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4.5 out of 5 stars
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
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on January 5, 2015
My favourite book. Absolutely outstanding. THE book about existence and cognition.
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on August 11, 2014
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. Maybe in the future I will. Just not what I expected, and if you're like me, maybe just opt for any book by Carl Sagan, or Richard Dawkins.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2013
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. His stories and characters remind my "flat catolic jokes" after all he does it in the spirit of the createor of NARNIA!.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
I haven't read the boook yet, but the shipping was great and the book is in mint condition :)

Thomas
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
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 close to reading it all. So, currently being a little "wannabe" erudite, I figured I'd give it another look, from a more experienced perspective.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2004
The Atlanta Journal Constitution describes Gödel, Escher, Bach (GEB) as "A huge, sprawling literary marvel, a philosophy book, disguised as a book of entertainment, disguised as a book of instruction." That is the best one line description of this book that anybody could give. GEB is without a doubt the most interesting mathematical book that I have ever read, quickly making its place into the Top 5 books I have ever read.
The introduction of the book, "Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering" begins by quickly discussing the three main participants in the book, Gödel, Escher, and Bach. Gödel was a mathematician who founded Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, which states, as Hofstadter paraphrases, "All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions." This is what Hofstadter calls the pearl. This is one example of one of the recurring themes in GEB, strange loops.
Strange loops occur when you move up or down in a hierarchical manner and eventually end up exactly where you started. The first example of a strange loop comes from Bach's Endlessly rising canon. This is a musical piece that continues to rise in key, modulating through the entire chromatic scale, ending at the same key with which he began. To emphasize the loop Bach wrote in the margin, "As the modulation rises, so may the King's Glory."
The third loop in the introduction comes from an artist, Escher. Escher is famous for his paintings of paradoxes. A good example is his Waterfall; Hofstadter gives many examples of Escher's work, which truly exemplify the strange loop phenomenon.
One feature of GEB, which I was particularly fond of, is the 'little stories' in between each chapter of the book. These stories which star Achilles and the Tortoise of Lewis Carroll fame, are illustrations of the points which Hofstadter brings out in the chapters. They also serve as a guidepost to the careful reader who finds clues buried inside of these sections. Hofstadter introduces these stories by reproducing "What the Tortoise Said to Achilles" by Lewis Carroll. This illustrates Zeno's paradox, another example of a strange loop.
In GEB Hofstadter comments on the trouble author's have with people skipping to the end of the book and reading the ending. He suggests that a solution to this would be to print a series of blank pages at the end, but then the reader would turn through the blank pages and find the last one with text on it. So he says to print gibberish throughout those blank pages, again a human would be smart enough to find the end of the gibberish and read there. He finally suggests that authors need to write many pages more of text than the book requires just fooling the reader into having to read the entire book. Perhaps Hofstadter employs this technique.
GEB is in itself a strange loop. It talks about the interconnectedness of things always getting more and more in depth about the topic at hand. However you are frequently brought back to the same point, similarly to Escher's paintings, Bach's rising canon, and Gödel's Incompleteness theorem. A book, which is filled with puzzles and riddles for the reader to find and answer, GEB, is a magnificently captivating book.
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on June 24, 2004
If you have never read this book, then I'd like to say that it has a lot of the most greatest knowledge out there. It doesn't just deal with math, art, and music, but also with zen, philosophy, self-ref, self-rep, holism, reductionism, and everything else that is considered pure knowledge of cognitive science and general intelligence. I don't know why some of the people rating it have no idea of what's it about; it's not about Godel's theorem like many think it is, it's about consciousness and how the power of the mind and the "I" comes out of the inanimate matter that creates us. That's not it, the second part of the book talks about computer programming and AI. Can a computer program ever have a sense of self or compose meaningful music? Hofstadter's response to the second one was: "Only if that AI could go through the maze of life on it's own, fighting it's way through it and feeling the cold of a chilly night, the longing for a cherished hand, the inaccessibility of a distant town, the regenaration after a human death, the...and only then can it be considered to do so."
This book really has more than that. I can't say all of the things mentioned in it, not in this tiny little review, but I can say that you should probably read it and hopefully understand it because it truly is a masterpiece.
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3 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2004
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 Escher. I like chamber music of Bach and somtimes play his keyboard music but my performance level is, of course, that of amateur.)
But I must say the part dealing with Gödel's Theorem of Incompleteness is *complete garbage*. I am convinced anyone with a degree of mathematics will agree with me: for those who have no background in mathematics, I assure you that Gödel's theorem concerns a problem in "formal logic" and has nothing to do with human-cogno-something.
If this book were meant to be a cult literature, that would be okay: I don't care anyway.
But if this is meant to be an entertainment for people with no scientific background, I rate this alchemy or pseudo-science at best.
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This book is an excellent introduction to several ideas in cognitive science, biology, mathematics, linguistics, computer science, art, and other fields. It cleverly reveals how different fields influence each other in a cross disciplinary fashion and actually "embeds" this structure inside the book. I won't go into more detail, but as soon as you read the book, you will see how this is done. The writing is crisp and engaging, almost as if Lewis Carroll, Noam Chomsky, and your favorite professor in college gave birth to a book. The concepts are revealed through parables, koans, and other forms involving characters named Tortoise, Achilles, and Crab and at one point involve a metagenie.(...)
The only criticisms that I have about the book are
1)Some radically new things have been discovered/done in many of the fields discussed in the book, especially artificial intelligence. The book doesn't talk about some of these developments, and some of the statements in the book are inaccurate or outdated (ex: chess playing computer that can beat human will never be built, replication in biolgy is A LOT more complicated/different than its rather cursory rendering in this book)
2)This book is more helpful as an introduction to spark your interest in various topics than a detailed guide to the many interesting ideas that have arisen in science. After reading about concepts in the book, if they are interesting, it would be helpful to read a more detailed and recent book on the topic.
3)Sometimes, but not usually, the author's desire to be witty or find connections overwelms the actual truth of his statements--at these points the connections made are rather weak.
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on May 24, 2004
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! I'm not really sure what the message is, but I just like that it makes me think about interesting things. I'm an undergrad student doing a summer research project in math, so when I get a bit tired of really rigorous math, this is a nice break for me, but it still keeps me thinking.
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