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Gödel, Escher, Bach: een eeuwig gouden band

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  24,074 ratings  ·  1,050 reviews
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 a ...more
Paperback, 899 pages
Published 2004 by Olympus (first published 1979)
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Daniel
Mar 28, 2008 Daniel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like thinking about thinking about thinking.
If you open up the "20th Anniversary Edition" of GEB, you'll see that the first thing Douglas Hofstadter does in the introduction - the very first thing - is grouse that nobody seems to understand what his book is about. Not even its publishers or readers who just absolutely love it. A quick glance at the back cover will give you the same impression - even the glowing, two-sentence blurbs are hilariously vague, all of them variations on the theme of "Well, that certainly was ... something! Yes, ...more
Aloha
As I work my way through this dense book, I am reminded of the Zen tale of 4 blind men and an elephant. To settle a dispute between townspeople over religion, the Zen master had 4 blind men and an elephant led in. With the men not knowing it’s an elephant, the Zen master had each feel a part of the elephant. Each blind man gave a varying but inaccurate guess of what it was he felt. In conclusion, the Zen master exclaimed that we are all like blind men. We have never seen God, but can only guess ...more
Manny
This is a nice book if you want to understand the Gödel incompleteness proof, and get an account that is both accessible and reasonably rigorous. There's a lot of other fun stuff as well, but it's the Gödel proof that's the core of the book, and if that doesn't turn you on then you aren't really going to think GEB is worth the effort.

Personally, I would say that this is one of the most amazing things ever. The more you think about it, the more bizarre it gets... there are mathematical theorems
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The reading of a book and its interpretation are determined in part by the cytoplasmic soup in which it is taken up. This reader’s soup consists of a large portion of metaphiction.

This is how Hofstadter apparently intended to structure his work: a Lewis Carroll styled dialogue between Achilles and Tortoise (and friends) introducing a subject followed by a rigorous but popularly accessible explication of that topic.

This is how I read Hofstadter’s book: as a crab canon. A crab canon, as our musi
...more
Forrest
If I were clever enough, I would write this review as a fugue. This is the formal structure that Hofstadter uses throughout Gödel, Escher, Bach. Whether the whole book is a fugue, I'm not smart enough to tell. But the fugue is used as a metaphor for layers of brain activity, thoughts, superimposed over the “hardware” of the brain, the neurons.

In fact, though I would recommend starting at the beginning of the book, I suppose one might begin anywhere and read through and back again, a'la Finnegan'
...more
notgettingenough



from Randall Munroe. Mouseover says: 'This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke.'

------------------------

I know, I know, I know. I'm just kidding myself. I'm as likely to read this as a book on string theory. (Please don't. Please don't tell me I have read a book on string theory, I'm trying to forget the whole sordid story.) But. I hope you like this.

A friend of mine, Professor John Spiers, http://www.debretts.com/people/biogra... established The Harvester Press in the 1
...more
Andrew Breslin
I could not with a clear conscience recommend this book to everyone, because I'm simply not that cruel. It would be like recommending large doses of LSD to everyone: some small minority will find the experience invaluably enlightening, but for most people it's just going to melt their brain.

While you do not need to be a professional mathematician to appreciate this, you really have to like math a lot. You can't just sort of like it. You can't just differ with the masses in not hating mathematics
...more
Jeffrey
Conversation overheard at a diner in Upstate NY between Rabbit and Dante. They have been arguing about the existence of God. Dante has been arguing against the proposition.

Rabbit: I have been recently reading a book which helps me to counter many of your points Dante. You should take a look at it. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter carries within it the seed of an answer to your skepticism. Hofstadter argues, using the pictures of Escher, the music of Bach and
...more
Xing
Absolutely beautiful. GEB reads like a collection of sparks, produced when the mind is working at its primed, relaxed, hyper-aware and associative best. I read this over numerous nights, curled up in bed, each time feeling as if I was with a wonderful best friend, with whom I could discuss any topic or previously-unformed idea, exercise my memory indexing resources, and unabashedly release the inner infovore. Few things have allowed me to unwind, concentrate, and harness my mental energy as quic ...more
Mark Lawrence
Expand your mind! Not for the faint of heart & yet by no means dry.

Hofstadter makes some fascinating observations about emergent properties (such as intelligence) and diverts us into the extremely heavy mathematics of Godel via the self referencing systems that are Bach's fugues and Escher's 'optical illusion' style artwork.

