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Loading... ## Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979)## by Douglas R. Hofstadter
- 101Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Zaklog)
Zaklog: Cryptonomicon strikes me as the kind of book that Hofstadter would write if he wrote fiction. Both books are complex, with discursive passages on mathematics and a positively weird sense of humor. If you enjoyed (rather than endured) the explanatory sections on cryptography and the charts of Waterhouse's love life (among other, rarely charted things) you should really like this book.… (more) - 60Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis (tomduck, EerierIdyllMeme)
EerierIdyllMeme: An obvious suggestion (surprised it's not here already). Both are creative and fictional riffing off of formal logic and incompleteness. - 50Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern by Douglas R. Hofstadter (JFDR)
- 40Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel by Rebecca Goldstein (michaeljohn)
- 20A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos (heidialice)
heidialice: GEB is a thousand times as intense, but if you enjoyed the parts about self-referentiality it's worth a skim. Conversely, if GEB is just too much, Paulos' concise introduction to the theme is very accessible. - 00Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician's Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More by Matt Parker (Lorem)
Lorem: Things in 4D I consider a more accessible version of GEB in its breadth and how it does get to complex topics. If you enjoyed the more complicated parts of 4D, definitely look at GEB and if GEB was a little too much, 4D might remind you why math(s) are never boring… (more) - 00The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers (hippietrail)
- 33A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram (Anonymous user)
- 01Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (EerierIdyllMeme)
EerierIdyllMeme: A few similar themes (Bach, human cognition) come up in similar ways. - 03The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (P_S_Patrick)
P_S_Patrick: Arturo Perez-Reverte has recieved inspiration for his excellent mystery thriller from Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach, even without some of the chapter introduciton quotes, that much is clear. He uses the bewildering Escherian theme of worlds within a world, Godels incompleteness theorum is alluded to in the monologue of one character, and Bach is discussed in relevance to the mystery too, along with a few miscellaneous paradoxes which are also slipped in, in a similar spirit in which they permeate the more complex non-fictional work. Non-fiction readers who have enjoyed GEB should be amused by the Flanders panel, and I think they should enjoy it even if they do not often dip into fiction. It would be harder to recommend GEB to fans of the Flanders Panel, due to its sheer length, but if you were intrigued by the themes in the story then it should at least be worth finding GEB in a library and dipping into it.… (more)
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Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book. Notes whilst reading it. The first part on logic is a bit tough going in places. Take home message for me was: is order innate (normal) or depending on one's perspective? i.e. will supposed other worlds be able to make sense of a the record man sent into space. Will Bach be order for them too, or will they see order in Cage's creations? A bit dated as the author uses examples of records and jukeboxes to illustrate his stories. I get it; does a teenager? This is certainly the greatest book of popular science I've encountered or heard of yet--it's accessible, engaging, playful, but also very deep and original in its analysis. It gives brief intellectual history where necessary, and repeats the same arguments in many surprisingly different ways for comprehension. But its ultimate ignorance/dismissal of the social world, assertion of objective meaning, and computational theory of mind force me to give it a lower rating. (Original Review, 1980-09-24) Thoughts on dolphins. To Danny Weinreb: check out John Lilly's books on dolphins, particularly the one I mentioned recently, "The Mind of the Dolphin". Lilly has spent years trying to answer just those questions you have raised. To ICL.REDFORD, read the book mentioned above. You will find the arguments for dolphin intelligence much more clearly stated and documented than I was able to do in one short paragraph. It also shows clearly why there is a difference between the 'understanding' of a dog or cat and that of a dolphin or chimpanzee. The conjecture that man's ability to use tools is a major cause of his evolutionary success has a lot of merit. However, to assume that this is the only way intelligence (as we know it or otherwise) can develop is a rather parochial way of viewing things. Communication is also an arguable measure of intelligence, and many animals have this ability to varying degrees. Before we ask "Are dolphins intelligent?" we must ask "What is intelligence?" Doug Hofstadter, in his book "Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid", presents a way of looking at intelligence that is not as restrictive as most current definitions. (I highly recommend this book to anyone, by the way. It is published by Basic Books in hardback, and is worth whatever you may pay for it.) He makes a good argument for the claim that intelligence is a consequence of the complexity of organization of the nervous system of an organism. This would imply that dolphins and whales may be (in some sense) MORE intelligent than we are (although - read on) since it has been shown that these mammals have brains that are more complex than our own. In fact, most current definitions of intelligence tend to describe it in such a way that only humans have it. This I believe to be due to an inability to "step outside the system" and be truly objective about what it is that separates us (if there is indeed anything) from the other inhabitants of this planet. In my view, "intelligence" is a continuum, and not necessarily one-dimensional at that. Looking at dolphins from this perspective, it is ludicrous to compare them to us and say "Are they intelligent?" That's like asking Flipper to take the Stanford-Binet. It ignores the possibility of a universe outside our own in which values may not match our own. It is precisely this possibility that is addressed by the question "Can we communicate with other 'intelligent' beings?" Personally, I suspect that we will have common ground with most 'intelligent' species in the area of formal mathematics. That field, more than any other, derives from an attempt to distill the essence of the universe from what we observe. And, more than any other field, it is truly a product of the mind only. Amazing. no reviews | add a review
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Imagine a glorious future in which, by means of magic and genetic engineering, the human species is transformed into a better, smarter, faster, more beautiful, more creative, more moral, stronger, happier species, a more

