you could ask for logic mathematics philosophy music art psychology genetics recursive paradoxes bad jokes about recursive paradoxes bad jokes about bad jokes about recursive paradoxesthe list goes on and on Sorry had to go there Anyway I #also thought that the examination of the nature of intelligence was a worthwhile portion of the book The Bongard problems were #thought that the examination of the nature of intelligence was a worthwhile portion of the book The Bongard problems were particularly neat way of looking at meaning pattern recognition and how to program critical thinkinganalysisreasoning My personal favorite part math wise other than G del s insanity of course was Cantor s Diagonal Argument The infinitude of the real numbers never ceases to blow me away Just think of the all the real numbers contained between 0 and 1 for instance there is an infinite universe contained therein Infinite And that is only between two integers How many of those integer guys are running around again Oh yeah uite a few Thus your mind is blown or at least mine always isit s too beautiful to imagine Then you have Cantor s Diagonal Argument which demonstrates this amazing property and the proof smacks you right in the face with its elegance and its simplicity its sheer genius By the way I highly recommend looking at Cantor s argument on its own if you re that way inclined Basically Cantor showed that no exhaustive table of reals can be drawn up after all which amounts to saying that the set of integers is just of reals can be drawn up after all which amounts to saying that the set of integers is just big enough to index the set of reals The insidious repeatability of the diagonal argument indeed Goddammit math The field of real numbers is just so badass and beautifulCons The book was a bit repetitive at times and much long winded than it needed to be Hofstadter s personality also definitely started to wear on me I love math puns and groaners as much as the next nerd but one can be too cute too clever The sense that the author was a little too satisfied with all his tricks and puns and overly witty structuring was often irritating In fact it bordered on feeling smug and obnoxious often than notOverall however no matter how annoying the author s too clever cleverness could be the fact remains that the book explored some genuinely fascinating complex conceptual realms and did so in uite a bit of detail For that reason it was an excellent read I ll leave you with two philosophical nuggets from the book the second is clearly humorous in tone but fun to think about nonetheless From the balance between self The Taste of Night (Signs of the Zodiac, knowledge and self ignorance comes the feeling of free will Everyonenows that the insane interpret the world via their own peculiarly consistent logic how can you tell if your own logic is peculiar or not given that you have only your own logic to judge itself I don t see any answer I am just reminded of G del s second Theorem which implies that the only versions of formal number theory which assert their own consistency are inconsistent As I work my way through this dense book I am reminded of the Zen tale of 4 blind men and an elephant To settle a dispute between townspeople over religion the Zen master had 4 blind men and an elephant led in With the men not nowing it s an elephant the Zen master had each feel a part of the elephant Each blind man gave a varying but inaccurate guess of what it was he felt In conclusion the Zen master exclaimed that we are all like blind men We have never seen God but can only guess based on our subjective feelingIn much the same way each chapter in GEB is like feeling a part of an elephant Hopefully by the time we touched each part we have a good idea of what the book is about Here is my layman s take on what that elephant is filtered by my interest in human cognitionG del Escher and Bach The heart of this book is these Strange Loops that represent the activities inside our brains that turn into consciousness GEB uses art and music in combination with math and computing to illustrate these self referential loops The mechanic of the loops is represented by the works of the mathematician Kurt G del the artist MC Escher and the mu. Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of “maps” or links between formal systems However according to Hofstadter the formal system that underlies all mental.
