Douglas Hofstadter

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pages: 274 words: 70,481

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

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Albert Einstein, corporate raider, cuban missile crisis, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, impulse control, Norman Mailer, Ronald Reagan, Skype

“Like the drawing on the cover of Being or Nothingness,” prompted Deborah. “Two hands drawing each other . . .?” “So if Levi Shand doesn’t exist,” I said, “who created him?” “I think they’re all Hofstadter,” said Deborah. “Levi Shand. Petter Nordlund. I think they’re all Douglas Hofstadter.” I went for a walk through Gothenburg, feeling quite annoyed and disappointed that I’d been hanging around here for days when the culprit was probably an eminent professor some four thousand miles away at Indiana University. Deborah had offered me supplementary circumstantial evidence to back her theory that the whole puzzle was a product of Douglas Hofstadter’s impish mind. It was, she said, exactly the sort of playful thing he might do. And being the author of an international bestseller, he would have the financial resources to pull it off. Plus he was no stranger to Sweden; he had lived there in the mid-1960s.

It was a compelling theory, and I continued to believe this might be the solution to the riddle right up until the moment, an hour later, I had a Skype video conversation with Levi Shand, who, it was soon revealed, wasn’t an invention of Douglas Hofstadter’s but an actual student from Indiana University. He was a handsome young man with black hair, doleful eyes, and a messy student bedroom. He had been easy to track down. I e-mailed him via his Facebook page. He got back to me straightaway (he’d been online at the time) and within seconds we were face-to-face. He told me it was all true. He really did find the books in a box under a railway viaduct and Douglas Hofstadter really did have a harem of French women living at his home. “Tell me exactly what happened when you visited him,” I said. “I was really nervous,” Levi said, “given his prominence on the cognitive science scene.

Each page seemed to be a riddle with a solution that was just out of reach. A note at the beginning claimed that the manuscript had been “found” in the corner of an abandoned railway station: “It was lying in the open, visible to all, but I was the only one curious enough to pick it up.” What followed were elliptical quotations:My thinking is muscular. Albert Einstein I am a strange loop. Douglas Hofstadter Life is meant to be a joyous adventure. Joe K The book had only twenty-one pages with text, but some pages contained just one sentence. Page 18, for instance, read simply: “The sixth day after I stopped writing the book I sat at B’s place and wrote the book.” And all of this was very expensively produced, using the highest-quality paper and inks—there was a full-color, delicate reproduction of a butterfly on one page—and the endeavor must have cost someone or a group of people an awful lot of money.


pages: 396 words: 107,814

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos

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Clapham omnibus, Claude Shannon: information theory, Douglas Hofstadter, Etonian, European colonialism, haute cuisine, invention of the telephone, invention of writing, natural language processing, Republic of Letters, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, speech recognition

Finding out what translation has done in the past and does today, finding out what people have said about it and why, finding out whether it is one thing or many—these inquiries take us far and wide, to Sumer, Brussels, and Beijing, to comic books and literary classics, and into the fringes of disciplines as varied as anthropology, linguistics, and computer science. What translation does raises so many answerable questions that we can leave the business of what it is to the side for quite some time. ONE What Is a Translation? Douglas Hofstadter took a great liking to this short poem by the sixteenth-century French wit Clément Marot: Ma mignonne, Je vous donne Le bon jour; Le séjour C’est prison. Guérison Recouvrez, Puis ouvrez Votre porte Et qu’on sorte Vitement, Car Clément Le vous mande. Va, friande De ta bouche, Qui se couche En danger Pour manger Confitures; Si tu dures Trop malade, Couleur fade Tu prendras, Et perdras L’embonpoint.

In a world where you can check the translation against the original, even when it has the form of speech (thanks to the sound-recording devices we have used for the past one hundred years), the principal grounds for the fear and mistrust of linguistic intermediaries that is endemic to oral societies no longer exist. Yet people go on saying traduttore/traditore, believing they have said something meaningful about translation. A thoughtful translator such as Douglas Hofstadter still feels he needs to counter it with a pun in the title of an essay, “Trader/Translator.” 15 We may now live in a sophisticated, wealthy, technologically advanced society—but when it comes to translation, some people seem to be stuck in the age of the clepsydra. Traditional mistrust of oral interpreters in the Middle East affected Western tourists when visits to the region became practical and prestigious for individuals in the nineteenth century.

It is not the same as the original, but that is no reason—no reason at all—to claim that it is devoid of poetry. Of course, the new poem may be awful when the original was sublime. Few poets write sublime verse every time. But it stands to reason that the quality of a poem in translation has no relation to its having been translated. It is the sole fruit of the poet’s skill as a poet, irrespective of whether he is also writing as a translator. You may not like the poem by Douglas Hofstadter quoted at the start of this book. You may like the poem by Clément Marot much more. But all that you could reasonably say about the difference is that Hofstadter is (in this instance) a less charming writer of poetry than Marot. If you didn’t know that Hofstadter’s trisyllabic verse transposes sentiments first expressed by someone else in a form that has a quite strict relationship to it, you might still not like it—but you wouldn’t think of justifying your disappointment by saying that poetry is what has been lost in translation.


pages: 370 words: 94,968

The Most Human Human: What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

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4chan, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, carbon footprint, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, crowdsourcing, David Heinemeier Hansson, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, job automation, l'esprit de l'escalier, Loebner Prize, Menlo Park, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

From there, we can look at how these different theories have shaped humankind’s sense of its own identity. For instance, are artists more valuable to us than they were before we discovered how difficult art is for computers? Last, we might ask ourselves: Is it appropriate to allow our definition of our own uniqueness to be, in some sense, reactionary to the advancing front of technology? And why is it that we are so compelled to feel unique in the first place? “Sometimes it seems,” says Douglas Hofstadter, “as though each new step towards AI, rather than producing something which everyone agrees is real intelligence, merely reveals what real intelligence is not.” While at first this seems a consoling position—one that keeps our unique claim to thought intact—it does bear the uncomfortable appearance of a gradual retreat, the mental image being that of a medieval army withdrawing from the castle to the keep.

All the Beauty of Art At one point in his career, the famous twentieth-century French artist Marcel Duchamp gave up art, in favor of something he felt was even more expressive, more powerful: something that “has all the beauty of art—and much more.” It was chess. “I have come to the personal conclusion,” Duchamp wrote, “that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” The scientific community, by and large, seemed to agree with that sentiment. Douglas Hofstadter’s 1980 Pulitzer Prize–winning Gödel, Escher, Bach, written at a time when computer chess was over twenty-five years old, advocates “the conclusion that profoundly insightful chess-playing draws intrinsically on central facets of the human condition.” “All of these elusive abilities … lie so close to the core of human nature itself,” Hofstadter says, that computers’ “mere brute-force … [will] not be able to circumvent or shortcut that fact.”

Most people were divided between two conclusions: (1) accept that the human race was done for, that intelligent machines had finally come to be and had ended our supremacy over all creation (which, as you can imagine, essentially no one was prepared to do), or (2) what most of the scientific community chose, which was essentially to throw chess, the game Goethe called “a touchstone of the intellect,” under the bus. The New York Times interviewed the nation’s most prominent thinkers on AI immediately after the match, and our familiar Douglas Hofstadter, seeming very much the tickled corpse, says, “My God, I used to think chess required thought. Now, I realize it doesn’t.” Other academics seemed eager to kick chess when it was down. “From a purely mathematical point of view, chess is a trivial game,” says philosopher and UC Berkeley professor John Searle. (There are ten thousand billion billion billion billion possible games of chess for every atom in the universe.)


pages: 626 words: 181,434

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter

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Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Conway, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, place-making, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, publish or perish, random walk, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telepresence, Turing machine

In other words, although he doesn’t propose anything that would smack of mathematics, Parfit essentially proposes an abstract “distance function” (what mathematicians would call a “metric”) between personalities in “personality space” (or between brains, although at what structural level brains would have to be described in order for this “distance calculation” to take place is never specified, and it is hard to imagine what that level might be). Using such a mind-to-mind metric, I would be very “close” to the person I was yesterday, slightly less close to the person I was two days ago, and so forth. In other words, although there is a great degree of overlap between the individuals Douglas Hofstadter today and Douglas Hofstadter yesterday, they are not identical. We nonetheless standardly (and reflexively) choose to consider them identical because it is so convenient, so natural, and so easy. It makes life much simpler. This convention allows us to give things (both animate and inanimate) fixed names and to talk about them from one day to the next without constantly having to update our lexicon. Moreover, this convention is ingrained in us when we are infants — at about the same Piagetian developmental stage as that in which we learn that when a ball rolls behind a box, it still exists even though it’s not visible, and may even reappear on the other side of the box in a second or two!

The same old urge to say, “I am here and not there” zooms up in both brains as automatically as when someone taps my knee and my leg jerks upwards. But knee-jerk reflex or not, the truth of the matter is that there is no thing called “I” — no hard marble, no precious yolk protected by a Cartesian eggshell — there are just tendencies and inclinations and habits, including verbal ones. In the end, we have to believe both Douglas Hofstadters as they say, “This one here is me,” at least to the extent that we believe the Douglas Hofstadter who is right now sitting in his study typing these words and saying to you in print, “This one here is me.” Saying this and insisting on its truth is just a tendency, an inclination, a habit — in fact, a knee-jerk reflex — and it is no more than that, even though it seems to be a great deal more than that. Ultimately, the “I” is a hallucination, and yet, paradoxically, it is the most precious thing we own.

