Gödel, Escher, Bach


Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’ (GEB) is a book by cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, described by the author as ‘a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.’ On its surface, GEB examines logician Kurt Gödel, artist M. C. Escher and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, discussing common themes in their work and lives. At a deeper level, the book is a detailed and subtle exposition of concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence. Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to acquire meaning despite being made of ‘meaningless’ elements.

It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of ‘meaning’ itself. In response to confusion over the book’s theme, Hofstadter has emphasized that GEB is not about mathematics, art, and music but rather about how cognition and thinking emerge from well-hidden neurological mechanisms. In the book, he presents an analogy about how the individual neurons of the brain coordinate to create a unified sense of a coherent mind by comparing it to the social organization displayed in a colony of ants.

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