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Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid…
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Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (original 1979; edition 1980)

by Douglas Hofstadter

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,61892269 (4.36)2 / 208
Member:sbutts
Title:Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Authors:Douglas Hofstadter
Info:Vintage (1980), Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed, Paperback, 777 pages
Collections:Your library
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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (1979)

Recently added byllouk, private library, KeelyWmson, LiorTalbi, ittayd, e-zReader, jankoza, GeimSouris, Escher67
Legacy LibrariesTerence Kemp McKenna, Iris Murdoch
  1. 101
    Cryptonomicon 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)
  2. 60
    Logicomix: 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.
  3. 50
    Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern by Douglas Hofstadter (JFDR)
  4. 40
    Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel by Rebecca Goldstein (michaeljohn)
  5. 20
    A 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.
  6. 00
    Things to make and do in the fourth dimension 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)
  7. 00
    Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers (hippietrail)
  8. 33
    A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram (Anonymous user)
  9. 01
    Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: A few similar themes (Bach, human cognition) come up in similar ways.
  10. 03
    The 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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Pensare il pensiero

Posseggo questo libro dal mese di gennaio 1985. Un saggio lungo quasi mille pagine che parte dal principio di verificare se vi sia un confine tra il cervello umano e l'intelligenza artificiale.

Questo libro, considerato una pietra miliare delle riflessioni contemporanee e del discorso sulle due culture, quella scientifica e quella umanistica, è un libro davvero importante e intelligente, uno dei più difficili che abbia mai letto. A dire il vero questo è un libro che va letto e riletto in continuazione. Ogni volta che l'intelligenza cerca di osservare con distacco se stessa crea un circolo vizioso, una "eterna ghirlanda brillante" come dice il sottotitolo: pensare il pensiero comporta inevitabilmente ripensare il pensiero e così via.

Nascono così una serie di riflessioni sulle quali occorre riflettere perchè ognuna contiene un limite proprio in questo riflettersi in se stessa. E' un gioco teorico e strutturale che l'autore ritrova nel teorema matematico di Godel, nei geometrici, logici disegni dalle prospettive impazziate dell'incisore olandese Escher e nello svilupparsi dell'arte della fuga di Bach. Il queste pagine riflessioni sul dna e i programmi per i computer, la matematica moderna e classica i paradossi come quello di Achille e la tartaruga convivono con la filosofia zen, la musica di John Cage e un pò tutte le branchie della conoscenza umana in un lavoro di sintesi che continuamente si apre e si chiude. Esattamente ciò che faccio io da circa 30 anni! ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
The most entertaining, educational, and inspiring book I've ever read. It's almost impossible to recommend because of its sheer length and breadth, and its elusive subject matter - music, art, physics, biology, cognitive science, AI, eastern and western philosophy, and lots of math - doesn't help. You'll just have to take my word for it. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
Too slow for me, and I'm walking away from it a few chapters in because I'm not convinced it will blow my mind sufficient for the investment it demands. The introduction caught my fancy, though, with its postulate that self-referential, inherently inconsistent systems are all wrapped up in what we term "consciousness". ( )
1 vote pammab | Oct 17, 2017 |
Update, from re-read: I'm less enamored of this than I was 35 years ago. I might rate it at 3 stars with my 53 year old perspective, but I still like it enough to leave it at four.


[original comments from 2011, but really from my 1979 memory] My first exposure to the math of music, but it soon ventures into so much more; explorations of patterns in life. ( )
1 vote Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
It's hard to be succinct in reviewing this book, given how expansive it is. I got here by way of [b:The Magician King|10079321|The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)|Lev Grossman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316177353s/10079321.jpg|13362064]--this is one of the books Julia's read and FTB discusses, and that told me it was worth a look, apparently. I think it gets a reputation for being impossible to understand unless you're already a genius, but the thing is that it's actually really self-contained. You don't have to already know about computer systems, surrealist art, or 18th-century music, because this is meant to be a highly self-referential book. Everything that it's going to talk about it, well, talks about. You don't have to go in with specialised knowledge.

That said, there's a definite density to it and it's not the kind of book you relax into after work. There's mental labour, which is great if you want something you can really chew on, but not everyone does. And my focus definitely waned when things got math-y and Hofstadter wanted us to "play" with TNT theorems. However, these dropped off in the last quarter, and that was also where I thought the book got more interesting and started to better iterate its goals.

I couldn't stop thinking as I read about how 1979 was approximately a millennium ago in computer time. What computers can do has changed so much since this book came out, and AI systems are exponentially more complicated. We still have a lot of the same conversations about their limitations, though, and whether they can be creative without humans as a prime-mover. I'd be curious to know what this would've looked like written in 2016. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Douglas Hofstadterprimary authorall editionscalculated
尚紀, 柳瀬Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feuersee, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wahlén, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff-Windegg, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, came to power in 1740.
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In its absolute barest form, Gödel's discovery involves the translation of an ancient paradox in philosophy into mathematical terms. That paradox is the so-called Epimenides paradox, or liar paradox. Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: “All Cretans are liars.”
Whereas the Epimenides statement creates a paradox since it is neither true nor false, the Gödel sentence G is unprovable (inside P.M.) but true. The grand conclusion? That the system of Principia Mathematica is “incomplete”—there are true statements of number theory which its methods of proof are too weak to demonstrate.
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Il libro che ha svelato a una immensa quantità di lettori, in tutto il mondo, gli incanti e le trappole di un’Eterna Ghirlanda Brillante i cui fili si chiamano intelligenza artificiale, macchina di Turing, teorema di Gödel. Una «fuga metaforica» nel variegato mondo che si dispiega fra la mente, il cervello e i computer.

«Ogni due o tre decenni un autore ignoto produce un libro di tale profondità, chiarezza, vastità, acume, bellezza e originalità che subito esso viene riconosciuto come un avvenimento di prima importanza: Gödel, Escher, Bach è un’opera di tal genere… La struttura di questo libro è satura di complicato contrappunto non meno di una composizione di Bach o dell’Ulisse di Joyce»

MARTIN GARDNER, «Scientific American»
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465026567, Paperback)

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 Dragan

Topics 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:11 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A scientist and mathematician explores the mystery and complexity of human thought processes from an interdisciplinary point of view.

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