And indeed, it is impossible to come away from this book without having introduced elements of his point of view into our own. It may not make us kinder or more compassionate, but we will never look at the world, inside or out, in the same way again.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review “Nearly thirty years after his best-selling book Gödel, Escher, Bach, cognitive scientist and polymath Douglas Hofstadter has returned to his extraordinary theory of self.” — New Scientist “I Am a Strange Loop is thoughtful, amusing and infectiously enthusiastic.” — Bloomberg News “[P]rovocative and heroically humane . . . it’s impossible not to experience this book as a tender, remarkably personal and poignant effort to understand the death of his wife from cancer in 1993 — and to grasp how consciousness mediates our otherwise ineffable relationships.


pages: 503 words: 131,064

Liars and Outliers: How Security Holds Society Together by Bruce Schneier

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airport security, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Brian Krebs, Broken windows theory, carried interest, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, commoditize, corporate governance, crack epidemic, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, desegregation, don't be evil, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, Douglas Hofstadter, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, George Akerlof, hydraulic fracturing, impulse control, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, iterative process, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock company, Julian Assange, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nate Silver, Network effects, Nick Leeson, offshore financial centre, patent troll, phenotype, pre–internet, principal–agent problem, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, security theater, shareholder value, slashdot, statistical model, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, too big to fail, traffic fines, transaction costs, ultimatum game, UNCLOS, union organizing, Vernor Vinge, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Y2K, zero-sum game

many distinct levels Richard J. Smith (1996), “Biology and Body Size in Human Evolution: Statistical Inference Misapplied,” Current Anthropology, 37:451–81. begin to fail Bruce Schneier (Jul 2009), “Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain,” IEEE Security & Privacy, 7:88. Code of Hammurabi Martha T. Roth (1997), Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, Scholars Press. Chapter 5 Douglas Hofstadter Douglas Hofstadter (1985), Metamagical Themas, Bantam Dell Publishing Group. free-rider problem Robert Albanese and David D. van Fleet (1985), “Rational Behavior in Groups: The Free-Riding Tendency,” The Academy of Management Review, 10:244–55. Whooping cough Paul Offit (2011), Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, Basic Books. Chapter 6 don't overfish Boris Worm, Ray Hilborn, Julia K.

I like the prisoner story because it's a reminder that cooperation doesn't imply anything moral; it just means going along with the group norm. Similarly, defection doesn't necessarily imply anything immoral; it just means putting some competing interest ahead of the group interest. Basic commerce is another type of Prisoner's Dilemma, although you might not have thought about it that way before. Cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter liked this story better than prisoners, confessions, and jail time. Two people meet and exchange closed bags, with the understanding that one of them contains money, and the other contains a purchase. Either player can choose to honor the deal by putting into his or her bag what he or she agreed, or he or she can defect by handing over an empty bag. It's easy to see one trust mechanism that keeps merchants from cheating: their reputations as merchants.

The dilemma comes from the fact that each would rather do either of the two things with the other than do the stereotypical thing alone. (6) In behavioral economics,Prospect Theory has tried to capture these complexities. Daniel Kahneman is the only psychologist to ever win a Nobel Prize, and he won it in economics. (7) Many of the criticisms of Hardin's original paper on the Tragedy of the Commons pointed out that, in the real world,systems of regulation were commonly established by users of commons. (8) Douglas Hofstadter calls this “superrationality.” He assumes that smart people will behave this way, regardless of culture. In his construction, a superrational player assumes he is playing against another superrational player, someone who will think like he does and make the same decisions he does. By that analysis, cooperate– cooperate is much better than defect–defect. In so doing, players are being collectively rational, rather than individually rational.


pages: 855 words: 178,507

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

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Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, bank run, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, citation needed, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, lifelogging, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Simon Singh, Socratic dialogue, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, talking drums, the High Line, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, Turing machine, Turing test, women in the workforce

But the discovery of this twisting, backfiring, mind-bending circularity does not bring life or language crashing to a halt—one grasps the idea and moves on—because life and language lack the perfection, the absolutes, that give them force. In real life, all Cretans cannot be liars. Even liars often tell the truth. The pain begins only with the attempt to build an airtight vessel. Russell and Whitehead aimed for perfection—for proof—otherwise the enterprise had little point. The more rigorously they built, the more paradoxes they found. “It was in the air,” Douglas Hofstadter has written, “that truly peculiar things could happen when modern cousins of various ancient paradoxes cropped up inside the rigorously logical world of numbers,… a pristine paradise in which no one had dreamt paradox might arise.”♦ One was Berry’s paradox, first suggested to Russell by G. G. Berry, a librarian at the Bodleian. It has to do with counting the syllables needed to specify each integer.

Thus Gödel showed that a consistent formal system must be incomplete; no complete and consistent system can exist. The paradoxes were back, nor were they mere quirks. Now they struck at the core of the enterprise. It was, as Gödel said afterward, an “amazing fact”—“that our logical intuitions (i.e., intuitions concerning such notions as: truth, concept, being, class, etc.) are self-contradictory.”♦ It was, as Douglas Hofstadter says, “a sudden thunderbolt from the bluest of skies,”♦ its power arising not from the edifice it struck down but the lesson it contained about numbers, about symbolism, about encoding: Gödel’s conclusion sprang not from a weakness in PM but from a strength. That strength is the fact that numbers are so flexible or “chameleonic” that their patterns can mimic patterns of reasoning.… PM’s expressive power is what gives rise to its incompleteness.

Any mechanical procedure for generating formulas is essentially a Turing machine. Any formal system, therefore, must have undecidable propositions. Mathematics is not decidable. Incompleteness follows from uncomputability. Once again, the paradoxes come to life when numbers gain the power to encode the machine’s own behavior. That is the necessary recursive twist. The entity being reckoned is fatally entwined with the entity doing the reckoning. As Douglas Hofstadter put it much later, “The thing hinges on getting this halting inspector to try to predict its own behavior when looking at itself trying to predict its own behavior when looking at itself trying to predict its own behavior when …”♦ A conundrum that at least smelled similar had lately appeared in physics, too: Werner Heisenberg’s new uncertainty principle. When Turing learned about that, he expressed it in terms of self-reference: “It used to be supposed in Science that if everything was known about the Universe at any particular moment then we can predict what it will be through all the future.… More modern science however has come to the conclusion that when we are dealing with atoms and electrons we are quite unable to know the exact state of them; our instruments being made of atoms and electrons themselves.”♦ A century had passed between Babbage’s Analytical Engine and Turing’s Universal Machine—a grand and unwieldy contraption and an elegant unreal abstraction.


pages: 523 words: 148,929

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

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agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mass immigration, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize

Ambassador Thomas Graham, expert on spy satellites John Grant, author of Corrupted Science Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health Ronald Green, author of Babies by Design Brian Greene, professor of mathematics and physics, Columbia University, author of The Elegant Universe Alan Guth, professor of physics, MIT, author of The Inflationary Universe William Hanson, author of The Edge of Medicine Leonard Hayflick, professor of anatomy, University of California at San Francisco Medical School Donald Hillebrand, director of Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory Frank von Hipple, physicist, Princeton University Jeffrey Hoffman, former NASA astronaut, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, MIT Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize winner, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach John Horgan, Stevens Institute of Technology, author of The End of Science Jamie Hyneman, host of MythBusters Chris Impey, professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, author of The Living Cosmos Robert Irie, former scientist at AI Lab, MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital P. J. Jacobowitz, PC magazine Jay Jaroslav, former scientist at MIT AI Lab Donald Johanson, paleoanthropologist, discoverer of Lucy George Johnson, science journalist, New York Times Tom Jones, former NASA astronaut Steve Kates, astronomer and radio host Jack Kessler, professor of neurology, director of Feinberg Neuroscience Institute, Northwestern University Robert Kirshner, astronomer, Harvard University Kris Koenig, filmmaker and astronomer Lawrence Krauss, Arizona State University, author of The Physics of Star Trek Robert Lawrence Kuhn, filmmaker and philosopher, PBS TV series Closer to Truth Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines Robert Lanza, biotechnology, Advanced Cell Technology Roger Launius, coauthor of Robots in Space Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics and Spider-Man Michael Lemonick, former senior science editor, Time magazine, Climate Central Arthur Lerner-Lam, geologist, volcanist, Columbia University Simon LeVay, author of When Science Goes Wrong John Lewis, astronomer, University of Arizona Alan Lightman, MIT, author of Einstein’s Dreams George Linehan, author of SpaceShipOne Seth Lloyd, MIT, author of Programming the Universe Joseph Lykken, physicist, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Pattie Maes, MIT Media Laboratory Robert Mann, author of Forensic Detective Michael Paul Mason, author of Head Cases W.

AI researchers are split on the question of when this might happen. Some say that within twenty years robots will approach the intelligence of the human brain and then leave us in the dust. In 1993, Vernor Vinge said, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended …. I’ll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.” On the other hand, Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, says, “I’d be very surprised if anything remotely like this happened in the next 100 years to 200 years.” When I talked to Marvin Minsky of MIT, one of the founding figures in the history of AI, he was careful to tell me that he places no timetable on when this event will happen. He believes the day will come but shies away from being the oracle and predicting the precise date.

