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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 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.
"Even without the contemporary relevance lent the book by the specter of global warming. The Little Ice Age would be an engrossing historical volume."See all Product Description
My favourite book. Absolutely outstanding. THE book about existence and cognition.Published 10 months ago by Dylan Gimel
Highly regarded book that I wanted to try out. Though the quality of the physical book is superb, as a general read, it wasn't what I expected nor want to read right now. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Kevin Lyons
Many people see it as a holy grail and Hofstader has no writing skills. His ideas are mixed in a very wierd way and he try to explain very simple thinghs in a very complicated way. Read morePublished 23 months ago by arjuna solis
I haven't read the boook yet, but the shipping was great and the book is in mint condition :)
I bought this because I remember browsing through it when i was a teenager, and found it intriguing, even though I didn't understand most of it at the time, and didn't even come... Read morePublished on Dec 4 2009 by Aeonian
I quite agree with the reviewer from East Hartford. Maybe I am not extremely eligible to comment on the portions dealing with Escher and Bach, respectively (I have no appetite for... Read morePublished on June 23 2004
This book is an excellent introduction to several ideas in cognitive science, biology, mathematics, linguistics, computer science, art, and other fields. Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by underwater girl
I haven't really heard any hype about the book (a lot of the other reviewers are saying the book doesn't live up to its hype). I'm about 2/3 through, and it's really interesting! Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by Jordan Bell
and I'm probably not going to. However, after reading many of these comments, I thought I should point out:
If you want to understand Godel's incompleteness theorem, go pick... Read more