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on 3 May 2017
GEB is pretty much the must-read book for anyone interested in computers and/or general philosophy of mind. Hofstadter has had a long, interesting career in the field of interesting mathematics and links between theory and real life. In his magnum opus, GEB, he explores what it is to be a self-thinking machine, and how, by looking at it from some other perspectives, we can learn a lot about how we think and do.

The beginning of the book starts out by explaining some simple concepts, and then chains them together in ever-growing complexity. By the sections on natural-language processing, the symbolic logic can be a little overwhelming if you've not done symbol manipulation before.. Once powered-through (and assuming that you were able to either follow the logic, or trust in Hofstadter's reasoning chain), the book moves into more varied and easier to understand areas which demonstrate the Godel Theorem without going into the maths.

I absolutely loved this book. It's a masterpiece of this generation. It takes some serious bending of the little grey cells to follow all of the logic, but the wonderful interplay of the music, art and maths is truly mind-expanding. Once you see what Hofstadter's pointing out, you simply can't un-see it.

Pretty soon, you'll be making Quine-based quips, or looking for self-disproving theorems (like "This sentence is false"). Ahh, the beauty of a well-laid trap paradox!

so, if you're scientific, technical or just plain interested in maths, then get this. It's a very weighty tome, and a recently added preface and some new sections make it even beefier. But it's so worth it. If I could draw parallels, I'd say it's as mind-expanding as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance... that sort of thing.
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on 28 June 2017
Struggling to finish it. It's not long before I didn't give a damn about Escher or Bach, it's clear the author loves them, but not me and those sections, like the tortoise bits, are a distraction and waste.
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on 3 July 2017
A bit strange book in the sense that it presents just author random thoughts on the relations between recursion, infinity, Escher art, Bach music, Godel theorem - a mixture of everything. It might be a good to see what others think and how, but I would say it does not give any solid picture of anything. As said - notes about everything and in the end - just a fog.
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on 13 October 2008
I have to admit that this book was sitting on my bookshelf for a while before I started reading it. In fact, I think it was about three years (I hadn't heard of the book's reputation, and so wasn't aware that I shouldn't have been intimidated). Once I got going, however, it was immensely enjoyable. The book covers a wide range of topics (number theory, art, consciousness and so on...), all of which are beautifully intertwined, as the title suggests. Some of the maths is pretty heavy going, I can't claim to have fully understood it on a single read, and I didn't do as the book suggested and worked through some of the examples (which would undoubtedly have made later ideas easier to understand), but even so, there is so much else in the book that it really doesn't matter. Different chapters tend to deal with different themes, so maths doesn't enter them all, and all are preceded by a dialogue which sets up the theme and keeps the mood light. These are beautifully crafted, with many hidden meanings, and, once again, probably require several reads to spot all the layers of meaning (however, a single read will illuminate several of these). The dialogues are so well-written, in fact, that they really kept me reading, as I was determined to plow through some of the heavier stuff to get to the next one.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to coming back to it at some point in the future to see what else I can get out of it.
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on 24 January 2017
Rambling and vague, with too many irrelevant diversions. I gave up on the self-indulgent introduction only to find the main text equally vague. I suspect the tighter editing would have made this provisionally interesting proposition far more accessible.
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on 5 May 2016
A classic.
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I originally had one of the editions from the 1980s and I found the book engrossing as a student then, when I had the time and frame of mind to immerse myself into reading about and understanding complex ideas. Then life went on and I lost the book between travel and various moves. I saw this latest edition on Amazon whilst looking to acquire again. I added it to my wish list and a kind friend gave it to me this Christmas.

I like the new preface by the author which gives an insight particularly useful if you've read the book (even if not in entirety) before. I like that he tells us what he wanted it to be about and I like the context he gives to where the work now sits in relation to his other publications.

The only thing stopping me giving 5 stars to this edition is the size of the pages vs text and the binding. They've attempted to make the paperback a bit more compact (tough job given the size of the book) and with the binding it's quite difficult to view each page in full without seriously bending the spine back. The text runs very close to the bound edge of each page. But if you have never read it then despite the physical appearance of the volume, this has to be the version you first read because even with minor updates to the text, the author has approached the revisions with 20 years more insight and maturity under his belt!
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on 31 March 2016
Most of this book is extremely boring and inconsequential elaboration of formal systems the author made up. There are only few insightful and interesting chapters, about Zen Buddhism and such. Not worth the praise it gets, not by a long shot.
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on 17 September 2000
I first read this book as a budding software engineer. It inspired me to a lifelong interest in logic, AI and cognitive science, twenty years later I am still on that road and on my third copy having worn out two previously - maybe I should get a hardback edition! Be warned this book may change your life, certainly it was an intellectual watershed for me. Read it.
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on 2 November 2012
This book uses the Goedel Incompleteness Theorem as a starting point to define what the author calls "strange loops". The idea of a "strange loop" is explained using analogies from other disciplines, hence the title. Although the topics dealt with are very varied, in some sense they are unified by the general picture which is : looking for the essence of mind and pattern. Through seemingly random examples and paradoxes, Hofsdtadter attempts to cast some light on the process that transforms a series of sounds into an emotion-inducing melody, or a series of electronical functions and instructions into intelligence, or a series of genetic instructions into something alive and thinking.
The book exposes interesting trivia or fun facts about random disciplines such as Maths, Zen Buddhism, Biology, Psychology, A.I., Music, Physics and Painting (graphic art). It organizes all these little facts in a train of thought that progresses towards the general aim of the book: a reflexion about what is "self" or "intelligence" and how something like this can originate from inanimate matter. In other words, how is it possible to generate A.I. from an inanimate mechanical/electronical object that is a computer.

This book is like a puzzle made of many pieces, where the puzzle is interesting as a whole but the individual pieces are even more dazzling. The variety of subject covered makes it very interesting. In each chapter, the author gets you thinking about a little detail and then leads you to place this detail into the bigger picture of the puzzle. Each chapter begins with a fun fictious dialogue between two protagonists, that illustrates the point in many layers of understanding. The author subtly points out these details but never explicitly, so that the reader does not feel patronized and it is up to him to figure them all out if he finds the subject interesting enough. Then the serious talk begins, in which one can learn about meaning and form in mathematics, consistency, completeness and decidability, number theory, recursivity and A.I.

Goedel, Escher, Bach won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.
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