MC Escher drawing

Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

The universe isn’t remarkable because of stuff. It is remarkable because of the relationship between stuff.

That is something like a theme from the iconic and celebrated 1979 book by academic Douglas Hofstadter called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which won both Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. An entire secondary marketplace of ideas and debate centers around the meaning and intention of the book, so I will not attempt to contribute to that. The book did influence computer science, especially the development of artificial intelligence, but Hofstader has said he does not identify with technology or computer culture.

Overall, the dense book brims with interdisciplinary “strange loops,” or examples of the interrelationships between concepts that create systems.The book’s title comes famously from naming three men influential in very different fields: influential Hungarian-American logician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978); Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972) and legendary classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). All their work are used as examples of strange loops. I share a few notes below that I may return to in the future.

Find my notes below

  • The mystery of consciousness: “The key is not the stuff out of which our brains are made but the patterns that can come to exist inside the stuff of a brain.”
  • The shift from inanimate to animate comes with “strange loops” like the idea that the brain gains meaning by select patterns of its makeup that are in turn part of a world it recognizes that it’s apart of
  • Bertrand Russel’s iconic Principa Mathematica was trying to ensure math didn’t require self reference, it was his own “maginot line”; Goedel numbering in 1930 broke Russell’s logic (like Germans broke maginot line)
  • There are bigger souls and smaller souls
  • Strange loops and tangled hierarchies
  • Bach’s Musical Offering, an example of a fugue which is a more varied canon (An example of the most simple canon is multiple people singing Row Row Row Your Boat in a round)
  • Escher’s illustrations were informed by mathematics work
  • Epimenides paradox is a variation of “This statement is false” and Goedel essentially wrote a mathematical number theory statement like that about Principa Mathmatica. The Goedel Incompleteness formula
  • Non-Euclidean geometry showed other ways to define points and line greatly challenged mathematics in 19th century
  • Set theory; Russell’s paradox and grellings paradox
  • Charles Babbage
  • Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, and Achilles paradox
  • Goedel’s incompleteness theorem: there are provably unprovable true statements in mathematical systems
  • Fermats last theorem
  • Quine concept of repeat sentences leading to a loop as in “Is a sentence fragment” is a sentence fragment “To be is to be the value of a variable  
  • more here

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