It is a law of evolution that fitter species arise to displace unfit species; and perhaps humans will be lost in the shuffle, eventually winding up in zoos where our robotic creations come to stare at us. Perhaps that is our destiny: to give birth to superrobots that treat us as an embarrassingly primitive footnote in their evolution. Perhaps that is our role in history, to give birth to our evolutionary successors. In this view, our role is to get out of their way. Douglas Hofstadter confided to me that this might be the natural order of things, but we should treat these superintelligent robots as we do our children, because that is what they are, in some sense. If we can care for our children, he said to me, then why can’t we also care about intelligent robots, which are also our children? Hans Moravec contemplates how we may feel being left in the dust by our robots: “… life may seem pointless if we are fated to spend it staring stupidly at our ultraintelligent progeny as they try to describe their ever more spectacular discoveries in baby talk that we can understand.”


pages: 394 words: 118,929

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg

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A Pattern Language, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Berlin Wall, c2.com, call centre, collaborative editing, conceptual framework, continuous integration, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Howard Rheingold, index card, Internet Archive, inventory management, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Larry Wall, life extension, Loma Prieta earthquake, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Potemkin village, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, Ruby on Rails, semantic web, side project, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, software studies, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Therac-25, thinkpad, Turing test, VA Linux, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

Alan Kay likes to point to McCarthy’s “half-page of code at the bottom of page 13 of the Lisp 1.5 manual” and praise it as the “Maxwell’s equations of computing”—concentrated, elegant statements that distilled the field’s fundamental principles just as James Clerk Maxwell’s four equations had laid out the essential workings of electricity and magnetism at the dawn of the machine age. On the page that Kay cited, which provides definitions of two functions named “eval” and “apply,” McCarthy essentially described Lisp in itself. “This,” Kay says, “is the whole world of programming in a few lines that I can put my hand over.” You can put your hand over it, but it is not always so easy to get your head around it. Recursion can make the brain ache. Douglas Hofstadter’s classic volume Gödel, Escher, Bach is probably the most comprehensive and approachable explanation of the concept available to nonmathematicians. Hofstadter connects the mysterious self-referential effects found in certain realms of mathematics with the infinitely ascending staircases of M. C. Escher’s art and with J. S. Bach’s playful canons and fugues, and gives all these phenomena a memorable label: strange loops.

But my skepticism was inadequate. The Chandler schedule had stretched out like a shaggy-dog story. Deep into year three there was still no “termination condition” in sight. At what point would the story reach a natural conclusion? Worse, could I ever know for certain that it would reach a conclusion? In planning my project I had failed to take into account Hofstadter’s Law, the recursive principle to which Douglas Hofstadter attached his name: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law. This strange loop seemed to define the essence of software time. Now I was stuck in it myself. After three years, Chandler was beginning to become a somewhat usable, though incomplete, calendar program. But I could not say with any confidence how much longer it would take for the project to deliver something like its original promise.

The original design called for a low-slung, unadorned causeway, but political rivalries and local pride led to the adoption of a more ambitious and unique design. The new span, a “self-anchored suspension bridge,” would hang from a single tower. A web of cables would stretch down from that lone spire, underneath the roadway and back up to the tower top, in a picturesque array of gargantuan loops. It was going to be not only a beautiful bridge to look at but a conceptually daring bridge, a bootstrapped bridge—a self-referential bridge to warm Douglas Hofstadter’s heart. There was only one problem: Nothing like it had ever been built before. And nobody was eager to tackle it. When the State of California put it out to bid, the lone contractor to throw its hat in the ring came in much higher than expected. In December 2004, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in and suspended the project, declaring that the Bay Area region would have to shoulder more of the ballooning cost of the project and calling for a second look at the bridge design.


pages: 1,079 words: 321,718

Surfaces and Essences by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander

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affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, Chance favours the prepared mind, cognitive dissonance, computer age, computer vision, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Flynn Effect, Georg Cantor, Gerolamo Cardano, Golden Gate Park, haute couture, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, l'esprit de l'escalier, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, place-making, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, theory of mind, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

SURFACES AND ESSENCES SURFACES AND ESSENCES ANALOGY AS THE FUEL AND FIRE OF THINKING DOUGLAS HOFSTADTER & EMMANUEL SANDER BASIC BOOKS A Member of the Perseus Books Group New York Grateful acknowledgment is hereby made to the following individuals and organizations for permission to use material that they have provided or to quote from sources for which they hold the rights. Every effort has been made to locate the copyright owners of material reproduced in this book. Omissions that are brought to our attention will be corrected in subsequent editions. Photograph of Mark Twain: © CORBIS Photograph of Edvard Grieg: © Michael Nicholson/CORBIS Photograph of Albert Einstein: © Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos Photograph of Albert Schweitzer: © Bettmann/CORBIS We also most warmly thank Kellie Gutman and Tony Hoagland for their generous permission to publish their poems in this volume.

Photograph of Mark Twain: © CORBIS Photograph of Edvard Grieg: © Michael Nicholson/CORBIS Photograph of Albert Einstein: © Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos Photograph of Albert Schweitzer: © Bettmann/CORBIS We also most warmly thank Kellie Gutman and Tony Hoagland for their generous permission to publish their poems in this volume. Copyright © 2013 by Basic Books Published by Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group Designed by Douglas Hofstadter Cover by Nicole Caputo and Andrea Cardenas All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, please contact Basic Books at 250 West 57th Street, New York, New York 10107. Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or send an email to: special.markets@perseusbooks.com.

Organized by Boicho Kokinov, Keith Holyoak, and Dedre Gentner, this memorable meeting assembled researchers from many countries, who, in an easy-going and lively atmosphere, exchanged ideas about their shared passion. Chance thus brought the two of us together for the first time in Sofia, and we found we had an instant personal rapport — a joyous bright spark that gradually developed into a long-term and very strong friendship. In 2001–2002, Douglas Hofstadter spent a sabbatical year in Bologna, Italy, and during that period he was invited by Jean-Pierre Dupuy to give a set of lectures on cognition at the École Polytechnique in Paris. At that time, Emmanuel Sander had just published his first book — an in-depth study of analogy-making and categorization — and at one of the lectures he proudly presented a copy of it to his new friend, who, upon reading it, was delighted to discover how deeply similar was the vision that its author and he had of what cognition is really about.


pages: 551 words: 174,280

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Bonfire of the Vanities, conceptual framework, cosmological principle, dark matter, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, first-past-the-post, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, illegal immigration, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John Conway, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kenneth Arrow, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, William of Occam, zero-sum game

., Science and Ultimate Reality (Cambridge University Press, 2003) David Deutsch, ‘Quantum Theory of Probability and Decisions’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A455 (1999) David Deutsch, ‘The Structure of the Multiverse’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A458 (2002) Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law (BBC Publications, 1965) Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All (Allen Lane, 1998) Ernest Gellner, Words and Things (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Basic Books, 1979) Douglas Hofstadter, I am a Strange Loop (Basic Books, 2007) Bryan Magee, Popper (Fontana, 1973) Pericles, ‘Funeral Oration’ Plato, Euthyphro Karl Popper, In Search of a Better World (Routledge, 1995) Karl Popper, The World of Parmenides (Routledge, 1998) Roy Porter, Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane, 2000) Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers (Basic Books, 2001) Alan Turing, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, Mind, 59, 236 (October 1950) Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men (Faber, 2002) Vernor Vinge, ‘The Coming Technological Singularity’, Whole Earth Review, winter 1993 *The term was coined by the philosopher Norwood Russell Hanson.

The specifics of that chain of instantiations may be relevant to explaining how the program reached you, but it is irrelevant to why it beat you: there, the content of the knowledge (in it, and in you) is the whole story. That story is an explanation that refers ineluctably to abstractions; and therefore those abstractions exist, and really do affect physical objects in the way required by the explanation. The computer scientist Douglas Hofstadter has a nice argument that this sort of explanation is essential in understanding certain phenomena. In his book I am a Strange Loop (2007) he imagines a special-purpose computer built of millions of dominoes. They are set up – as dominoes often are for fun – standing on end, close together, so that if one of them is knocked over it strikes its neighbour and so a whole stretch of dominoes falls, one after another.

A steam engine is not a universal simulator. But a computer is, so expecting it to be able to do whatever neurons can is not a metaphor: it is a known and proven property of the laws of physics as best we know them. (And, as it happens, hydraulic pipes could also be made into a universal classical computer, and so could gears and levers, as Babbage showed.) Ironically, Lady Lovelace’s objection has almost the same logic as Douglas Hofstadter’s argument for reductionism (Chapter 5) – yet Hofstadter is one of today’s foremost proponents of the possibility of AI. That is because both of them share the mistaken premise that low-level computational steps cannot possibly add up to a higher-level ‘I’ that affects anything. The difference between them is that they chose opposite horns of the dilemma that that poses: Lovelace chose the false conclusion that AI is impossible, while Hofstadter chose the false conclusion that no such ‘I’ can exist.


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Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie

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cognitive dissonance, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, joint-stock company, New Journalism, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, publish or perish, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy

That key, though, also unlocks Pandora’s box, opening up such sophisticated new techniques for mass manipulation that we may soon look on today’s manipulative TV commercials, political speeches, and televangelists as fond remembrances of the good old days. The word meme was coined by Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Since then it has been tossed about by Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists, psychologists such as Henry Plotkin, and cognitive scientists such as Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett in an effort to flesh out the biological, psychological, and philosophical implications of this new model of consciousness and thought.* The meme has a central place in the paradigm shift that’s currently taking place in the science of life and culture. In the new paradigm, we look at cultural evolution from the point of view of the meme, rather than the point of view of an individual or society.

As you’ll see in the next few chapters, much of that programming is the result of infection by mind viruses. To begin to see that, take a look at what a virus is and how it works. ttt 34 C hapter three Viruses “Imagine that there is a nickelodeon in the local bar which, if you press buttons 11-U, will play a song whose lyrics go this way: Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon, All I want is 11-U, and music, music, music.” — Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach Long ago, possibly billions of years ago, there arose through evolution a new type of organism—if it can even be called an organism. The new thing had the unusual property that it could invade the reproductive facilities of other organisms and put them to use making copies of itself. We call this creature a virus. Viruses exist in three universes that we know of: — The first is the universe of biology, of organisms . . . of people, plants, and animals.


pages: 696 words: 143,736

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil

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Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Everything should be made as simple as possible, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, fudge factor, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, information retrieval, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, ought to be enough for anybody, pattern recognition, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, the medium is the message, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Whole Earth Review, Y2K

To the extent that this view stays aloof from the material world, it often creates a level of complex mysticism that cannot be verified and is subject to disagreement. To the extent that it keeps its mysticism simple, it offers limited objective insight, although subjective insight is another matter (I do have to admit a fondness for simple mysticism). The “We’re Too Stupid” School Another approach is to declare that human beings just aren’t capable of understanding the answer. Artificial intelligence researcher Douglas Hofstadter muses that “it could be simply an accident of fate that our brains are too weak to understand themselves. Think of the lowly giraffe, for instance, whose brain is obviously far below the level required for self-understanding-yet it is remarkably similar to our brain.”10 But to my knowledge, giraffes are not known to ask these questions (of course, we don’t know what they spend their time wondering about).

