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in love with his brilliance
on 30 June 2016
On reading Iain Mcgilchrist' Master and his Emissary, I see the trouble with this sort of book. Douglas R. Hofstadter is a classic left brain sort of guy.
I won't get into all this here, but I will like to mention that the implications of the brain science will never be accepted.
Sam Harris talks about this in his latest book. Harris says that we accept wacky ideas like AI and parallel universes and we even accept that we have no free will (from brain science), but the idea that we can be half blind (also from brain science) will, by definition, be not noticed, let alone accepted.
So is Hofstadter half blind? If we see with our brain, and not the eyes, then sure!
Many 1 star reviews have pointed out that this book is way too long and very self indulgent. I bought it anyway. Douglas R. Hofstadter has written a feast of ideas and brilliance and the book is packed with artwork. I even enjoyed the dialogues. Unfortunately, Hofstadter has trouble getting to the point. Imagine a man telling you a joke, but to never getting to the joke? This is what this book felt like.
It isn't hard getting to the point. When Einstein said that he can explain his theory to a 7 year old, he meant that a guy who really knows, can encapsulate his position in a short and sweet manner.
We can reinterpreted what Einstein said bu saying that a right hemisphere guy can explain it to a 7 year old. A left hemisphere guy will go on and on.
Iain Mcgilchrist writes that a left hemisphere guy will enjoy pages upon pages of tight logical, almost algorithmic, excess, but he can never 'just say it'. You don't need an entire page to quote an 18 century man talking about the promise of a machine being able to beat J.S. Bach at music, followed then half a page quoting a guy who reckons the music of J'S Bach is not reducable to an algorithm because of the transcendental element contained (think Godel here). Just say it in one page man! Also, the page long quotes are in a very small font, thus, the book should have been even thicker!
Kurt Godel's theorem, and why it matters, and the overthrow of the apparent truths of Euclid, which is more important that Godel, and the transcendental will one day be explained in under 200 pages and become a best seller. Alas, people who know about those things probably won't need to dive into this book and those who don't know will only get frustrated by a thick jungle of words and logical symbols.
If Douglas R. Hofstadter had something else to say in this big book, he should just say it!
Overall this book feels like, well, have you ever watched one of those documentaries about those annoying child prodigies who can do advanced tensors, flip pancakes, and read a thick book in 22 minutes whilst talking to the camera? Well Douglas R. Hofstadter was one such prodigy. In love with his brilliance, and informing the reader that as a little boy, he could think in French and in English at the same time, Hofstadter is an obvious genius.