On the subject of human consciousness, there is no better book than Douglas Hofstadter's cult classic. For my generation, the one that grew up in the s, it was an endless source of intellectual stimulation—you could dip into it whenever and wherever you liked, and it was like a drug trip. If you were actually on drugs when you opened the book, it was possibly even better. Hofstadter is an American professor of cognitive science—a discipline that spans many fields, from psychology to neurology to the fine arts to gaming to artificial intelligence. And GEB cuts across all these areas to study human consciousness, in a vastly entertaining and intriguing way, for the layman.
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Escher , and composer Johann Sebastian Bach , the book expounds concepts fundamental to mathematics , symmetry , and intelligence. Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how, through self-reference and formal rules, systems can acquire meaning despite being made of "meaningless" elements.
It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of "meaning" itself. One point in the book presents an analogy about how individual neurons in the brain coordinate to create a unified sense of a coherent mind by comparing it to the social organization displayed in a colony of ants. The tagline "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll " was used by the publisher to describe the book.
The main chapters alternate with dialogues between imaginary characters, usually Achilles and the tortoise , first used by Zeno of Elea and later by Lewis Carroll in " What the Tortoise Said to Achilles ".
These origins are related in the first two dialogues, and later ones introduce new characters such as the Crab. These narratives frequently dip into self-reference and metafiction. Word play also features prominently in the work. One dialogue contains a story about a genie from the Arabic " Djinn " and various "tonics" of both the liquid and musical varieties , which is titled " Djinn and Tonic ".
One dialogue in the book is written in the form of a crab canon , in which every line before the midpoint corresponds to an identical line past the midpoint. The conversation still makes sense due to uses of common phrases that can be used as either greetings or farewells "Good day" and the positioning of lines that double as an answer to a question in the next line.
Another is a sloth canon, where one character repeats the lines of another, but slower and negated. The book contains many instances of recursion and self-reference , where objects and ideas speak about or refer back to themselves. One is Quining , a term Hofstadter invented in homage to Willard Van Orman Quine , referring to programs that produce their own source code.
Another is the presence of a fictional author in the index, Egbert B. Gebstadter , a man with initials E, G, and B and a surname that partially matches Hofstadter. To describe such self-referencing objects, Hofstadter coins the term " strange loop "—a concept he examines in more depth in his follow-up book I Am a Strange Loop.
To escape many of the logical contradictions brought about by these self-referencing objects, Hofstadter discusses Zen koans. He attempts to show readers how to perceive reality outside their own experience and embrace such paradoxical questions by rejecting the premise—a strategy also called " unasking ". Subsequent sections discuss the basic tenets of logic, self-referring statements, "typeless" systems, and even programming.
Hofstadter further creates BlooP and FlooP , two simple programming languages , to illustrate his point. The book is filled with puzzles, including Hofstadter's famous MU puzzle.
Another example can be found in the chapter titled Contracrostipunctus , which combines the words acrostic and contrapunctus counterpoint.
In this dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise, the author hints that there is a contrapunctal acrostic in the chapter that refers both to the author Hofstadter and Bach. This can be spelled out by taking the first word of each paragraph, to reveal: H ofstadter's C ontracrostipunctus A crostically B ackwards S pells ' J. The second acrostic is found by taking the first letters of the words shown in bold , and reading them backwards to get "J S Bach" — just as the acrostic sentence self-referentially claims.
For Summer , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created an online course for high school students built around the book. In its February 19, investigative summary on the anthrax attacks , the Federal Bureau of Investigation suggested that Bruce Edwards Ivins was inspired by the book to hide secret codes based upon nucleotide sequences in the anthrax -laced letters he allegedly sent in September and October ,  using bold letters, as suggested on page of the book.
Hofstadter claims the idea of translating his book "never crossed [his] mind" when he was writing it—but when his publisher brought it up, he was "very excited about seeing [the] book in other languages, especially… French. Hofstadter gives an example of translation trouble in the paragraph "Mr. Tortoise, Meet Madame Tortue", saying translators "instantly ran headlong into the conflict between the feminine gender of the French noun tortue and the masculinity of my character, the Tortoise.
Translation also gave Hofstadter a way to add new meaning and puns. Some material regarding this interplay is in Hofstadter's later book, Le Ton beau de Marot , which is mainly about translation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Dewey Decimal. From to , the National Book Award history gave separate awards to hardcover and paperback books in many categories, including several nonfiction subcategories. Most paperback award-winners were reprints of earlier works; the Science was eligible for both awards as a new book. National Book Foundation. Retrieved The Atlantic. The Atlantic Media Company. Retrieved 25 October United States Department of Justice. February 19, Archived from the original PDF on Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction — Why Survive?
Butler Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Dower Complete list — — — Douglas Hofstadter. Egbert B. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Contribute Help Community portal Recent changes Upload file.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: When logic flies out of the window
For the past 30 years, most of them spent in an old house just northwest of the Indiana University campus, he and his graduate students have been picking up the slack: trying to figure out how our thinking works, by writing computer programs that think. Their operating premise is simple: the mind is a very unusual piece of software, and the best way to understand how a piece of software works is to write it yourself. Computers are flexible enough to model the strange evolved convolutions of our thought, and yet responsive only to precise instructions. He was free to think about whatever he wanted; he chose to think about thinking itself. How could a few pounds of gray gelatin give rise to our very thoughts and selves? Roaming in his Mercury, Hofstadter thought he had found the answer—that it lived, of all places, in the kernel of a mathematical proof.
Godel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid
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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach: A Mental Space Odyssey
Escher , and composer Johann Sebastian Bach , the book expounds concepts fundamental to mathematics , symmetry , and intelligence. Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how, through self-reference and formal rules, systems can acquire meaning despite being made of "meaningless" elements. It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of "meaning" itself. One point in the book presents an analogy about how individual neurons in the brain coordinate to create a unified sense of a coherent mind by comparing it to the social organization displayed in a colony of ants. The tagline "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll " was used by the publisher to describe the book.