NANOTECHNOLOGY: REBUILDING THE WORLD, ATOM BY ATOM The problems of chemistry and biology can be greatly helped if... doing things on an atomic level is ultimately developed—a development which I think cannot be avoided. —Richard Feynman, 1959 Suppose someone claimed to have a microscopically exact replica (in marble, even) of Michelangelo’s David in his home. When you go to see this marvel, you find a twenty-foot-tall, roughly rectilinear hunk of pure white marble standing in his living room. “I haven’t gotten around to unpacking it yet,” he says, “but I know it’s in there.” —Douglas Hofstadter What advantages will nanotoasters have over conventional macroscopic toaster technology? First, the savings in counter space will be substantial. One philosophical point that must not be overlooked is that the creation of the world’s smallest toaster implies the existence of the world’s smallest slice of bread. In the quantum limit we must necessarily encounter fundamental toast particles, which we designate here as “croutons.”

A Musical Turing Test In 1997, Steve Larson, a University of Oregon music professor, arranged a musical variation of the Turing Test by having an audience attempt to determine which of three pieces of music had been written by a computer and which one of the three had been written two centuries ago by a human named Johann Sebastian Bach. Larson was only slightly insulted when the audience voted that his own piece was the computer composition, but he felt somewhat vindicated when the audience selected the piece written by a computer program named EMI (Experiments in Musical Intelligence) to be the authentic Bach composition. Douglas Hofstadter, a longtime observer of (and contributor to) the progression of machine intelligence, calls EMI, created by the composer David Cope, “the most thought-provoking project in artificial intelligence that I have ever come across.”2 Perhaps even more successful is a program called Improvisor, written by Paul Hodgson, a British jazz saxophone player. Improvisor can emulate styles ranging from Bach to jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil

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additive manufacturing, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Brewster Kahle, Brownian motion, business intelligence, c2.com, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, factory automation, friendly AI, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, linked data, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Mikhail Gorbachev, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, premature optimization, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, remote working, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Y2K, Yogi Berra

Although it may seem difficult to envision the capabilities of a future civilization whose intelligence vastly outstrips our own, our ability to create models of reality in our mind enables us to articulate meaningful insights into the implications of this impending merger of our biological thinking with the nonbiological intelligence we are creating. This, then, is the story I wish to tell in this book. The story is predicated on the idea that we have the ability to understand our own intelligence—to access our own source code, if you will—and then revise and expand it. Some observers question whether we are capable of applying our own thinking to understand our own thinking. AI researcher Douglas Hofstadter muses that "it could be simply an accident of fate that our brains are too weak to understand themselves. Think of the lowly giraffe, for instance, whose brain is obviously far below the level required for self-understanding—yet it is remarkably similar to our brain.6 However, we have already succeeded in modeling portions of our brain-neurons and substantial neural regions and the complexity of such models is growing rapidly.

Until very recently neuroscience was characterized by overly simplistic models limited by the crudeness of our sensing and scanning tools. This led many observers to doubt whether our thinking processes were inherently capable of understanding themselves. Peter D. Kramer writes, "If the mind were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it."50 Earlier, I quoted Douglas Hofstadter's comparison of our brain to that of a giraffe, the structure of which is not that different from a human brain but which clearly does not have the capability of understanding its own methods. However, recent success in developing highly detailed models at various levels—from neural components such as synapses to large neural regions such as the cerebellum—demonstrate that building precise mathematical models of our brains and then simulating these models with computation is a challenging but viable task once the data capabilities become available.

The Age of Intelligent Machines, published in 1990 by MIT Press, was named Best Computer Science Book by the Association of American Publishers. The book explores the development of artificial intelligence and predicts a range of philosophic, social, and economic impacts of intelligent machines. The narrative is complemented by twenty-three articles on AI from thinkers such as Sherry Turkle, Douglas Hofstadter, Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert, and George Gilder. For the entire text of the book, see http://www.KurzweilAI.net/aim. 5. Key measures of capability (such as price-performance, bandwidth, and capacity) increase by multiples (that is, the measures are multiplied by a factor for each increment of time) rather than being added to linearly. 6. Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel; Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979).


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A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by Richard Dawkins

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Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Desert Island Discs, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, Necker cube, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method

Exactly the same trick is performed in the ‘Mystery’ of the Trinity. Mysteries are not meant to be solved, they are meant to strike awe. The ‘mystery is a virtue’ idea comes to the aid of the Catholic, who would otherwise find intolerable the obligation to believe the obvious nonsense of the transubstantiation and the ‘three-in-one’. Again, the belief that ‘mystery is a virtue’ has a self-referential ring. As Douglas Hofstadter might put it, the very mysteriousness of the belief moves the believer to perpetuate the mystery. An extreme symptom of ‘mystery is a virtue’ infection is Tertullian’s ‘Certum est quia impossibile est’ (It is certain because it is impossible). That way madness lies. One is tempted to quote Lewis Carroll’s White Queen, who, in response to Alice’s ‘One can’t believe impossible things’, retorted, ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice … When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.

He eventually renounced his orders because he could no longer tolerate the obvious contradictions within Catholic belief, and he is now a highly respected scholar. But one cannot help remarking that it must be a powerful infection indeed that took a man of his wisdom and intelligence – now President of the British Academy, no less – three decades to fight off. Am I unduly alarmist to fear for the soul of my six-year-old innocent? 1This is among many related ideas that have been grown in the endlessly fertile mind of Douglas Hofstadter (Metamagical Themas, London, Penguin, 1985). 3.3 The Great Convergence85 Are science and religion converging? No. There are modern scientists whose words sound religious but whose beliefs, on close examination, turn out to be identical to those of other scientists who straightforwardly call themselves atheists. Ursula Goodenough’s lyrical book, The Sacred Depths of Nature,86 is sold as a religious book, is endorsed by theologians on the back cover, and its chapters are liberally laced with prayers and devotional meditations.


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An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson

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23andMe, Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, augmented reality, bank run, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, clean water, computer age, decarbonisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, flex fuel, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, Louis Pasteur, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, off grid, packet switching, peak oil, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, the scientific method, Wall-E, X Prize

For Ray, though, that’s kind of the point – crib to jet fighter is really just a few doublings, the law of accelerating returns in action. In fact, Ray points out that sometimes the rate of doubling can double itself, creating the ‘hyper-exponential growth’ Stewart Brand references. Others are unconvinced. They see Ray the same way the State of Massachusetts sees Tracy – he makes a road where there isn’t one. Douglas Hofstadter is one critic. Now a cognitive scientist at Indiana University, he most famously authored Gödel, Escher, Bach – an attempt to explain how consciousness can arise from a system, even though the system’s component parts aren’t individually conscious. Hofstadter told American Scientist that he thought Ray’s ideas were like a blend of ‘very good food and some dog excrement’ that made it hard to untangle the ‘rubbish’ ideas from the good ones.

Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Discipline Viking Press, New York, 2009 This is the book that managed to cheer up James Lovelock. Brand told me ‘my views are strongly stated and loosely held’ – he wants a debate, and there is plenty in here to start one. Lucid, powerful and, despite its breadth and depth, a surprisingly easy read. RE-BOOT Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near Penguin, New York, 2005 Douglas Hofstadter pronounced the ideas in this book a blend of ‘very good food and some dog excrement’. That’s unfair but gives you some indication of how radical Kurzweil is. You may not want to agree with everything he says, but the argument over what we’ll do with technology is one of the defining battlegrounds of this century and it’s mapped out nicely here. John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison, The Power of Pull Basic Books, Philadelphia, 2010 A business book – but a wake-up call for anyone who still thinks the world is a hierarchy.


pages: 375 words: 106,536

Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Columbine, computer age, credit crunch, Douglas Hofstadter, Downton Abbey, East Village, Etonian, false memory syndrome, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, late fees, Louis Pasteur, obamacare, Peter Thiel, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Skype, telemarketer

“Nice to meet you, Jon,” she says, shooting me an excitingly clearheaded look. She’s like a whole new robot. “Are you a man or a woman?” “A man,” I say. “Don’t worry, it’ll be OK!” says Bina. “Ha-ha,” I say politely. “So. What’s your favorite book?” “Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter,” Bina48 replies. “Do you know him? He’s a great robot scientist.” I narrow my eyes. I have my suspicions that the real Bina—a rather elegant-looking spiritualist—wouldn’t choose such a nerdy book as her favorite. Douglas Hofstadter is an author beloved by geeky computer programmers the world over. Could it be that some Hanson Robotics employee has sneakily smuggled this into Bina48’s personality? I put this to Bruce, and he explains that, yes, Bina48 has more than one “parent.” Her “higher key” is the real Bina, but Hanson Robotics people have been allowed to influence her too.


