19 Oct

Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid Chapter 4

My pacing on this book has slowed down, and it’s partly due to having less time to read this past week, but it also has largely to do with the fact that this book is extremely interesting and complex. I have to stop reading sometimes to really comprehend what was said, or I want to write something down or try and make my own connections to theories, especially when considering artificial intelligence. Hofstadter also will put in little puzzles to try out, which are very addicting and I can’t stop until I’ve found an answer, or until I figure out that there actually is no real answer (because sometimes Hofstadter is terrible like that). Either way, it makes for a very interesting read, but also a very slow read. What I did read however, I will attempt to cover below.

First, I would like to challenge the reader of my blog to attempt my favorite puzzle that Hofstadter challenged me with, and that was to find the next few numbers in the following sequence:

1    3    7    12    18    26    35    45    56    69 . . .

Maybe in my next post I will say the answer to this puzzle, but for now, just let it mentally drain you. But it is not with no purpose that I place this puzzle before you, because it does help to illustrate the type of writing that Hofstadter uses in GEB. It has many textbook like qualities in that it sometimes gives you puzzles to solve based off of what you are about to learn or have just learned. Even so, GEB could still not be described as a textbook, because Hofstadter will often refer to himself and uses fairly informal writing to explain very complex ideas. He also uses authorial intrusion, presumably because it’s his book and he can do what he wants, to interject short, humorous comments that help the book from getting too fact heavy. An example of this is on page 90 when he is listing off what would constitute as an imaginable world, he lists fun suggestions, such as “a world in which something can be simultaneously green and not green” or a humorous throw back to an earlier concept that suggests a world, “In which Bach improvised an eight-part fugue on a theme of King Frederick the Great”. These, among other examples, show how Hofstadter is able to keep an informal tone, and even throw in some humor, which keeps it from being much like a textbook.

Within his book, Hofstadter also takes breaks from discussing concepts and ideas to insert short, relevant stories. For example, under the heading “The Many Faces of Noneuclid”, he tells the story of how people attempted to, and succeed in, finding non-Euclidean geometry. He also continues to use his characters Tortoise and Achilles in scripts to help represent his ideas, as well as using new characters, Genie and Meta-Genie, to give the reader a third-person objective view.

This book has continued to challenge my mind while also proving to be a very satisfying read. While it still proves to be complicated, and, at times, confusing, I am still looking forward to reading more of it in this coming week.

One thought on “Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid Chapter 4

  1. If you would have put the Fibonacci sequence, I totally would have figured that pattern out. (I challenged myself to before reading on . . . maybe a little too simplistic and I shouldn’t be proud.) I’ll use this as a warm-up for when I return to the previous number sequence.

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