Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid PDF AZW3 EPUB MOBI TXT Download

Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeA metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis CarrollDouglas 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 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. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.

Douglas R Hofstadter
February 5, 1999
824 pages

File Size: 23 MB
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Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think. Hofstadter’s great achievement in Gödel, Escher, Bach was making abstruse mathematical topics (like undecidability, recursion, and ‘strange loops’) accessible and remarkably entertaining. Borrowing a page from Lewis Carroll (who might well have been a fan of this book), each chapter presents dialogue between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters who dramatize concepts discussed later in more detail. Allusions to Bach’s music (centering on his Musical Offering) and Escher’s continually paradoxical artwork are plentiful here. This more approachable material lets the author delve into serious number theory (concentrating on the ramifications of Gödel’s Theorem of Incompleteness) while stopping along the way to ponder the work of a host of other mathematicians, artists, and thinkers. The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that computers probably won’t ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of Hofstadter’s best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical concepts help make it one of this century’s best for anyone who’s interested in computers and their potential for real intelligence. –Richard DraganTopics Covered: J.S. Bach, M.C. Escher, Kurt Gödel: biographical information and work, artificial intelligence (AI) history and theories, strange loops and tangled hierarchies, formal and informal systems, number theory, form in mathematics, figure and ground, consistency, completeness, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, recursive structures, theories of meaning, propositional calculus, typographical number theory, Zen and mathematics, levels of description and computers; theory of mind: neurons, minds and thoughts; undecidability; self-reference and self-representation; Turing test for machine intelligence. Review Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction Winner of the National Book Award in Science “Every few decades an unknown author brings out a book of such depth, clarity, range, wit, beauty and originality that it is recognized at once as a major literary event. This is such a work.”— Martin Gardner, Scientific American “In some ways, Godel, Escher, Bach is an entire humanistic education between the covers of a single book. So, for my next visit to a desert island, give me sun, sand, water and GEB, and I’ll live happily ever after.”— John L. Casti, Nature “A brilliant, creative, and very personal synthesis without precedent or peer in modern literature.”— The American Mathematical Monthly “I have never seen anything quite like this book. It has a youthful vitality and a wonderful brilliance, and I think that it may become something of a classic.”— Jeremy Bernstein “A huge, sprawling literary marvel, a philosophy book disguised as a book of entertainment disguised as a book of instruction.”— Atlanta Journal-Constitution “A triumph of cleverness, bravura performance.”— Parabola “A wondrous book that unites and explains, in a very entertaining way, many of the important ideas of recent intellectual history.”— Commonweal “Godel, Escher, Bach was a triumphantly successful presentation of quite difficult concepts for a popular audience. There has been nothing like it in computer science before or since.”— Ernest Davis, IEEE Expert About the Author Douglas R. Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he also directs the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition. He is the author or co-author of nine books, including I Am a Strange Loop and Surfaces and Essences, and has contributed to ten more. He lives in Bloomington. Read more <div id="

  • By rights, I should love this book. Escher and Bach are among my favorite artists and musicians (respectively), and I’ve spend many hours pondering Godel’s incompleteness theorems. Of course, though these three geniuses feature prominently in the book, they’re not really what the book is about. This is the source of many of the complaints I’ve seen regarding the book; people expected to read about these three figures and instead read a book about mathematics and logic and philosophy and psychology and linguistics and so on and so forth. However, I don’t share that complaint. I also love reading about all of those fields of inquiry.I even think Hofstadter is fundamentally correct in most of what he wrote. Of course, the book is now some decades old and, considering that computer science features prominently in its pages, a fair number of its examples are now comically outdated. Still, this doesn’t seem to affect the book’s arguments in any meaningful way. The book’s fundamental thesis that meaning can arise from “meaningless” formal systems through self-referential hierarchies is a fascinating one.The trouble is, the book is needlessly difficult to read. I’m not arguing that it’s difficult because it explores difficult subject matter. I wouldn’t object to that. In fact, some of the subject matter is rather difficult, but it is the author’s treatment of his subject matter that leaves much to be desired. Rather than clearly articulating his point, the author presents a meandering and repetitive set of arguments and observations. Some reviewers have complained that his treatment of mathematical content was