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Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins by Garry Kasparov

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business process, call centre, clean water, computer age, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, Freestyle chess, Gödel, Escher, Bach, job automation, Leonard Kleinrock, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nate Silver, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, rising living standards, rolodex, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

Errors are reduced by quantity leading to quality, keeping the good examples and discarding the bad a billion times per second, although there will always be anomalies and, of course, sensitive nuclear technologies! Machine learning rescued AI from insignificance because it worked and because it was profitable. IBM, Google, and many others used it to create products that got useful results. But was it AI? Did that matter? AI theorists who wanted to understand and even replicate how the human mind worked were disappointed yet again. Douglas Hofstadter, the cognitive scientist who wrote the hugely influential book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid in 1979, has stayed true to his quest to comprehend human cognition. Consequently, he and his work have been marginalized within AI by the demand for immediate results, sellable products, and more and more data. Hofstadter expressed his frustrations in a great 2013 article about him by James Somers in the Atlantic.

My friend Shay Bushinsky and his colleague Amir Ban created the remarkable program Junior, my opponent in my final human-machine match in 2003. In recent years, many experts have had the patience to personally contribute to my education in artificial intelligence and robotics. Nick Bostrom and his colleagues at Oxford Martin’s Future of Humanity Institute; Andrew McAfee at MIT; Noel Sharkey at the University of Sheffield; Nigel Crook at Oxford Brookes University; David Ferrucci at Bridgewater. I’ve never met Douglas Hofstadter or Hans Moravec, but their writings on human and machine cognition are especially provocative and essential. Special thanks to: My agent at the Gernert Company, Chris Parris-Lamb, and my editor at PublicAffairs, Ben Adams. They have shown impressive resilience in adjusting deadlines to accommodate a chessplayer’s eternal love of time trouble. Peter Osnos, Clive Priddle, and Jaime Leifer, the terrific team at PublicAffairs.


pages: 329 words: 88,954

Emergence by Steven Johnson

A Pattern Language, agricultural Revolution, Brewster Kahle, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Danny Hillis, Douglas Hofstadter, edge city, epigenetics, game design, garden city movement, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Kevin Kelly, late capitalism, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Murano, Venice glass, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, pez dispenser, phenotype, Potemkin village, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, slashdot, Socratic dialogue, stakhanovite, Steven Pinker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush

But the pattern recognition that Turing and Shannon envisioned for digital computers has, in recent years, become a central part of our cultural life, with machines both generating music for our entertainment and recommending new artists for us to enjoy. The connection between musical patterns and our neurological wiring would play a central role in one of the founding texts of modern artificial intelligence, Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach. Our computers still haven’t developed a genuine ear for music, but if they ever do, their skill will date back to those lunchtime conversations between Shannon and Turing at Bell Labs. And that learning too will be a kind of emergence, a higher-level order forming out of relatively simple component parts. Five years after his interactions with Turing, Shannon published a long essay in the Bell System Technical Journal that was quickly repackaged as a book called The Mathematical Theory of Communication.

In 1969, Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert published “Perceptrons,” which built on Selfridge’s Pandemonium device for distributed pattern recognition, leading the way for Minsky’s bottom-up Society of Mind theory developed over the following decade. In 1972, a Rockefeller University professor named Gerald Edelman won the Nobel prize for his work decoding the language of antibody molecules, leading the way for an understanding of the immune system as a self-learning pattern-recognition device. Prigogine’s Nobel followed five years later. At the end of the decade, Douglas Hofstadter published Gödel, Escher, Bach, linking artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, ant colonies, and “The Goldberg Variations.” Despite its arcane subject matter and convoluted rhetorical structure, the book became a best-seller and won the Pulitzer prize for nonfiction. By the mideighties, the revolution was in full swing. The Santa Fe Institute was founded in 1984; James Gleick’s book Chaos arrived three years later to worldwide adulation, quickly followed by two popular-science books each called Complexity.


pages: 487 words: 151,810

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

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Albert Einstein, asset allocation, assortative mating, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, business process, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, clean water, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, fear of failure, financial deregulation, financial independence, Flynn Effect, George Akerlof, Henri Poincaré, hiring and firing, impulse control, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, loss aversion, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Monroe Doctrine, Paul Samuelson, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, school vouchers, six sigma, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, Walter Mischel, young professional

A speaker of the language Tzeltal from Mexico was blindfolded and spun around twenty times. He still had no trouble pointing, north, south, east, and west. In this way, culture imprints some patterns in our brains and dissolves others. Because Erica grew up in the United States, she had a distinct sense of when something was tacky, even though she couldn’t have easily defined what made it so. Her head was filled with what Douglas Hofstadter calls “comfortable but quite impossible to define abstract patterns,” which were implanted by culture and organized her thinking into concepts such as: sleazeballs, fair play, dreams, wackiness, crackpots, sour grapes, goals, and you and I. Erica learned that a culture is not a recipe book that creates uniformity. Each culture has its own internal debates and tensions. Alasdair MacIntyre points out that each vital culture contains a continuity of conflict, which allows divergent behavior.

., 2009), 195. 40 But if you bump Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 328. 41 Cities in the South Marc D. Hauser, Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), 134. 42 A cultural construct Guy Deutscher, “You Are What You Speak,” The New York Times Magazine, August 26, 2010, 44. 43 Her head was filled Douglas Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 177. 44 They seem to be growing David Halpern, The Hidden Wealth of Nations (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 76. 45 “Cultures do not exist” Thomas Sowell, Migrations and Cultures: A World View (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 378. 46 Haitians and Dominicans share Lawrence E. Harrison, The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2006), 26. 47 In Ceylon in 1969 Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture: A World View (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 67. 48 In Chile, three-quarters Sowell, Race and Culture, 25. 49 By the time they enter kindergarten Margaret Bridges, Bruce Fuller, Russell Rumberger, and Loan Tran, “Preschool for California’s Children: Unequal Access, Promising Benefits,” PACE Child Development Projects, University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute (September 2004): 7, http://gse.berkeley.edu/research/pace/reports/PB.04-3.pdf. 50 Roughly 54 percent of Asian Americans Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), 85. 51 The average Asian American in New Jersey David Brooks, “The Limits of Policy,” New York Times, May 3, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/opinion/04brooks.html. 52 “Cultures of Corruption” Fisman, Raymond, and Edward Miguel, “Corruption, Norms and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets,” Journal of Political Economy 115, no. 6 (2007): 1020–48, http://www2.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/rfisman/parking_20july06_RF.pdf. 53 People in progress-prone Harrison, 53. 54 People in trusting cultures Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Free Press, 1996), 338. 55 Germany and Japan have high Edward Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (New York: Free Press, 1967). 56 The merging of these two idea spaces Richard Ogle, Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity and the New Science of Ideas (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007), 8–10. 57 Ronald Burt Ronald Burt, Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

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3D printing, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, basic income, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Markoff, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, off grid, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, zero-sum game

When we’re confronted with a new type of cancer—and that happens all the time because cancers keep mutating—the models we’ve learned for previous ones don’t apply. Neither do we have time to gather data on the new cancer from a lot of patients; there may be only one, and she urgently needs a cure. Our best hope is then to compare the new cancer with known ones and try to find one whose behavior is similar enough that some of the same lines of attack will work. Is there anything analogy can’t do? Not according to Douglas Hofstadter, cognitive scientist and author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Hofstadter, who looks a bit like the Grinch’s good twin, is probably the world’s best-known analogizer. In their book Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, Hofstadter and his collaborator Emmanuel Sander argue passionately that all intelligent behavior reduces to analogy. Everything we learn or discover, from the meaning of everyday words like mother and play to the brilliant insights of geniuses like Albert Einstein and Évariste Galois, is the result of analogy in action.

Kevin Ashley explores case-based legal reasoning in Modeling Legal Arguments* (MIT Press, 1991). David Cope summarizes his approach to automated music composition in “Recombinant music: Using the computer to explore musical style” (IEEE Computer, 1991). Dedre Gentner proposed structure mapping in “Structure mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy”* (Cognitive Science, 1983). “The man who would teach machines to think,” by James Somers (Atlantic, 2013), discusses Douglas Hofstadter’s views on AI. The RISE algorithm is described in my paper “Unifying instance-based and rule-based induction”* (Machine Learning, 1996). Chapter Eight The Scientist in the Crib, by Alison Gopnik, Andy Meltzoff, and Pat Kuhl (Harper, 1999), summarizes psychologists’ discoveries about how babies and young children learn. The k-means algorithm was originally proposed by Stuart Lloyd at Bell Labs in 1957, in a technical report entitled “Least squares quantization in PCM”* (which later appeared as a paper in the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory in 1982).


pages: 141 words: 46,879

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life by Richard Dawkins

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double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, job satisfaction, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, out of africa, phenotype

She dutifully leaves the prey outside the burrow again and goes inside for yet another inspection. The experimenter may repeat this charade forty times, until he gets bored. The wasp behaves like a washing machine that has been set back to an early stage in its program and doesn't "know" that it has already washed those clothes forty times without a break. The distinguished computer scientist Douglas Hofstadter has adopted a new adjective, "sphexish," to label such inflexible, mindless automatism. (Sphex is the name of one representative genus of digger wasp.) At least in some respects, then, wasps are easy to fool. It is a very different kind of fooling from that engineered by the orchid. Nevertheless, we must beware of using human intuition to conclude that "in order for that reproductive strategy to have worked at all, it had to be perfect the first time."


pages: 158 words: 49,168

Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics by David Berlinski

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Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine, William of Occam

Gödel’s monograph was not published in English until 1961, and even during the 1960s, when I was studying logic at Princeton—Gödel’s home, after all—the great theorem could only really be learned from mimeographed notes that Alonzo Church had carefully prepared and from a very useful popular account of the theorem written by Ernest Nagel and James Newmann. This has now changed, perhaps as the result of Douglas Hofstadter’s entertaining book, Gödel, Escher, Bach. And yet Gödel’s theorem has retained its esoteric aspect, with many mathematicians regarding it as marginal to their own working concerns. On the other hand, philosophers as well as physicists have attempted to appropriate Gödel’s theorem for their own ends. The physicist Stephen Hawking has recently declared that he for one has lost faith in the prospects of a single unified theory of everything; it has apparently been Gödel’s theorem, which he has been late in appreciating, that has persuaded him that any such system could not be complete if it were consistent.


