It seldom happens that you pick up a book just by looking at the name. It happened to me with “worshipping false gods”. It happened to me again with “Godel, Escher and Bach : The Eternal Golden Baird“.
I like to read books, blogs, magazines, almost anything interesting because it opens up the world of knowledge. One fine sunday, I read about fun theory on The Acorn – Nitin Pai’s blog. It led me to the Overcoming Bias blog and then I was introduced by Overcoming Bias blog to Mr. Eliezer Yudowsky and others who are associated with Singularity Institute.
I went through the Singularity Institute site and also listened to comments by various scientists and professionals on Singularity reasearch. Being a gjnan ke liye bhatakti atma, I tried to create a discussion about Singularity, A.I. and modelling human intelligence using mathematics etc with my colleagues in office. As usual, response was bad. However, I decided to go through it, albeit alone. I came across people in different research activities in the site. Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Douglas Hofstadter are two people I found most interesting. I dug in deeper.
While I was amazed at Dr. Ray’s futurism and thought process (recently, he announced his plans to build School of Futurism in collaboration with Google), I was very much attracted towards Dr. Douglas Hofstadter’s thoughts. I read about him on Wikipedia and then was directed toward his book “Godel, Escher and Bach : The Eternal Golden Baird“.
Well, I do confess that Dr. Douglas Hofstadter’s interest in Mathematics pulled me toward this particular book. I read many reviews about the book. Some said “it is scary”. Some said “it is about music”. Some said “it is about mathematics”. Some said “it is about art”. Some said “it is about formal systems in general”. For those who dont know what a formal system is read this. Mathematics always fascinated me. I always wanted to learn more about formal systems but could never do it formally. I thought this book would be a good point to start learning about formal systems.
I couldnt find the book in Bangalore. I could find it in Amazon though. I asked my uncle to buy it from Barnes and Nobles and finally got the book in February. I finished off My Country My Life last month and started reading this book last week.
This book, to say the least, is amazing!!! My initial feeling was that this book would demand a lot of time and concentration. But the first two chapters went off so fast that I was floating with excitement to read the rest of the book. The preface itself is a brilliant account of what the author wanted to convey through this book. I still remember my father telling me about “Prefaces” when I started doing “problems in Intermediate Calculus” which was published by some top class +1, +2 teachers in India to teach problem solving techniques in Calculus. He said “Always read preface before starting any book. It will help you expect the right things from the book. It will also establish a relationship between you and the author because preface mostly speaks about what is inside the book and why it is at the place where it is!!”. Reading preface, of this book especially, made many-a-thing clear.
Dr. Douglas Hofstadter makes it clear right away in preface that “this book is not about mathematics, music, sketching and painting or any art. This book is about “I”s that we speak about.” True to the spirit of his preface, he goes, in the very first chapeter, into the heart of the topic of the book. The book is so well written that you cant keep it off unless you have some physical limitation!! Dr. Hofstadter has filled the book with “Try it” exercises where he mentions an exercise and ends the paragraph with “Try it!”. An inquisitive soul would never be able to move on to the next paragraph with out trying it and may be that is the reason for the success of the book. By the way, this book is into its twentieth reprint!!
I have started a journey with this book – literally as well as figuratively. I am quite sure I am going to enjoy reading this book. I am eager to write a review on this blog about this book, for, this book is going to be a brilliant discourse. I recommend this book to all of you.
Note: My micro-electronics, chip design, logic design conscience really woke up after I read the first few pages. It said “after all logic is built on formal systems. Infact, the career of any design engineer in digital, computer(hw or sw) floats in formal systems. The irony is he/she doesnt know what formal system is. Infact, in chip design process formal verification is a completely formal system. A good understanding of formal systems would make logic design an enjoyable process because the designer would really know the roots of the work he/she is doing.
Dont wonder too much about “he/she“s. In the preface of this book, Dr. Hofstadter speaks about how sorry he was for his sexist approach in putting many male characters he uses in the book to narrate some technical aspects. That struck my consience and I realised that I too keep doing it all the time and I would like to mention here that general use of He in previous articles was purely at sub-conscious level and I will try to avoid it as much as possible on this blog.