Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Paperback(20th Anniversary Edition)

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of "maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465026562
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 02/01/1999
Series: Art of Mentoring Series
Edition description: 20th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 824
Sales rank: 32,692
Product dimensions: 9.04(w) x 10.88(h) x 1.71(d)

About the Author

Douglas R. Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he also directs the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition.

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Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The headline I just wrote might sound like a negative, but it's not. Hofstadter's book, which is literally in a class by itself, reaches out in thought to music, art, biology, writing, religion... and all the rest of it, all through the lens of the proof of Godel's incompleteness theorem, which is about the inability of proving something about a system from within the system. And that, to my mind, is pretty much everything there is to say about 'mind'. What else can I say? I was a 24-year-old with a B.A. in English and no math since High School algebra II when I read this book now I'm a PhD in mathematics, and I use this book in a first year seminar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very thought provoking book. When you have finished it's 700+ pages you will feel as if you have gone through an entire year's worth of courses. It touches on art, philosophy, artificial intelligence, mathematics, and ascetics. It is a journey through cognition that I have never encountered before. Hofstadter is truly a genius. My only complaints are that he can be a bit long winded, and the reading becomes dry. But the read is deffinatley worth it. This book changed my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came early to a love of logic, and to my love of Escher upon needing posters for my dorm room, but this book introduced me to both Goedel and Bach. And so many other things and ways to think. By the end of my Bachelor's it had also helped me through my single grad level course--one semester spent on this very theorem. He does more than make complex ideas accessible, he makes them compelling. I find it hard to convince people to pick this book up, but even harder to convince them to put it down--by the end of second year, we'd all read it and fallen under its sway. It's worth reading again every few years, because it doesn't all fit in my head at once--there's always more to learn. I can't recommend it too highly. I think of it as the adult non-fiction Phantom Tollbooth.
Michael_McInnis More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. Hofstadter's clean, lucid prose offers a deeper understanding of the topics covered in this book. Would rexommend to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'll start with two things. First, I've yet to even finish. Second, I already know this book is one of the most important I've ever read. This book is a mountain to climb through, don't start unless you're willing to get into something big. Be prepared to spend alot of time thinking about it before you understand, and don't aim to read it as fast as you can. Read a chapter a day and you're good. The book is almost impossible to describe in terms of what it is about. It talks about a little of everything. Brains, Zen, Math, Language, computers and artificial intelligence, you will learn about everything. I know this review wasn't as detailed as it could have been, but there were none before and that was a shame, and I'm low on time. What it boils down to is this, I cannot possible give a review that would describe what this book is, but take me at my word when I say it is one of the most important books out there.
LTJinja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Best 400 pages long theorem-proof I've ever read (and it's only half of the book).Finally a popular-science book which does not assume you're a dummy.
markbstephenson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author may understand Godel and Escher. He didn't convince me that he understands Bach
iamanerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Immense book. Every time I put the book down I felt like I was walking out of a film just before the big scene. Integrates many subjects in an elegant and eclectic way (not the kind of book you can put down and come back to periodically).
aethercowboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Help. My mind has bent, and now I cannot unbend it!"That was me after I finished reading Godel, Escher, Bach. This book, which is about, well, everything, takes the reader on a journey through mathematics, music, and art, and gives it a little twist just to keep one on one's mental toes.A major theme is recursion, or self-referencing. If you're at all familiar with any of the GEBs, you'll see this in Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Escher's Drawing Hands, and Bach's Crab Canon. Other mathematicians, artists, and musicians are introduced as well, providing more on this Eternal Golden Braid.Not only does Hofstadter give us so much on logical themes, but he also gives the reader some puzzles too, particularly some that require multiple steps (though the answers are right in front of the reader's face at times).This book is a must read for one who considers oneself a student of mathematics, art, or even music, or who has a strong admiration for most of these things. I suppose computer scientists could read it too.Nevertheless, this is a great book, and a challenge, but definitely worth the read.
Arthwollipot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this is the book that started it all. I had no interest at all in science, computing or mathematics before I read GEB.It has been called impossible to read. To be sure, it took me many tries before I got through it cover-to-cover. But the intriguing adventures of Achilles and the Tortoise kept me coming back to it, and I eventually cracked it - at which point I realised what it was all about. Hofstadter elaborates on the theme in his later books (especially "I Am A Strange Loop") but the core of the idea is right here.This book changed my life.
applemcg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
advice to other reviewers; if you've not read Hostader's 20th anniversary preface, please do. all he want[ed/s] to do [i/wa]s show how self-awareness, the sense of "I", grows out of self-reference. mathematically speaking, which H insists he is not about, observes in Bertrand Russell's Principia Mathematica, while trying to build a Maginot Line in math against "self-reference", lays the seeds for it's own refutation in favor of self-reference. in as few words as possible: it's not about the substance, but the patterns.