pages: 240 words: 60,660

Models. Behaving. Badly.: Why Confusing Illusion With Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life by Emanuel Derman

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Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Black-Scholes formula, British Empire, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cepheid variable, creative destruction, crony capitalism, diversified portfolio, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, fixed income, Henri Poincaré, I will remember that I didn’t make the world, and it doesn’t satisfy my equations, Isaac Newton, law of one price, Mikhail Gorbachev, Myron Scholes, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, riskless arbitrage, savings glut, Schrödinger's Cat, Sharpe ratio, stochastic volatility, the scientific method, washing machines reduced drudgery, yield curve

Nor need I call attention to the fact that many actions are observed in the lower animals, which far transcend human sagacity, and that somnambulists do many things in their sleep, which they would not venture to do when awake: these instances are enough to show, that the body can by the sole laws of its nature do many things which the mind wonders at. The brain, after all, is part of the body too. One of the lessons of twentieth-century physics—of relativity, quantum mechanics, and cosmology—is that the more we learn about matter, the more enigmatic it seems. There is a “mind” way of looking at things and there is also a “matter” way. In his book I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter imagines a digital computer built out of chains of dominoes constructed to divide the prime number 641 by all the numbers less than it. You begin the program by knocking over the first domino. The logic of the chains is such that if no number can divide 641 without a remainder, then the final domino in the chain will fall. The domino computer begins its computation, and the final domino falls a few seconds later.


pages: 210 words: 62,771

Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science by Chris Bernhardt

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Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, British Empire, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Conway's Game of Life, discrete time, Douglas Hofstadter, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Internet Archive, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John Conway, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture

George Dyson’s Turing’s Cathedral continues from where Davis ends, telling the story of how computers came to be built after the Second World War. Despite the title, the focus is much more on von Neumann than on Turing. Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution gives a wide, sweeping history of the computer starting with Babbage and ending with the Web. Computers, minds, and the universe Scott Aaronson, David Deutsch, and Douglas Hofstadter are three computer scientists who have written thought-provoking works on a wide variety of ideas related to the theory of computation. Quantum Computing since Democritus by Aaranson, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by Deutsch, and Gödel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter are all fascinating. Cellular automata We only looked briefly looked at cellular automata, but they have a long and interesting history.


pages: 224 words: 64,156

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier

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1960s counterculture, accounting loophole / creative accounting, additive manufacturing, Albert Einstein, call centre, cloud computing, commoditize, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, digital Maoism, Douglas Hofstadter, Extropian, follow your passion, hive mind, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Long Term Capital Management, Network effects, new economy, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, slashdot, social graph, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, The Wisdom of Crowds, trickle-down economics, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog

The thinking goes that within the cloud there will be no need for the numinous halves of traditional oppositions such as syntax/semantics, quantity/quality, content/context, and knowledge/wisdom. A second flavor of computationalism holds that a computer program with specific design features—usually related to self-representation and circular references—is similar to a person. Some of the figures associated with this approach are Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter, though each has his own ideas about what the special features should be. Hofstadter suggests that software that includes a “strange loop” bears a resemblance to consciousness. In a strange loop, things are nested within things in such a way that an inner thing is the same as an outer thing. If you descend on a city using a parachute, land on a roof, enter the building through a door on that roof, go into a room, open another door to a closet, enter it, and find that there is no floor in the closet and you are suddenly once again falling in the vast sky toward the city, you are in a strange loop.


pages: 242 words: 68,019

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

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Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, assortative mating, Claude Shannon: information theory, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Hofstadter, Everything should be made as simple as possible, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, information asymmetry, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, New Economic Geography, Norbert Wiener, p-value, Paul Samuelson, phenotype, price mechanism, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, working-age population

Then this number gradually decreased, from forty-two in 1990 to twenty-nine in 2000 and twenty-two in 2008, eventually reaching the final number of twenty. See “Mathematics of the Rubik’s Cube,” Ruwix, http://ruwix.com/the-rubiks-cube/mathematics-of-the-rubiks-cube-permutation-group. 12. The idea that information involves aperiodicity and a multitude of correlations of different lengths is also explored in Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach. See, for instance, Chapter VI: The Location of Meaning. Douglas R. Hofstadter Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979). 13. In recent years methods inspired by the ideas of information have been used to identify new genes in what was believed to be intergenic material. See Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis et al., “Proto-genes and De Novo Gene Birth,” Nature 487, no. 7407 (2012): 370–374. 14.


pages: 846 words: 232,630

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett

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Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, assortative mating, buy low sell high, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, non-fiction novel, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Turing machine, Turing test

Probably nobody is a reductionist in the preposterous sense, and everybody should be a reductionist in the bland sense, so the "charge" of reductionism is too vague to merit a response. If somebody says to you, "But that's so reductionistic!" you would do well to respond, "That's such a quaint, old-fashioned complaint! What on Earth did you have in mind?" I am happy to say that in recent years, some of the thinkers I most admire have come out in defense of one or another version of reductionism, carefully circumscribed. The cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, in Godel Escher Bach, composed a "Prelude ... Ant Fugue" (Hofstadter 1979, pp. 275-336) that is an analytical hymn to the virtues of reductionism in its proper place. George C. Williams, one of the pre-eminent evolutionists of the day, published "A Defense of Reductionism in Evolutionary Biology" (1985). The zoologist Richard Dawkins has distinguished what he calls hierarchical or gradual reductionism from precipice reductionism; he rejects only the precipice version (Dawkins 1986b, p. 74).1 More recently the physicist Steven Weinberg, in Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), has written a chapter entitled "Two Cheers for Reductionism," in which he distinguishes between uncompromising reductionism (a bad thing) and compromising reductionism (which he ringingly endorses).

., a-rational allegiance, because just having rules, or endorsing or accepting rules, is no design solution at all. Having the rules, having all the information, and even having good intentions do not suffice, by themselves, to guarantee the right action; the agent must find all the right stuff and use it, even in the face of contrary rational challenges designed to penetrate his convictions. Having, and recognizing the force of, rules is not enough, and sometimes the agent is better off with less. Douglas Hofstadter draws attention to a phenomenon he calls "reverberant doubt," which is stipulated out of existence in most idealized theoretical discussions. In what Hofstadter calls "Wolf's Dilemma," an "obvious" nondilemma is turned into a serious dilemma by nothing but the passage of time and the possibility of reverberant doubt. Imagine that twenty people are selected from your high school graduation class, you among them.


pages: 286 words: 90,530

Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think by Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley

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Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, bioinformatics, cognitive bias, computer age, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Haight Ashbury, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, loose coupling, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, phenotype, profit maximization, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

But this is not inevitable; there are few experiences more unsettling to a philosopher than watching a non-philosopher stumble into agreement with one’s most carefully executed conclusions by a sort of lucky drunkard’s walk. Dawkins, in contrast, is impressively surefooted. I didn’t read The Selfish Gene when it came out in 1976 because of some negative comment I ran into—I can’t recall from whom—to the effect that the book was too clever by half, a bit of popularizing that could well be ignored. So I am deeply grateful to Douglas Hofstadter for undoing the damage of that bum steer fairly soon, in 1980, when he and I were working on our anthology, The Mind’s I,2 in which we included two excerpts, under the title ‘Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes’. (Several times in my life I’ve taken the word of somebody I regarded well and moved a new book onto my ‘don’t bother’ list only to discover later that this was a book that properly belonged on my ‘read immediately’ pile.


pages: 317 words: 84,400

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World by Christopher Steiner

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23andMe, Ada Lovelace, airport security, Al Roth, algorithmic trading, backtesting, big-box store, Black-Scholes formula, call centre, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, delta neutral, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, dumpster diving, Flash crash, Gödel, Escher, Bach, High speed trading, Howard Rheingold, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge economy, late fees, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, medical residency, money market fund, Myron Scholes, Narrative Science, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, quantitative hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Sergey Aleynikov, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, speech recognition, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y Combinator

An audience of a few hundred people listened while three piano pieces, all meant to sound like Bach, were played, one composed by Emmy, one by Larson, and one by Bach himself. The audience then voted on the identity of each composition. Larson’s pride took a ding when his piece was fingered as that belonging to the computer. When the crowd decided that Emmy’s piece was the true product of the late musician, Larson winced.13 Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University, oversaw the competition among Larson, Emmy, and Bach. Hofstadter’s 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid contemplated artificial intelligence and music composition and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. “Emmy forces us to look at great works of art and wonder where they came from and how deep they really are,” Hofstadter said at the time.14 With a victory in a controlled, academic setting, Emmy’s profile soared, as did Cope’s.


pages: 336 words: 113,519

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

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Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, complexity theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, endowment effect, feminist movement, framing effect, hindsight bias, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, loss aversion, medical residency, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Nate Silver, New Journalism, Paul Samuelson, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, statistical model, the new new thing, Thomas Bayes, Walter Mischel, Yom Kippur War

The doctors had scanned his body and found it riddled with cancer. They were now giving him, at best, six months to live. Danny was the second person he’d called with the news. Hearing that, something inside Danny gave. “He was saying, ‘We’re friends, whatever you think we are.’” * * * * After the article appeared, in the October 1983 issue of Psychological Review, the best-selling author and computer scientist Douglas Hofstadter sent Amos his own vignettes. Example: Fido barks and chases cars. Which is Fido more likely to be: (1) a cocker spaniel or (2) an entity in the universe? Coda BORA-BORA Consider the following scenario. Jason K. is a fourteen-year-old homeless boy who lives in a large American city. He is shy and withdrawn but extremely resourceful. His father was murdered when he was young; his mother is an addict.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

A chimp couldn’t tell the difference between Einstein and the village idiot, and our descendants may not see much of a difference either. Carl Shulman has observed that some academics who talk about transhumanism seem to use the following scale of intelligence: Douglas Hofstadter actually said something like this, at the 2006 Singularity Summit. He looked at my diagram showing the “village idiot” next to “Einstein,” and said, “That seems wrong to me; I think Einstein should be way off on the right.” I was speechless. Especially because this was Douglas Hofstadter, one of my childhood heroes. It revealed a cultural gap that I had never imagined existed. See, for me, what you would find toward the right side of the scale was a Jupiter Brain. Einstein did not literally have a brain the size of a planet. On the right side of the scale, you would find Deep Thought—Douglas Adams’s original version, thank you, not the chess player.

