© 2009 Linsen. All rights reserved. GEB

Gödel, Escher, Bach

 

I have read a number of rather good books lately, and with the intention of both keeping a record for myself of what I read and why and also in the hope that I’ll inspire some other people to also read them, I’ve decided to write some book reviews.

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter is a book I’ve heard about for a very long time, and which I finally mustered the courage to tackle.  In some respects my caution was justified: This is at times a very heavy, intellectual book and not always one that reads easily.  Don’t be put off though – it is well worth the effort.

Insofar as it can be summed up, this is a book about intelligence, and the kind of paradoxes necessary to cause it.  Along the way Hofstadter covers an impressive amount of ground in a wide variety of subjects, especially proving Gödel’s theorem, an important mathematical result from the early 20th century with very important philosophical implications.

Alternating with the main subject matter are short fictional dialogues written in the style of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. These serve not only as a light diversion to the heavier substance of the book, but also provide simple analogies for the concepts being discussed. Hofstadter also writes them in a brilliant, very self-aware manner, and many of the dialogues brilliantly mirror various musical works by Bach being discussed in the dialogues.  Even if you only read these dialogues and skip the rest of the book it’d be well worth the effort.

In conclusion this was an absolutely incredible read, and one that I think any intelligent person with an interest (however vague) in mathematics, computer science or artificial intelligence should read.

One Comment

  1. Ig
    Posted 29 Jul ’09 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Hey Linsen,

    I think think this book review idea is marvelous. I’ve often considered doing the same – if only to have a record for oneself.

    Sounds like a good book – will add it to my to-read list.

    You might also be interested in Neil Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. A very long read (fiction), but masterfully written, and deeply insightful about things like cryptography / intelligence.

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