(2023-07-08) Hofstadter Godel Escher Bach And Ai

Douglas Hofstadter on Godel, Escher, Bach, and AI. The actual story behind GEB begins with me as a 14-year-old, when I ran across the slim paperback book Gödel’s Proof by Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman, and was soon mesmerized by it. I intuitively felt that the ideas that it described were somehow deeply connected with the mystery of human selves or souls.

one day, in an intense binge of writing, I summarized my thoughts in a 32-page letter to my old friend Robert Boeninger.

That letter was the initial spark of GEB, and a year later I tried to expand my letter into a book with the title Gödel’s Theorem and the Human Brain. I wrote the first manuscript, in ink on paper, in about one month (October 1973). It contained no references to Bach and no Escher prints (indeed, no illustrations at all), and not a single dialogue.

one happy day, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s droll but deep dialogue called “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” (it was reprinted in DeLong’s book), I tried my own hand at writing a couple of dialogues between those two amusing characters

A few months later, I gave my typewritten manuscript to my father, who read it all and commented that he thought I needed to insert some pictures. All at once, it hit me that while working on my manuscript, I had always been seeing Escher prints in my mind’s eye, but had never once thought of sharing them with potential readers

This realization was a second epiphany, and it soon led to my replacing the book’s original humdrum and academic-sounding title by the snappier “Gödel, Escher, Bach,”

In the years 1975–1977, I rewrote the book starting from scratch, using an amazing text editor designed by my friend Pentti Kanerva.

Completely neglected is the key fact that my dialogues have music-imitating structures (verbal fugues and canons), and that their form often covertly echoes their content, which I chose to do in order to mirror the indirect self-reference at the heart of Gödel’s proof.

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