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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Paperback – February 5, 1999
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
As the book introduces the reader to cognitive science, the author draws heavily from the world of art to illustrate the finer points of mathematics. The works of M.C. Escher and J.S. Bach are discussed as well as other works in the world of art and music. Topics presented range from mathematics and meta-mathematics to programming, recursion, formal systems, multilevel systems, self-reference, self-representation and others.
Lest you think Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, to be a dry and boring book on a dry and boring topic, think again. Before each of the book's twenty chapters, Hofstadter has included a witty dialogue, in which Achilles, the Tortoise, and friends discuss various aspects that will later be examined by Hofstadter in the chapter to follow.
In writing these wonderful dialogues, Hofstadter created and entirely new form of art in which concepts are presented on two different levels simultaneously: form and content. The more obvious level of content presents each idea directly through the views of Achilles, Tortoise and company. Their views are sometimes right, often wrong, but always hilariously funny. The true beauty of this book, however, lies in the way Hofstadter interweaves these very ideas into the physical form of the dialogue. The form deals with the same mathematical concepts discussed by the characters, and is more than vaguely reminiscent of the musical pieces of Bach and printed works of Escher that the characters mention directly in their always-witty and sometimes hilarious, discussions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
On reading Iain Mcgilchrist' Master and his Emissary, I see the trouble with this sort of book. Douglas R. Hofstadter is a classic left brain sort of guy. Read morePublished 25 days ago by a badly positioned hole near centre of chariot wheel
There is sooo much content in this book it's going to take my whole life to even begin to understand.
Very well written and super interesting though, love it.
This book is a classic and a masterful blend of ideas. Even though the science and technology mentioned is dated, it was correct at the time, and does not detract too much from... Read morePublished 1 month ago by A. R. Davis
This is an excellent book to edify oneself on myriad subjects-- viz., music, art, and math.
My only complaint is with consistency. Read more
This book was very popular with my friends when I was in college, so popular, in fact, that I balked at it as being something trendy and never got around to reading it. Until now. Read morePublished 2 months ago by R. Silva