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Paperback Godel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid Book

ISBN: 0465026567

ISBN13: 9780465026562

Godel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid

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Book Overview

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll 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 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...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

one of those books you return to for the rest of your life

While it took me, an avid reader, a year to span the covers of this book, it was a year filled with mental exercise and enjoyment. GEB challenged me in ways I haven't been since learning the multiplication tables as a newbie to the entire field of mathematics. By the end, it felt like I had learned to walk again but in terms of understanding consciousness. I've gifted this to no fewer than four people in my life, astrophysicists, engineers, aspiring cardiologists in high school, and virologists. While not everyone may initially get excited at the idea of this book, it contains something for everyone eventually. Plus, the sheer joy of the final synthesis of ideas at the end is unparalleled in theoretical writing.

Brilliant and *still* misunderstood!

I've been reading reviews of GEB for years, and the most fascinating thing about them, aprt from the near-uniform enthusiasm of the readers, is that almost none of the enthusiatic readers have any idea of what the book is actually about! The typical reader seesm to think of GEB as a jouyous romp through any number of fascinating bits of logic, math and science without any idea as to what Hofstader's actually doing. Yes, it's about Goedel, and recursion, and "strange loops", and linguistics Bach and ants and all that- but only trivially. The bulk of the book is taken up with what amounts to a very entertaining tutorial that sets the reader up for the real thesis of the book. What Hofstadter has attempted in GEB is nothing less than a concise, bottom-up theory of mind. You can read it as a theory of AI, or a theory of human intelligence, but either way he's telling you how to construct an intelligent entity. True, he doesn't really have a theory of *how* a self-aware being should arise from his metaphorical anthill, but then, neither does anyone else. But he does have a very good story as to how intelligence does arise in such conditions. If you've read this book before without understanding what his aim was, read it again, with that notion in mind. And if you haven't read it, and you're the sort of person who enjoys mathematic and scientific amusements of any sort, well, read it and discover how much fun a speculative theory can be.

A worthwhile effort to read

I first read GEB some 20 years ago as a high school senior/college freshman. Even though I was a mathematically inclined physics major, an amateur classical musician, and a lightning-fast reader, the book still took me a year to finish. This is the sort of weighty tome where one reads a chapter, and then sets the book aside for awhile to let things settle in. It's no wonder that a poll by New Scientist magazine of highly-regarded scientists had to be rephrased as "EXCEPT for Godel Escher Bach, what scientific or technical book would you take to an uninhabited island?"I will cheerfully confess that I cannot remember all of the details of the book, and that there were times when I simply couldn't get at what Hofstadter was trying to explain. Still, some of Hofstadter's writing has stayed with me the past two decades--his classic analogy of Godel's theorem with a stereo system, his discussion of the difficulties of creating an "accurate" translation (using the beginning of "Crime and Punishment"), his wondrous tying-together of math, music, and art. The totally math-phobic will find these, and many other concepts, readily accessible and even symbol-free. Wish I could say as much for some "general audience" philosophy books!

Way out of my comfort zone, but still great.

I'm here to witness that even people as seriously math-challenged as I am can participate in this wonderful book. It took me a *long* time to read-- I flipped back and forth, beat the pages up, asked my more math-oriented friends for help. I spent forever trying to solve the MU exercise. It was worth it. I still feel like I understood parts of it only in intuitive flashes, but those flashes showed me a room more interesting than most of the well-lit chambers ordinary books provide.Reading Godel, Escher, Bach is like joining a club. People who see you reading it will open spontaneous conversations and often gift you with unexpected insights. (I had a fascinating conversation with a total stranger about Godel's theorem.) Wish I could give more than five stars.

Challengingly Fun

Hofstadter has pulled off a miracle with this book. If you like ideas and like reading about how ideas fit together, then get this book. Definately not a one-sitting book (at least for me) but very interesting and worthwhile. It's like listending to your favorite comedian lecture as a highschool teacher on a subject you can't help but be amazed at. He melds art, music, math, computer science, Zen, and more into a beautiful tapestry of fascination. Highly highly recommended.

An amazing book on AI, number theory, music, and logic

I've always been facinated by the concept of artificial intelligence, and when someone told me how good this book was I went out and bought it, and while I was reading it you could not pry it from my hands it was so interesting. Every chapter you learn at least one thing. It constantly sets you thinking. I was amazed at the connection between goedels theory, escher's art and bach's muxic with it's infinitly repeating themes. And the tortise and hare's in between chapter dialogue really helps you understand the complex concepts.
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