Before too many chapters have passed though you'll be firmly in number theory land, albeit doled out as painlessly as is possible with such stuff, leavened with imagined
...more
Matt
This book was very disappointing, especially after recieving so much hype. I was struggling along through it in a workman like fashion, trying to follow his arguments (which to me often seemed like so much dribble and unnecessary obfuscation and nothing like a fun puzzle), when I got really stuck and so I went to the MIT website and started reading the class notes on this book. That only made me more disgusted with the book, since it turns out that the book is riddled with historical errors wher ...more
Colin Murchie
GEB is an astonishing achievement in popularizing mathematical philosophy (!), and among the few truly life-changing books I've read.

The central thesis is that under certain conditions sufficiently complex, recursive self-editing systems can develop arbitrarily complex behavior without reference to external organization - and given an author who spends his days coding AI systems, you can see where he's going.

That's dense, dense stuff, but helped by the author's charming expository style and vas
...more
Rob
Deep geekery. Let's build logic from its component parts. And then after by-hand fabricating that nomenclature, we'll use it to talk about intelligence, problem-solving, heuristics, etc. building up to general intelligence (generally) and artificial intelligence (specifically). Deep, heavy, at times extremely fun. Took me five years to read it.

And so somewhat in the spirit of the text:

GEB is like this incredibly attractive, incredibly smart, incredibly funny/witty woman that you meet through a f
...more
Ethan
It's quite impenetrable, but if you can hang in there, you can learn a lot about a lot of seemingly unrelated things. I don't know why mathematicians feel like they have to write like it's 1885. Hofstadter himself encourages you to just open the book at random, read a few pages, skip around, look at the pictures, listen to some Bach, etc, and that certainly helped me get a foothold.
Laura Cowan
People aren't kidding when they say this book is impenetrable, but luckily I had a foothold--training as a classical pianist--so I focused on the musical sections and was able to understand them quite easily and extrapolate from there. Not so easy with the math proofs, though I got something out of the general theories. I found the structure of the book confusing even though it illustrates and explores the nature of the subject matter of the book, but absolutely love the connections made between ...more
Eric
Synopsis: Two books, interwoven. The first is a series of comedic dialogues in which characters created by Lewis Carrol engage in friendly battles of wit and skill, or just conversations, each dialogue being modeled after music by Johann Sebastian Bach. The second is a prosaic exploration of the nature of artificial intelligence, self-reference, and free will. The two halves intertwine with eachother and refer to eachother.

This book was made with great care, and is a masterpiece. It is the most
...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
This is an absolutely phenomenal work. Let me break it down for you. Topics covered: DNA and RNA replication, Artificial Intelligence, Zen Buddism, Eschers artwork, Computer programming, Bachs fugues, a whole host of literary paradoxes and critical thinking exercises wow fun! Now let me tell you what all of this great information rests in, the framework of mathematics housed by Godels own theorems and proof. Yikes! Luckily the author understands that not all of us think mathematically. Don't get ...more
Anni
Well, this is not really my sort of thing at all, or at least, not at all the sort of thing I usually read. I more or less stumbled upon it by accident. But then again, maybe it is my sort of thing after all as I have been trying to be more diverse in what I read and sometimes enjoy the infuriating (I'm sure this is due to some combination of my education and my upbringing by a smartass engineer).

So here are some things I think I can say about this book:

It's dense with connections among various
...more
Tasha
WOW! I finished it. I think I deserve a cookie.

I'll be honest, I struggled with this book. It was a good struggle though, one I hope has improved me. I started out really enjoying playing with the number sets, but that got old after a couple of chapters. I think spending more time on this book and rereading segments would be a good idea.

The point seems to be that if a system becomes sufficiently complex to be self referential and self replicating or at least self editing, then intelligence follo
...more
Christopher tm
I've gone back to it again and again over the past - what - 20 years or so, and I'm pretty-sure that I still don't get it. At all. But, oh, what a beautiful and wondrous quandry to hold in one's hands and peel apart like a mysterious bejeweled artichoke of ... mystery.

Er.

Start again. It's a large book and confusing. It contains many many drawings and pictures that only serve to further one's sense of "WaitaminuiteIgottarerereadthatagain". And then, click, something ... clicks ... and you try to
...more
Andrij Zip
Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel Escher Bach is a legitimate masterpiece, a book humming with ideas and life. GEB explores Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem, the art of MC Escher and Rene Magritte, the music of Bach and John Cage, the work of Alan Turing and Ramanujan, recursion, symmetry, tessellations, paradoxes, Zen, Fibonacci numbers, prime numbers, Fermat's Last Theorem, loops, puzzles, haiku, isomorphism, logic, symbols, infinity, DNA, pattern recognition, the collective consciousness of ants, ...more
Barbara
This book told me something about intelligence - the smartest thing to do is to avoid this book's overly lengthy babblings of a self-important graduate student who is way too impressed with himself. It took this guy over 700 pages to illustrate by analogy his not-particularly novel theory which he sums up (finally) as follows:

"My belief is that the explanations of 'emergent' phenomena in our brains --for instance, ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will--are base
...more
Robert Kroese
GEB: EGB is basically an exploration of the idea of intelligence, artificial and otherwise. Hofstader's goal is to shed some light on how intelligence / consciousness / self-awareness happens. Hofstader believes that self-awareness -- the "I" -- ultimately arises from recursion. To put it very simply, at the highest levels the brain is a system that deals with symbols, and the "I" is the symbol for the system itself.

