Gödel, Escher, Bach

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Entropy. The Uncertainty Principle. Schrodinger’s Cat. Such examples of the aligning of mathematical and verbal paradoxes rise to a wholly new level under the wings of Doug Hofstadter.

In this great classic, the incomplete math of Gödel twirls across the contradictions of Zen philosophy and the nucleotides of DNA, falling into the mesmerizing art of Escher and Magritte and then landing on the thematic acrobatics of Bach (one of whose melodies spells “BACH”). If you have any geek inside, you will be obsessed.

From Craig's list on history that will wake you up.

This book explains fundamental concepts of recursion, symmetry, intelligence, focusing on math, art, and music.

It’s full of wonderful tales, amazing facts, little-talked-about relationships among math, art, and music (and by reference computing), not to mention puns and amusing language. If you want to become a better person, this is a good book to read. If you want to understand and succeed in life, ditto.

If you let this book lift your mind to its space and height, you will find yourself vastly more capable of creating and understanding software. It’s a wonderful companion to the Ernest Nagel book I’ve…

This book is a legendary piece of writing, utterly unique in the history of literature.

As a child, I read this and was fascinated by the raw intellectual power of Hofstadter’s ideas, alongside the spirit of playfulness the book encourages. Back then, I did not understand the book well, but as many friends have told me—you will read the book many times in your life and be amazed by its rich multidisciplinary ideas.

No matter how deeply you understand the book on first reading, this book will be an inspiration for life.

The focus of this book is self-reference and recursion. By explaining what formal systems are and how they can be identified in music and art, Hofstadter illustrates how fundamental concepts of computing appear in unexpected areas of our lives. A focus of this book is on the principal limitations of formal systems and thus of computing. Some parts of the book may be hard to digest due to the significant use of formal symbol manipulation, and with 777 pages it is not a quick read. The effort is, however, rewarded with deep insights into Gödel's incompleteness theorem and its…

From Martin's list on computer science without coding.

This is the book that enticed many of my colleagues into working on Artificial Intelligence. A polymath's exploration into fundamental and beautiful ideas in mathematics, music, and the mind. I was lucky enough to spend some time working in the same lab as Hoftstadter, a polymath who draws together art, science, and philosophy in this thought-provoking exploration of three great minds.

I loved reading this book! I wish I could read it for the first time all over again. Even though this isn’t exactly a programming book or a book about software development, the concepts in this book will be extremely fascinating to any software developer.

This book goes into all kinds of logical puzzles and digs deep into formal systems and how they come about. There are exercises that will take you hours to do in the book, but you’ll have fun the whole time while you are racking your brain.

I learned a lot of programming concepts I thought…

From John's list on fun for software developers.

This Pulitzer Prize winner is one of my favorite books. It explores logical paradoxes, the difference between information and meaning, and other almost philosophical issues in the fundamentals of computer science. It links limits to the foundations of mathematics (Gödel) to music (Bach) and the visual arts (Escher). The style is unique, with characters like Achilles and the Tortoise giving an Alice-in-Wonderland feel that illuminates difficult concepts. I first read about it in Martin Gardner’s celebrated column in Scientific American, and it opened my eyes to the relation between math and deep issues in science.

This was my bible during my awkward teenage years. Hofstadter takes the reader on a fascinating odyssey through maths, logic, music, and art, recklessly blurring the lines between art and science, describing the emergent patterns that repeat all around us – a fractal universe forever repeating itself at the galactic and molecular level. It’s a heady and intoxicating read, but richly rewarding. I can’t imagine not having read this book.

From Colin's list on to alter your world view.

Douglas Hofstadter is one of the most original thinkers alive, and the mind-body problem is his great obsession. Godel, Escher, Bach, his magnum opus, argues that the mind is a “strange loop”, a thing that does something to itself. This playful, deadly serious book, which draws upon mathematics, computer science, physics, genetics, art, and music, remains as provocative and challenging today as it was when it was published in 1979.

From John's list on mind-body.

This book introduced me as a teenager (long ago) to the questions that I have pursued over the course of my career. What is special about the human mind? How can we begin to think about issues like understanding and awareness? How can we begin to do research that might, in the long run, shed some light on the answers to these questions?

From Steven's list on why people make the decisions they do.

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