jmattas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating! Full of all kinds of neat, interesting stuff, unbelievably inventive wordplay and structural experiments! I picked it up because of Gödel and logic and so on, but the book is more than that, more than just the names in its title. It does give an introduction to Gödel's theorems, Bach's music and Escher's art, but the underlying theme is more general, related to abstract formal systems and their capabilities.I just love it. I bought the 20th anniversary edition after the first read, it's a must for rereading.
comfypants on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hofstadter argues his perspective on the nature of the mind and the potential of artificial intelligence, particularly with regards to how it relates to Gödel's Theorem (which is essentially about the number-theoretical equivalent of the statment "This sentence is false"). He educates the reader in all the background necessary to understand his arguments, which is a pretty incredible feat for a book that could easily have been purely technical. He goes off on frequent tangents, whimsical diversions and involved analogies (including illustrating his ideas with examples from Escher, Bach, genetics, language and Zen Buddhism). This book is enormous. It's not just 750 pages; it's 750 pages of a very dense book on complex topics. It's accessible to any layperson who wants to make the effort, and it's worth the time involved, but don't start it unless you're willing to commit a lot of time to reading it. I highly recommend getting the 1990's anniversary edition, as the new introduction by the author puts the book into perspective and clearly outlines his argument and the direction it will take, something woefully neglected in the original book.
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating book. It is an intertwining look at logic, philosophy, consciousness, music, art, biology, computers, and countless other topics through the prism of concepts of uncertainty, incompleteness, and self reference. While reading it, I was astonished at how many things came up, that the book suggested a new way to consider.Written in the 1970's some information in biology, computers, and physics could not include some of the most recent understandings so was dated. I found some of the number theory chapters more obtuse than I was willing to struggle with but I was always rewarded with a new insight if I persevered.I was an excellent book.
Reysbro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
took me 3 tries to get through it but quite simply an amazing mind-opener
juha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A highly imaginative and smooth approach Gödel's incompleteness results. This is a eloquent part of the debate regarding the Mechanism, the idea that human intellect is in a sense revertable to a formal system. For a contrast, I suggest J. R. Lucas' papers on "flooring" the mechanism.
Ricket on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the all time greats! Entire college courses are devoted to this book (and that is understandable). The fun part about this book is that you can open it to any page and begin reading it. You won't understand most of it until after the 54th read, so no need to read it sequentially. Pure excellence.
jtburman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Instead of attending all the boring lectures in an upper-year AI class, I read this and some of the books it cited. I got an A+. (And the best thing is, you can read pieces and it still makes sense.)
RobKohr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bit slow at times, and very challenging at others. A good book for people interested in programming, math, logic, and recursion.
BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hofstadter, Douglas R.. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. Vintage, 1979. I admit it: I only finished the first part of the book. I'm already familiar w/ much of the material from my theory of computation class. However, I was still delighted by Hofstadter's wit. One day I'll finish this.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A delightful romp through the world of math, music and philosophy. I am not a math person, but had little trouble following Hofstadter down his various rabbit holes. Engaging, intelligent, articulate. Everything a good book should be.
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is somewhere between a Grand Unified Theory of science, culture, and spirituality, and something ny Ray Kurzweil. It defies description. It's a nonfiction book, this is clear. The topics the book revolves around are Godel's Theorem, the artwork of MC Escher, and music of Bach. These tie in with topics like Zen Buddhism and Zen riddles called koans; Alan Turing and artificial intelligence; recursiveness in nature and everywhere; and DNA. The author does not provide a treatise on each of these topics. Rather, he finds common underpinnings to each of these and finds how they weave together to exist and effect our world. As another reviewer said, if one reads this book, they will never forget it. Interrelationships serve to teach, confuse, and syncretize something beyond all of this. Here's a quote from the description of one of the chapters: "In a way, Zen ideas bear a methaphorical resemblance to some contemporary ideas in the philosophy of mathematics." The 'dialogues' - which is perhaps where Ray Kurzweil got the idea - are a recurring segment having a Turtle converse with Achilles in a Dialogue back and forth using the Socratic method of sorts. It tends to annoy and does not provide educational benefit. Further, my simple mind could not grasp a good 50% of the mathematical formulas in the book - so I suspect this book is more rewarding the more numerical intelligence one has. Even so, everyone should take a crack at this book and for many I suspect it is a mind-changer.
lorin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that everybody raves about, so I felt compelled to add it to my list. However, I wasn't as impressed with this book as the buzz indicates. I enjoy the subject matter very much, but this one didn't really speak to me.
DCash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brilliant book. Do not give up because of the seemingly pointless collection the first chapters constitute; the author IS goign somewhere..
phiroze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book about brilliance that appears to be too bright!Still the statement that genius is about pattern generation and recognition is something that I have come to appreciate.