alivespecies. We make Elysium, then we live in the Elysium we’ve created.In this Arcadia, this Heaven, this Eden, this Platonic Form of the world animated and electrified by benevolent intelligence, you walk across grassy fields and you see the whole thing, The Dream:

Everyone is wearing flowing white robes. (Why? Just because.)

Over there athletic people engage in athletic contests, their good-natured competition embodying grace, fluidity, and the confidence of a well-disciplined, healthy body.

Over here, mathematicians use sticks to draw in the dirt on a river bank, proving astoundingly beautiful and useful new theorems.

In another direction a young man or woman lounges, back against a tree, releasing sweet strains of melody into the air by means of some sort of elegant string instrument.

Are you with me?

Okay.

In that universe, every non-fiction book is this good.

What’s it about?

It’s about, principally, Godel’s Theorem. The other stuff, at least in the first part (Escher, Bach, etc.), is just add-ons. Godel’s Theorem is often mis-characterized as “disproving all of mathematics!” or some similar nonsense. No. It says something about formal mathematical systems, systems of clearly stated axioms with clearly stated rules of inference for deriving implications of the axioms. The theorem essentially says that any formal system sophisticated enough to be used for number theory - reasoning about integers - either has internal inconsistencies or is unable to prove every truth in number theory.

This does not “Undercut all of mathematics” or whatever. It simply means that a consistent formalistic approach to mathematics can never derive all mathematical truths. There are some truths that can only be proven in other ways. Indeed, Godel shows how to prove some of those truths by reasoning outside formal systems!

To prove it, Godel had the profound insight that any formal system can be re-interpreted as a set of numbers and arithmetical operations on them, so formal number theory talks about itself! This is so cool.

E.g., suppose your formal system has the symbol string x#@^&?G-!y. (This might mean, say, “x is the largest number in the prime factorization of y.”) We also have a rule that allows us to derive x<=y (x is not greater than y) from the first string. But we also can interpret x as 5, # as 0, @ as 2, and so on, so the initial symbol string can be interpreted as a number. And so the second string is a number that we can derive from the first. So the rules of inference in this interpretation are arithmetic operations on numbers. Thus we can apply mathematical reasoning to the system and derive conclusions about the symbol strings it will generate and those that it won’t generate.

A simplified analogy: Suppose that we can prove - by reasoning outside the formal system - that the system will never produce a string whose number is prime. What Godel proved, in this analogy, was there is always a symbol string that asserts “N is a prime number” (in the first interpretation) whose number was N (in the second interpretation). Thus, if the statement is true, the formal system will never prove it!

(It is possible to verify that a well-designed system will never "prove" a false statement, so you can avoid that problem.)

In fact, no only do such true-but-formally-unprovable statements exist, in any formal system complex enough to be useful, but an infinity of them exists!

It was the idea of reinterpreting the symbols as numbers that was Godel’s real stroke of freakin’ genius. The theorem is based on that.

Anyway: The next time someone tells you, “Godel’s Theorem proves that all mathematics is invalid,” or whatever, just give them a wedgie and move on. All it proves is that a certain approach to mathematics cannot prove everything. Which, unless you had unrealistic ambitions for it in the first place, is not that surprising. ( )