insufficiently formal. Fair enough, but I don’t mind an informal presentation of difficult topics in a work intended for a general audience. That is not really what the author does here, however. Instead, he dumbs down the complicated and complicates the simple or self-evident. The result is a book that, by the author’s own admission (n the preface to the 20th anniversary edition), even its fans fail to understand. Of course, the author could have taken this opportunity to offer further clarity, but instead his preface is almost as meandering as the book itself.The use of dialogues interspersed between the book’s chapters seems like an interesting idea. Initially, the dialogues seemed like charming illustrations of the rather fertile intellectual ground explored by the book. By the end, however, they were more annoying than helpful. More than once, I found myself uttering “get on with it” into the book’s pages (and I say that as a devotee of long and detailed books). That really seems to be Hofstadter’s fundamental problem. It’s clear he loves his subject and wants to shout his love to the world. I don’t blame him. It’s a fascinating subject. But rather than simply stating his thesis and trusting his readers to understand, he felt the need to wax poetic at every possible opportunity, stretching a topic that could easily be explained in a short book (or maybe even a long essay) into a tome of nearly 800 pages.This book has become something of a classic, so I suppose I have to consider it required reading for anyone interested in things like mathematics, philosophy, or consciousness. And I do admit that, when the author actually bothers to make his points, they’re interesting ones. Unfortunately, the book simply wasn’t given the editorial treatment it needs so very much, and isn’t nearly as enjoyable a read as its subject matter deserves.
  • I only bought this to leave out on my coffee table to show people I’m better than them. If you’re as pretentious as I am, this book is perfect for you. Five stars for esoteric pseudo-intellectualist bragging rights.No, but really it is a fascinating book, provided you have the fortitude to slog through it.
  • GEB is a singularity of very cool ideas.Some of the topics explored: artificial intelligence, cognitive science, mathematics, programming, consciousness, zen, philosophy, linguistics, neuroscience, genetics, physics, music, art, logic, infinity, paradox, self-similarity. Metamathematics. Metathinking. Meta-everything.The author said he was trying to make the point that consciousness was recursive, a kind of mental fractal. Your mind will certainly feel that way when you are done.This is not a dry discussion of these topics. The author recognizes that he’s exploring things that are intrinsically fascinating and fun, and has fun with them the whole way through. He doesn’t just discuss the ideas, he demonstrates them, sometimes while he’s discussing them, in clever and subtle ways.Inbetween chapters, he switches to a dialogue format between fantasy characters; here he plays with the ideas being discussed, and performs postmodern literary experiments. For example, one of his dialogues makes sense read both forwards and backwards. In another, the characters jump into a book, and then jump deeper into a book that was in the book. In yet another, a programmer calmly explains the function and output of a chatbot while the chatbot calmly explains the function and output of the programmer. I find the author’s sense of humor in these delightful.In a word, it’s brilliant. GEB combines the playful spirit of Lewis Carroll, the labyrinthine madness of Borges, the structural perfectionism of Joyce, the elegant beauty of mathematics, and the quintessential fascination of mind, all under one roof. It’s become something of a cult phenomenon, and it has its own subreddit, r/GEB, and even its own MIT course.Does the book succeed in its goal? One of the common criticisms is that the author never gets to the point and proves his thesis, and instead spends time on endlessly swirling diversions. But I don’t blame him; the task of connecting mind to math is insanely speculative territory. All he can do is spiral the topic and view it from every conceivable direction. He decided to take a loopy approach to a loopy idea, and I think that’s very fitting. If you want a more linear approach to the same idea, you could read I Am A Strange Loop. However, the way GEB weaves a tapestry of interrelated ideas, rather than focusing on just one, is a major part of its charm.In the grand line of reductionism, where we in theory reduce consciousness to cognitive science to neuroscience to biology to chemistry to physics to math to metamath, GEB positions itself at the wraparound point at unsigned infinity, where the opposite ends of the spectrum meet.It is an utter gem, a classic, and a pleasure to read. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • I struggled to identify the point of this book and eventually gave up before finishing it. I’ve read reviews that say its point is to show how consciousness and intelligence can arise out of constructs such as “strange loops” in Godel’s mathematics, Escher’s art and Bach’s music but you won’t find this out until the latter part of the book. Meanwhile, you have to slog through 777 pages in which you know the author is leading to something, but you don’t know what. I would rather the author had stated his premise at the beginning and then spent the rest of the book supporting it with examples. He uses dialogs between Achilles and the Hare to illustrate complex concepts but I found myself hoping that those characters would meet untimely ends before I was a third of the way through the book. The author’s theory seems solid but the explanation wore me out.