There is much, much more to this book. There are lengthy tangents into mathemat
...more
Kaylee
After an entire tome about the workings of the mind and what it means to be intelligent, you'd think the author would be more self-aware by the end of the book than to say, "indirect self-reference is my favorite topic".

No, Mr. Hofstadter, blatant self-reference is your favorite topic.

I'm notoriously bad at distancing the creation from the creator, so perhaps I was biased from the start -- reading the 20th anniversary intro was like listening to a narcissist who insists he's modest. I didn't fin
...more
Steve
Jul 28, 2007 Steve rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a rubik's cube
Shelves: science
I can't perform the most basic algebra, so that must be taken to account when reading this review.

I wanted to like this book. In fact, I still do. I don't mind authorial self-indulgence as a rule. I didn't mind feeling ineducable much of the the time (I do). But frankly, I found all the reiteration among the three strips of the braid to be annoying, and despite the apparent need for Hofstadter's conceit in "explaining" recursive mathematics, I couldn't help but finding not only his taste flawed,
...more
Ellie
I think I've been "currently reading" this book for 25 years-a bit here, a bit there. I always take something good away from my readings but I can't read to much at a time (obviously!).
Stefan Kanev
It is hard to talk about this book.

I first got a copy in early 2007. Ever since, I attempted to read it three times. The first one I came quite close to the end (chapter XVI), but could not finish it. The later ones I didn't progress as much. I have finally finished it. It's easy to relate the sense of accomplishment of finishing a book you started seven years ago. It is much harder to relate the sense of wonder and awe this book left me in.

When I first started reading it, I noticed this strange
...more
Drew
I was hoping that Hofstadter's book would be my first five star review for 2012. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait a bit longer. I was very disappointed. The author says several times that he first envisioned this work as a pamphlet. I wish he'd stuck to that. The book is too long, poorly edited and the at first cute intervening dialogues between fictional characters become unbelievably annoying. The worst part of this book for me is the author's continual arrogance. He comes off as ever ...more
Evan Wondrasek
Well, I finally did it. I finished the hardest book I've ever read.

I really can't do this book justice by trying to explain or even summarise it. Just know that it's an incredible journey, and if you're patient and determined, it is a very rewarding read. I didn't fully understand everything on my first time through - this book must be re-read many times to fully appreciate it, I think - but I'm very proud that I finished it and, someday, I'll take another crack at it.

This book is full of profou
...more
Jacob
A friend of mine calls this a book for "pretentious teens and people who are too busy reflecting on their own existence to do anything productive" -- with a bit of self-mockery, I'm sure. My early, tentative take on GEB is that it's decidedly unpretentious, almost certainly written to be as accessible as its subject matter will allow. (If anything, it's a little corny at times.) The subject matter is artificial intelligence, a field which I suppose could turn out to be a dead end in the long run ...more
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r/Literature: Reading club: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter 1 35 Jan 21, 2012 02:15PM  
  • The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul
  • Gödel's Proof
  • The Society of Mind
  • The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics
  • Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
  • The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of  Paul Erdős and the Search for Mathematical Truth
  • The Fractal Geometry of Nature
  • What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods
  • Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics
  • How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics
  • Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles and the Frailty of Knowledge
  • A Mathematician's Apology
  • At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
  • The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • The Principles of Mathematics
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Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, thinking and creativity. He is best known for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, first published in 1979, for which he was awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.

Hofstadter is the son of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Hofstadter. Douglas grew up on the campus of St
...more
More about Douglas R. Hofstadter...
I Am a Strange Loop Metamagical Themas: Questing For The Essence Of Mind And Pattern Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking

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“Meaning lies as much
in the mind of the reader
as in the Haiku.
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“How gullible are you? Is your gullibility located in some "gullibility center" in your brain? Could a neurosurgeon reach in and perform some delicate operation to lower your gullibility, otherwise leaving you alone? If you believe this, you are pretty gullible, and should perhaps consider such an operation.” 32 likes
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