Douglas R. Hofstadter æ 8 reviewSician JS Bach Kurt G del s Incompleteness Theorem shows that a formula is unprovable within its axiomatic system G del s usage of mathematical reasoning to analyze mathematical reasoning resulted in self referential loopiness basically saying a formula cannot prove itself MC Escher creates visual presentations of this loopiness in his Waterfall and Drawing HandsFinally JS Bach s Musical Offering were complex puzzles offered to King Frederick the Great in the form of canons and fugues A simple description of a canon would be a theme that played against itself such as in Row Row Row Your Boat JS Bach The Musical Offering s visual endless loops G del s incomplete self referential theorem and Bach s canons and fugues in varying levels help to illustrate the characteristics of consciousness The book alternates between Chapters and Dialogues The Dialogue is between Achilles and the Tortoise inspired by Lewis Carroll s What the Tortoise Said to Achilles which in turn was inspired by Zeno of Elea s dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise The purpose of the Dialogue is to present an idea intuitively before it is formally illustrated in the following Chapter GEB presents varying ways of explaining about systems and levels that create these self referential infinite loopsSystemsTo discuss intelligence GEB starts off explaining the playground in which this takes place We re introduced to the idea of a formal system by the MU puzzle In a formal system there are two types of theorems In the first type theorems are generated from the rules within the system The second type is theorems about the system This puzzle contains the string MIU This system tells us to start with the string MI and transform it to MU by following certain rules After going through the process we find that we cannot turn MI into MU following these steps no matter how long we try We would merely be generating countless strings To stop endlessly generating strings reuires the second type of theorem in which we analyze the system itself This reuires intelligence in which we gauge that this will be an endless task We then guess at the answer intuitively If a computer was told to try to generate the answer it would go on ad infinitum We humans however would soon realize that this is a hopeless situation and stop We the intelligent system critiues ourselves recognizes patterns and jump out of the task it is assigned to do It is difficult however for us to jump out of ourselves No matter how much we try we cannot get out of our own system We as a self referential system can talk about ourselves but cannot jump out of ourselves Thus it is impossible to now all there is to now about ourselves The countless self help techniues are testaments to thatFormal systems are often built hierarchically with the high level meaning where consciousness lies building from the low level primitive functions The most interesting example of levels is in the typogenetics of the DNA GEB gives a detailed account of how enzymes work on the strands with typographical manipulations creating new strands The new strands in turn act as programs that define the enzymes The enzymes again work on the strands This system of enzymes causing the creation of new strands strands defining the enzymes creates a change of levels as new information are created from the process Even readers who don t like math would find it interesting to see how the coding of our DNA works as chemicals help to turn simple codes into us GEB gives further details on the complex process of chemicals and codes but this is the basic ideaIsomorphismIsomorphism is a process of change that preserves information As intelligent beings we are able to detect isomorphism and thus recognize patterns This allows a system to be interpreted in varying ways without losing important information This is illustrated by Bach s canons and fugues A canon can vary in complexity in which the copies can vary in time pitch and speed Also the copy of the theme can be inverted in which the melody jumps down whenever the original jumps up The copy can also be played backwards such as in the crab canon However the copy modifies itself it still contains all of the information of the original theme Isomorphism is mathematically illustrated in the author s p system invention In this system we are able to perceive that the string p means 2 plus 3 euals 5 with the dashes representing numbers p representing plus and representing euals The recog If you open up the 20th Anniversary Edition of GEB you ll see that the first thing Douglas Hofstadter does in the introduction the very first thing is grouse that nobody seems to understand what
his book is about Not even its publishers or readers who justbook is about Not even its publishers or readers who just love it A uick glance at the back cover will give you the same impression even the glowing two sentence blurbs are hilariously vague all of them variations on the theme of Well that certainly was something Yes uite a wonderful something indeedSo how are you supposed to now whether to pick it up Or put less delicately how are you supposed to now whether reading all 740 dense sprawling pages is worth your while The short answer is Read this book if you like to think about thinking as well as to think about thinking about thinking The long answer makes me nervous since the typical review of this book apparently misses the point entirely I feel like I m starting out on thin ice Oh well I ll take a crack at it anywayAt its heart this book is about whether you can start with simple parts and from them build a system which is so complicated that it becomes than the sum of its parts in a significant sort of way For example scientists have a very clear understanding of how a single neuron functions They even have a fairly good understanding of how neurons operate in groups to take on specific tasks like wiggling your pinkie finger But there are around a hundred billion neurons in a human brain and the structure uickly becomes preposterously complicated groups of groups of groups of neurons all acting in interconnected ways to produce