  • This review comes after my second attempt to tackle GEB, both of which were thwarted by the author’s insufferable style. The content, while intellectual, is hardly as difficult as Hofstadter makes it out to be with his roundabout explanations—he seems more concerned with intellectual flexing than with concise rhetoric.It’s a shame that this wasn’t curtailed by the editing process because I wish I had the tenacity to find the signal in amongst the noise. GEB reads like the literary equivalent of “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”.
  • GEB is pretty much the must-read book for anyone interested in computers and/or general philosophy of mind. Hofstadter has had a long, interesting career in the field of interesting mathematics and links between theory and real life. In his magnum opus, GEB, he explores what it is to be a self-thinking machine, and how, by looking at it from some other perspectives, we can learn a lot about how we think and do.The beginning of the book starts out by explaining some simple concepts, and then chains them together in ever-growing complexity. By the sections on natural-language processing, the symbolic logic can be a little overwhelming if you’ve not done symbol manipulation before.. Once powered-through (and assuming that you were able to either follow the logic, or trust in Hofstadter’s reasoning chain), the book moves into more varied and easier to understand areas which demonstrate the Godel Theorem without going into the maths.I absolutely loved this book. It’s a masterpiece of this generation. It takes some serious bending of the little grey cells to follow all of the logic, but the wonderful interplay of the music, art and maths is truly mind-expanding. Once you see what Hofstadter’s pointing out, you simply can’t un-see it.Pretty soon, you’ll be making Quine-based quips, or looking for self-disproving theorems (like “This sentence is false”). Ahh, the beauty of a well-laid trap paradox!so, if you’re scientific, technical or just plain interested in maths, then get this. It’s a very weighty tome, and a recently added preface and some new sections make it even beefier. But it’s so worth it. If I could draw parallels, I’d say it’s as mind-expanding as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance… that sort of thing.
  • A book that caused a bit of a sensation when first appeared but seems quite dated now apart from being completely on the wrong lines philosophically as far as I am concerned. Beautifully produced and illustrated and the author has considerable erudition but he is very wordy, woolly and ultimately has very little to say. He puts me off Zen rather than attracts me to it and Escher’s drawings though clever are terrifying. Nature never does fall or ever will fall into the sort of infinite regress, serpent eats its tail &c. that the author finds so sexy. In some ways a dangerous book.
  • Practically new, unmarked copy, carefully packed and promptly delivered. No way can I yet give a blow by blow account of the book itself. Have you seen it? Have you weighed it? Remember, too, this is no ordinary book, which is why I was so keen to find it. For an intelligent review, ask me again in around 5 years’ time. This one is going to be like swimming the English Channel. I look forward to it enormously.
  • The Escher prints in the book have very poor quality. They are printed in the cheap paperback kind of paper, and you can not appreciate the details, ehich is an important part of the interest that this book has
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