People are more likely to say “You can sit in that chair” than “You can sit in that recliner” or “You can sit in that furniture.” And it is no coincidence that the word for “chair” contains fewer syllables than either “recliner” or “furniture.” Basic-level categories, in general, tend to have short names; and nouns with short names tend to refer to basic-level categories. Not a perfect rule, of course, but a definite tendency. Frequent use goes along with short words; short words go along with frequent use. Or as Douglas Hofstadter put it, there’s a reason why the English language uses “the” to mean “the” and “antidisestablishmentarianism” to mean “antidisestablishmentarianism” instead of antidisestablishmentarianism other way around. * 175 Mutual Information, and Density in Thingspace Suppose you have a system X that can be in any of 8 states, which are all equally probable (relative to your current state of knowledge), and a system Y that can be in any of 4 states, all equally probable.

Tortoise: “And might there not also be some reader who would say, ‘I accept A and B as true, but I don’t accept the Hypothetical’?” Achilles, unwisely, concedes this; and so asks the Tortoise to accept another proposition: (C) If A and B are true, Z must be true. But, asks, the Tortoise, suppose that he accepts A and B and C, but not Z? Then, says, Achilles, he must ask the Tortoise to accept one more hypothetical: (D) If A and B and C are true, Z must be true. Douglas Hofstadter paraphrased the argument some time later: ACHILLES: “If you have [(A and B) → Z], and you also have (A and B), then surely you have Z.” TORTOISE: “Oh! You mean ((A and B) and [(A and B) → Z]) → Z, don’t you?” As Hofstadter says, “Whatever Achilles considers a rule of inference, the Tortoise immediately flattens into a mere string of the system. If you use only the letters A, B, and Z, you will get a recursive pattern of longer and longer strings.”


pages: 490 words: 150,172

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski

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business climate, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Menlo Park, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen

Of course, no matter how I hold the hexagonal pencil in the writing position, I could never see any more than three faces at one time, and so I might never conclude absolutely from a single view of it that the pencil’s shape was indeed a regular hexagon. Since a single perspective drawing must necessarily be of the pencil in a single orientation, such a drawing would not be sufficient to convey the exact shape of the pencil. So how could I convey that unambiguously? The problem is at the same time stated and solved in the illustration on the cover of Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach. In the illustration a cube of wood is carved in such a clever way that the block takes the shape of the letter G, E, or B depending on which face is viewed directly. If only a single face is viewed, we might naturally conclude that the entire block is in the shape of the letter we see. If two faces are viewed simultaneously in perspective, we might conclude that the block was carved with a pair of letters, and which pair would depend upon which two faces we see.


pages: 574 words: 164,509

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

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agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anthropic principle, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, brain emulation, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, cosmological constant, dark matter, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, epigenetics, fear of failure, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, iterative process, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Netflix Prize, new economy, Norbert Wiener, NP-complete, nuclear winter, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, prediction markets, price stability, principal–agent problem, race to the bottom, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, reversible computing, social graph, speech recognition, Stanislav Petrov, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, Turing machine, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

See Armstrong (2012). 49. Sheppard (2002). 50. Wikipedia (2012a). 51. Markoff (2011). 52. Rubin and Watson (2011). 53. Elyasaf et al. (2011). 54. KGS (2012). 55. Newell et al. (1958, 320). 56. Attributed in Vardi (2012). 57. In 1976, I. J. Good wrote: “A computer program of Grandmaster strength would bring us within an ace of [machine ultra-intelligence]” (Good 1976). In 1979, Douglas Hofstadter opined in his Pulitzer-winning Gödel, Escher, Bach: “Question: Will there be chess programs that can beat anyone? Speculation: No. There may be programs that can beat anyone at chess, but they will not be exclusively chess programs. They will be programs of general intelligence, and they will be just as temperamental as people. ‘Do you want to play chess?’ ‘No, I’m bored with chess. Let’s talk about poetry’” (Hofstadter [1979] 1999, 678). 58.


pages: 380 words: 118,675

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

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3D printing, airport security, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, bank run, Bernie Madoff, big-box store, Black Swan, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, call centre, centre right, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, facts on the ground, game design, housing crisis, invention of movable type, inventory management, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kodak vs Instagram, late fees, loose coupling, low skilled workers, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Network effects, new economy, optical character recognition, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, quantitative hedge fund, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, RFID, Rodney Brooks, search inside the book, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, skunkworks, Skype, statistical arbitrage, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Thomas L Friedman, Tony Hsieh, Whole Earth Catalog, why are manhole covers round?, zero-sum game

“I remember thinking that it was very improbable that people would ever want to do this,” says Susan Benson, whose husband, Eric, was a former colleague of Kaphan’s. Both would become early employees at Amazon. Kaphan invited a former coworker, John Wainwright, to try the service, and Wainwright is credited with making the very first purchase: Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, a science book by Douglas Hofstadter. His Amazon account history records the date of that inaugural order as April 3, 1995. Today, a building on Amazon’s Seattle’s campus is named Wainwright. While the site wasn’t much to look at, Kaphan and Davis had accomplished a lot on it in just a few months. There was a virtual shopping basket, a safe way to enter credit card numbers into a Web browser, and a rudimentary search engine that scoured a catalog drawn from the Books in Print CD-ROMs, a reference source published by R.


pages: 413 words: 119,587

Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, airport security, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Duvall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, call centre, cellular automata, Chris Urmson, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, deskilling, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Gunnar Myrdal, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, haute couture, hive mind, hypertext link, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, loose coupling, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, medical residency, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, natural language processing, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, skunkworks, Skype, social software, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tenerife airport disaster, The Coming Technological Singularity, the medium is the message, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, zero-sum game

There was free food at corporate and academic events every evening and no shortage of “womanizing” opportunities. He bought a home in Los Trancos Woods several miles from Stanford, near SAIL, which was just in the process of moving from the foothills down to a new home on the central Stanford campus. When he arrived at Stanford in 1979 the first golden age of AI was in full swing—graduate students like Douglas Hofstadter, the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid; Rodney Brooks; and David Shaw, who would later take AI techniques and transform them into a multibillion-dollar hedge fund on Wall Street, were all still around. The commercial forces that would lead to the first wave of AI companies like Intellicorp, Syntelligence, and Teknowledge were now taking shape. While Penn had been like an ivory castle, the walls between academia and the commercial world were coming down at Stanford.


pages: 706 words: 120,784

The Joy of Clojure by Michael Fogus, Chris Houser

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cloud computing, domain-specific language, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, haute couture, Larry Wall, Paul Graham, rolodex, traveling salesman

When organizing your code along namespaces, it’s good practice to export and import only those elements needed. We now turn our focus to Clojure’s multimethods, a way of defining polymorphic functions based on the results of arbitrary functions, which will get you halfway toward a system of polymorphic types. 9.2. Exploring Clojure multimethods with the Universal Design Pattern The most specific event can serve as a general example of a class of events. Douglas R. Hofstadter In Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer prize winning work Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, he describes a notion of the Prototype Principle—the tendency of the human mind to use specific events as models for similar but different events or things. He presents the idea “that there is generality in the specific” (Hofstadter 1979). Building on this idea, programmer Steve Yegge coined the term The Universal Design Pattern (UDP), extrapolating on Hofstadter’s idea (Yegge 2008) and presenting it in terms of prototypal inheritance (Ungar 1987).


pages: 476 words: 120,892

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, bioinformatics, complexity theory, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Ernest Rutherford, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, New Journalism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, theory of mind, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, Zeno's paradox

Instead, one set of rules may be able to prove the truth of statements generated by, and therefore unprovable with, any other set of rules. For example, true but unprovable language statements may be provable within the rules of algebra, and vice versa. This is, of course, a huge oversimplification that does not do justice to the subtleties of the subject. The interested reader might like to try the 1979 book on this and related subjects by the American professor of cognitive science Douglas Hofstadter.8 The key point here is that in his book The Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose takes Gödel’s incompleteness theorems as the starting point for his argument, by first pointing out that classical computers use formal logical systems (computer algorithms) to make their statements. It follows from Gödel’s theorem that they must also be capable of generating true statements they can’t prove. But, Penrose argues, humans (or at least those members of the species who are mathematicians) can prove the truth of these unprovable but true computer statements.


pages: 742 words: 137,937

The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind

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23andMe, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Keen, Atul Gawande, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Bill Joy: nanobots, business process, business process outsourcing, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, Clapham omnibus, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, commoditize, computer age, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, death of newspapers, disintermediation, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, future of work, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, lifelogging, lump of labour, Marshall McLuhan, Metcalfe’s law, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, optical character recognition, Paul Samuelson, personalized medicine, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, Shoshana Zuboff, Skype, social web, speech recognition, spinning jenny, strong AI, supply-chain management, telepresence, The Future of Employment, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, young professional