conscious thought How do we get something as complex as human consciousness out of something as simple and well understood as a neuronThe answer Hofstadter likes is that the brain operates on many different interacting levels and that conscious thought is a product of the complex interaction between all these levels So in order to understand something you re reading you depend on individual neurons operating in basically deterministic ways to move signals around your brain but you also depend on groups of neurons in your vision centers to recognize text as well as other groups of neurons on other levels to understand that text and other groups of neurons on other levels to fit that new understanding into the context of the previous sentence and so on All of this applies eually well to artificial intelligence which is Hofstadter s field It s just that an electronic brain would be built from transistors and subroutines instead of brain tissueThe title is a little misleading this book is not at all about how when you get right down to it Kurt Godel MC Escher and JS Bach are totally interrelated man Their work is just useful in getting deeper down into that idea of interacting layers that produce complexity For example Kurt Godel was a mathematician who proved that in any self consistent formulation of number theory you could generate theorems that while true were not provable in within that formulation Basically he showed that any formal mathematical system is necessarily incomplete in specific ways Here s the part where things start to get craaaaazy If you build a well formed number theory labeled X then X can be used to generate a proof of X s self consistency only if X is inconsistent The reverse is also true And all this relates back to how a system can be than the sum of its partsThese are definitely interesting ideas and very worth reading about but whether GEB is worth reading is a harder uestion It s a very well written well researched book I love that the author goes way way way out of his way to spend time explaining difficult ideas rather than to assume a dull or disinterested readership But sometimes that tendency to dig deeper can start to obscure the central point of a chapter I think that s why so can start to obscure the central point of a chapter I think that s why so people lose track of what the book is actually about there really are a ton of fascinating ideas that are all given eual weightThe book hops between two different formats The first is your standard well written popular discussion of complex scientific artistic or philosophical ideas In fact Hofstadter is very good at this part He excels at getting the reader interested in and even excited about some traditionally inaccessible stuff The second format is a series of short dialogs between fictional characters interspersed between every chapter that help to allegorically enforce the ideas in whatever chapter Overall this approach is very good at getting you to understand the complicated ideas Hofstadter is getting at I found that my problems with the book weren t with the subject matter which was fascinating and enjoyable but with the author Ol Dougie H loves this material He loves it so much that he tries to infect you with his own personal sense of wonder and whimsy at how complex and beautiful art and life and science are And of course he s right but that s not the point If he trusted you to feel these things for yourself the book would be maybe 200 pages shorter As it is his constant pedagogical wordplay and artful brain teasers started out fun but after page 400 they started making me tired Also those forced injections of wonder and whimsy start to take on the flavor of little plugs for the personal fantasticness of Douglas Hofstadter For example his discussion of the language processing functions of the brain is interesting but did he really have to bring up the fact that he s fluent in Russian and translated Eugene Onegin In a short book or a movie cleverness can be fun and exciting In a 740 page tome not so muchI strongly recommend this book to a very narrow set of people If you think you d be interested in the subject matter AND you wouldn t mind playing simple word or math games in the service of understanding it AND the inner workings of a computer scientist s marvelous brain seem interesting to you then definitely read this book I enjoyed it and found it very fun and informative overall But if you read this review and you get the feeling you probably won t like this book you re probably right This book told me something about intelligence the smartest thing to do is to avoid this book s overly lengthy babblings of a self important graduate student who is way too impressed with himself It took this guy over 700 pages to illustrate by analogy his not particularly novel theory which he sums up finally as followsMy belief is that the explanations of emergent phenomena in our brains for instance ideas hopes images analogies and finally consciousness and free will are based on a ind of Strange Loop an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back down towards the bottom level and influences it while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom levelDuh from Randall Munroe Mouseover says This is the reference implementation of the self referential joke I Exile and Pilgrim know Inow I now I m just idding myself I m as likely to read this as a book on string theory Please don t Please don t tell me I have read a book on string theory I m trying to forget the whole sordid story But I hope you like thisA friend of mine established The Harvester Press in the 1970s He did it on a wing and a prayer he was a young teaching academic who couldn t find in print the old literary books he wanted to use as texts and so he set about publishing them He was probably as surprised as anybody when the idea uickly became viable He put together a list of books sold them as a subscription to libraries and away he went He wasn t an academic any he was a proper publisher with a strong reputation for in. Activity transcends the system that supports it If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons the.