Douglas Hofsatdter’s first book, Godel, Escher, Bach, had a profound influence on me while I was at university. First published in 1979, I don’t remember when I first read the book. but have since re-read more than once (and it’s not a short book!).
In the book, Hofstadter explores common themes in the lives and works of Kurt Godel (logician), M.C.Escher (artist) and Johann Sebastian Bach (musician), drawing out concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, intelligence and philosophy of mind. Specifically, Hofstadter discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to develop meanings which ‘emerge’ from the system however meaningless the individual elements of that system. That is, the book describes how thinking emerges from the mechanics of neurons firing, creating a unified sense of self, in the same way that a colony of ants self-organises to produce social behaviours which ‘emerge’ from the acts of individual ants. Read more »