Feynman, ‘The Computing Machines in the Future’, in Nishina Memorial Lectures (2008), 110. 15 See Garry Kasparov, ‘The Chess Master and the Computer’, New York Review of Books, 11 Feb. 2010. 16 Capper and Susskind, Latent Damage Law—The Expert System. 17 By way of illustration, the fallacy is committed by a prominent journalist in Philip Collins, ‘Computers Won’t Outsmart Us Any Time Soon’, The Times, 23 Mar. 2104, and by the leading cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, interviewed in William Herkewitz, ‘Why Watson and Siri Are Not Real AI’, Popular Mechanics, 10 Feb. 2014 <http://www.popularmechanics.com> (accessed 23 March 2015). 18 This is a running theme of Richard Susskind, Expert Systems in Law (1987). This is a revised version of a doctoral thesis, submitted to the University of Oxford in 1986. 19 An interesting area for further research emerges here.


pages: 506 words: 152,049

The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene by Richard Dawkins

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Alfred Russel Wallace, assortative mating, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, epigenetics, Gödel, Escher, Bach, impulse control, Menlo Park, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, selection bias, stem cell

Daniel Dennett is Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His first book, Content and Consciousness, appeared in 1969, followed by Brainstorms (1978), Elbow Room (1984), The Intentional Stance (1987), Consciousness Explained (1991), Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995), and Kinds of Minds (1996). He co-edited The Mind’s I with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981. He is the author of over a hundred scholarly articles on various aspects of the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioural and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. His most recent book is Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds (MIT Press and Penguin, 1998). The Extended Phenotype The Long Reach of the Gene Richard Dawkins With a new afterword by Daniel Dennett Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP Oxford New York Athens Auckland Bangkok Bogotà Buenos Aires Calcutta Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Florence Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kuala Lumpur Mumbai Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi Paris Sào Paulo Singapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto Warsaw and associated companies in Berlin Ibadan Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York © Richard Dawkins 1982, 1999 Afterword © Daniel Dennett 1999 First published 1982 Revised edition with new Afterword and Further Reading 1999 All rights reserved.


pages: 624 words: 127,987

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume by Josh Kaufman

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Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, business process, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Heinemeier Hansson, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, discounted cash flows, Donald Knuth, double entry bookkeeping, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Santayana, Gödel, Escher, Bach, high net worth, hindsight bias, index card, inventory management, iterative process, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, loose coupling, loss aversion, Marc Andreessen, market bubble, Network effects, Parkinson's law, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, place-making, premature optimization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent control, side project, statistical model, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, subscription business, telemarketer, the scientific method, time value of money, Toyota Production System, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, Y Combinator, Yogi Berra

Unless every individual on your team knows exactly what they’re responsible for and when it must be done, it’s very unlikely that they’ll actually do it. When delegating responsibilities, always assign tasks to a single owner with a clear deadline. Only then will people feel responsible for getting things done. SHARE THIS CONCEPT: http://book.personalmba.com/bystander-apathy/ Planning Fallacy Hofstadter’s Law: it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law. —DOUGLAS HOFSTADTER, COGNITIVE SCIENTIST AND PULITZER PRIZE- WINNING AUTHOR OF GÖDEL, ESCHER, BACH: AN ETERNAL GOLDEN BRAID People are consistently and uniformly horrendous at planning. As uncomfortable as this sounds, any plan created by even the most intelligent and skilled CEO or project manager is very likely to be grossly inaccurate. As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson memorably quip in their book Rework, “Planning is guessing.”


pages: 405 words: 117,219

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis

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3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

Second-order emergence in the brain is when neurons connect and give rise to memories, sensations and thoughts that, in turn, observe the brain itself. It is this type of self-referential emergence that is most interesting to Artificial Intelligence. If we can make artificial systems evolve second-order emergence then we will have engineered artificial consciousness. And the key to understanding how second-order emergence arises in living systems is reflexivity. The fugue of the mind In 1979 the American mathematician and philosopher Douglas Hofstadter published a ground-breaking book17 that explored how self-reference and formal rules allow meaning to emerge from meaningless elements. The book created a sensation because, apart from its very serious scientific premise, it was also inspired by art. Entitled Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, the book used narratives, paradoxes and logical arguments to explore the connection between the Austrian mathematician who discovered the limits of logic, the Dutch graphic artist who challenged our visual perception and the German composer who produced some of the most beautiful music ever.


pages: 496 words: 174,084

Masterminds of Programming: Conversations With the Creators of Major Programming Languages by Federico Biancuzzi, Shane Warden

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Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), business intelligence, business process, cellular automata, cloud computing, commoditize, complexity theory, conceptual framework, continuous integration, data acquisition, domain-specific language, Douglas Hofstadter, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, Firefox, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, general-purpose programming language, Guido van Rossum, HyperCard, information retrieval, iterative process, John von Neumann, Larry Wall, linear programming, loose coupling, Mars Rover, millennium bug, NP-complete, Paul Graham, performance metric, Perl 6, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Ruby on Rails, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, slashdot, software as a service, software patent, sorting algorithm, Steve Jobs, traveling salesman, Turing complete, type inference, Valgrind, Von Neumann architecture, web application

So to understand any complex system (the universe being the ultimate example, of course), we need to work on multiple levels simultaneously, no one of which can claim to be primary. The tower of emergent levels is something that modeling languages have not captured well. We need a way to model a system on multiple levels simultaneously. I’m not talking about the OMG 4-level metamodel. It came about because some people made the same mistake as Bertrand Russell in assuming that you can’t model something in terms of itself. You can, of course; see Douglas Hofstadter’s writings, such as I Am a Strange Loop [Basic Books]. There is also the failure of code hackers who disdain modeling. They think that the code is the only thing that matters. That’s like saying circuits are the only thing that matters, or semiconductor physics is the only thing that matters. All the levels matter, and you need to work at the right level for a particular purpose. I would submit that the code level is a poor level to understand how a large, complex system performs useful activities for humans.


pages: 893 words: 199,542

Structure and interpretation of computer programs by Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman

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Andrew Wiles, conceptual framework, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Fermat's Last Theorem, Gödel, Escher, Bach, industrial robot, information retrieval, iterative process, loose coupling, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, Richard Stallman, Turing machine

See Hodges 1983 for a biography of Turing. 20 Some people find it counterintuitive that an evaluator, which is implemented by a relatively simple procedure, can emulate programs that are more complex than the evaluator itself. The existence of a universal evaluator machine is a deep and wonderful property of computation. Recursion theory, a branch of mathematical logic, is concerned with logical limits of computation. Douglas Hofstadter's beautiful book Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979) explores some of these ideas. 21 Warning: This eval primitive is not identical to the eval procedure we implemented in section 4.1.1, because it uses actual Scheme environments rather than the sample environment structures we built in section 4.1.3. These actual environments cannot be manipulated by the user as ordinary lists; they must be accessed via eval or other special operations.


pages: 1,387 words: 202,295

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Second Edition by Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman

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Andrew Wiles, conceptual framework, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Gödel, Escher, Bach, industrial robot, information retrieval, iterative process, loose coupling, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, Richard Stallman, Turing machine, wikimedia commons

See Hodges 1983 for a biography of Turing. 224 Some people find it counterintuitive that an evaluator, which is implemented by a relatively simple procedure, can emulate programs that are more complex than the evaluator itself. The existence of a universal evaluator machine is a deep and wonderful property of computation. Recursion theory, a branch of mathematical logic, is concerned with logical limits of computation. Douglas Hofstadter’s beautiful book Gödel, Escher, Bach explores some of these ideas (Hofstadter 1979). 225 Warning: This eval primitive is not identical to the eval procedure we implemented in 4.1.1, because it uses actual Scheme environments rather than the sample environment structures we built in 4.1.3. These actual environments cannot be manipulated by the user as ordinary lists; they must be accessed via eval or other special operations.


pages: 698 words: 198,203

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

airport security, Albert Einstein, Bob Geldof, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fudge factor, George Santayana, loss aversion, luminiferous ether, Norman Mailer, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, science of happiness, speech recognition, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Thomas Bayes, Thorstein Veblen, traffic fines, urban renewal, Yogi Berra

[Pinker] is unfailingly engaging to read, with his aptly chosen cartoons, his amusing examples, and his bracing theoretical rigor.” —Colin McGinn, The New York Review of Books “Engaging and provocative . . . filled with humor and fun. It’s good to have a mind as lively and limpid as his bringing the ideas of cognitive science to the public while clarifying them for his scientific colleagues.” —Douglas Hofstadter, Los Angeles Times “Pinker is not only wonderfully clear; he is also blessedly witty. There’s plenty of stuff to think about in The Stuff of Thought, but a lot of fun stuff too.” —George Scialabba, The Boston Globe “An excellent window not only into human nature but into Pinker’s nature: curious, inventive, fearless, naughty.” —William Saletan, The New York Times Book Review “[Pinker] is the cognitive philosopher of our generation, and his work on language and mind has implications for anybody interested in human expression and experience. . . .


pages: 1,351 words: 385,579

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

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1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, George Santayana, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, long peace, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, V2 rocket, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

But all else being equal (setting aside, for example, the oscillations in crime from the 1960s through the 1980s), as people get smarter, there should be less violence. Intelligence and Cooperation. At the other end of the abstractness scale, we can consider the purest model of how abstract reasoning might undermine the temptations of violence, the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In his popular Scientific American column, the computer scientist Douglas Hofstadter once agonized over the fact that the seemingly rational response in a one-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma was to defect.266 You cannot trust the other player to cooperate, because he has no grounds for trusting you, and cooperating while he defects will bring you the worst outcome. Hofstadter’s agony came from the observation that if both sides looked down on their dilemma from a single Olympian vantage point, stepping out of their parochial stations, they should both deduce that the best outcome is for both to cooperate.