So what is this book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid — usually known by its acronym, “GEB” — really all about? That question has hounded me . Part I: GEB. Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering. The book opens with the story of Bach’s Musical. Offering. Bach made an impromptu visit to King Frederick . consciousness and unified theories? Get ready to chase me down a rabbit hole into Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach.
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Return to Book Page. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental 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, then so too will computers attain human intelligence.
Paperback20th Anniversary Editionpages. Published by Basic Books first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Can someone please explain the difference between an axiom and a theorem according to Hofstadter? I need to hear it explained in another way.
Roger Merritt An axiom is something that is just assumed to be true. It is not based on logic or reasoning. It is said to be self-evident. The truth ggeb it is …more An axiom is something that is just assumed to be true. The truth of it is supposed to be so obvious that it need not be proven.
Indeed, it cannot be proven. A theorem is an assertion of fact. It usually is not obvious. Its truth can only be proven by arguing according to a set of rules called “logic.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
It looks initially like a scarily difficult read. Is it hard going? Brian I think it’s fun. I come from programming and music theory so the way he discusses ideas is not unfamiliar.
It depends on how you consume heavily …more I think it’s fun. It depends ggeb how you consume heavily abstract writing. There are almost certainly parts you’ll have to reread several times, but it’s not dissimilar from any other logic-dense academic writing.
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Jul 01, Daniel rated it liked it Recommends it for: If you open up the “20th Anniversary Edition” of GEByou’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 just absolutely love it. A quick 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 Yes, If you open up the “20th Anniversary Edition” of GEByou’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.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Yes, hofstadrer a wonderful something indeed. Or put less delicately, how are you supposed to know whether reading all dense, sprawling pages is worth your while? The short answer is: Oh well, I’ll take a crack at it anyway.
At 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 more than the sum of its parts in a significant sort of way.
For example, scientists have a very clear understanding hofstsdter 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 quickly 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 neuron? The 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 egb 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 equally well to artificial intelligencewhich is Hofstadter’s field. It’s just that an electronic brain would be built from transistors and subroutines instead of brain tissue. The title is a little misleading – this book is not at all about how when you get right down to it, Kurt Godel, M. Bach are totally interrelated, man. Their work is just useful in getting deeper down into that idea hofsttadter interacting layers that produce complexity.
geeb For example, Kurt Godel was a mathematician who proved that in any self-consistent formulation of number theory, you could generate theorems beb, 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 geh, 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 more than the sum of its parts. These are definitely interesting ideas and very worth reading about, but whether GEB is worth reading is a harder question. It’s a very well-written, well-researched book. I love that the author goes way, way, way hofstadtrr 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 many people lose track of what hofstqdter book is actually about – there really are a ton of fascinating ideas that are all given equal weight. The 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 hfostadter 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 hofstaster 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. 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 pages shorter. As hotstadter is, his gofstadter pedagogical wordplay and artful brain teasers started out fun but after page 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 page tome, not so much. I 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 hfstadter scientist’s marvelous brain seem interesting to you, then definitely read this book.
Hofsstadter 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. View all 15 comments. Jun 02, Aloha rated it it was amazing Shelves: As I work my way through this dense book, I am reminded of the Zen tale uofstadter 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.
Each blind man gave a varying but inaccurate guess of what it was he felt. In conclusion, the Zen master exclaimed that we are hofstadtet like blind hofstaadter.
We have never seen God, but can only guess As I work my way through this dense book, I am reminded of the Zen tale of 4 blind men and an elephant.
We have never seen God, but can only guess based on our subjective feeling. In 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.
GEB uses art yeb music, in combination with math and computing, to illustrate these self-referential loops. Escher, and the musician J. Escher creates visual presentations of this loopiness in his Waterfall and Drawing Hands. Ohfstadter – The Musical Offering: The book alternates between Chapters and Dialogues. The purpose of the Dialogue is to present an idea intuitively beb it is formally illustrated in the following Chapter. GEB presents varying ways of explaining about systems and levels that create these self-referential infinite loops.