Alex Barnett blog


I Am a Strange Loop

About 10 years ago a friend gave to me a book as gift. We were sitting on the deck of a canal boat on a Friday late afternoon set for a weekend of lazy meandering with friends and family along the Thames, when he handed me his own copy of Godel, Escher, Bach. "You'll love this" he said.

Willem was was right. Godel, Escher, Bach not only tickled my penchant for self-referentialism and recursion ("It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account"), it also reinforced an odd conviction I've held that "magic" happens where these oddities exist (all around and within us).

Last week, (thanks to Nick Carr), I was alerted to Douglas R. Hofstadter's latest mind-bender, I Am a Strange Loop. The book arrived today, unpacked and on the table when I got back from work this evening...inviting me to another voyage with this great mind:

"Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol is the one you call "I". An "I" is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down so that symbols seem to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.

For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Godel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is the book Hofstadter's many readers have long been waiting for."


Process of Change said: is fascinating. New people, new problems to solve, and a opportunity so big it -- well,

# August 17, 2008 10:53 AM

Matt Katz said:

It's a wild ride, but also a very sad one.  How objective can you be about your theories when falsifying them means your wife is eternally dead?

# August 18, 2008 4:34 PM

alexbarnett said:

Matt - haven't got there yet (am on page 110)...sounds heavy though.

# August 18, 2008 10:41 PM