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Douglas Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter

Overview
Douglas Richard Hofstadter (born February 15, 1945) is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 academic
Academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

 whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics. He is best known for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by his publishing company as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll"....

, first published in 1979, for which he was awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for general non-fiction.

Hofstadter was born in New York, New York, the son of Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

-winning physicist Robert Hofstadter
Robert Hofstadter
Robert Hofstadter was an American physicist. He was the joint winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his consequent discoveries concerning the structure of nucleons."-Biography :Born in New York City, he entered City...

.
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Quotations

Which statement seems more true: (1) I have a brain. (2) I am a brain.

The Mind's I|The Mind's I with Daniel C. Dennett (1981)

In fact, a sense of essence is, in essence, the essence of sense, in effect.

Metamagical Themas|Metamagical Themas (1985)

The "Strange Loop" phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards (or downwards) through levels of some hierarchial system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started.

"Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering"

The proverbial German phenomenon of the verb-at-the-end about which droll tales of absentminded professors who would begin a sentence, ramble on for an entire lecture, and then finish up by rattling off a string of verbs by which their audience, for whom the stack had long since lost its coherence, would be totally nonplussed, are told, is an excellent example of linguistic recursion.

Chapter 5: "Recursive Structures and Processes"

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Chapter 5: "Recursive Structures and Processes"

Perhaps the most concise summary of enlightenment would be: transcending dualism. … Dualism is the conceptual division of the world into categories. … human perception is by nature a dualistic phenomenon— which makes the quest for enlightenment an uphill struggle, to say the least.

Chapter 9: "Mumon and Gödel"

Relying on words to lead you to the truth is like relying on an incomplete formal system to lead you to the truth. A formal system will give you some truths, but as we shall soon see, a formal system, no matter how powerful—cannot lead to all truths.

Chapter 9: "Mumon and Gödel"

Below Every Tangled Hierarchy Lies An Inviolate Level

Chapter 20: "Strange Loops Or Tangled Hierarchies"
Encyclopedia
Douglas Richard Hofstadter (born February 15, 1945) is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 academic
Academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

 whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics. He is best known for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by his publishing company as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll"....

, first published in 1979, for which he was awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for general non-fiction.

Early life and education


Hofstadter was born in New York, New York, the son of Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

-winning physicist Robert Hofstadter
Robert Hofstadter
Robert Hofstadter was an American physicist. He was the joint winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his consequent discoveries concerning the structure of nucleons."-Biography :Born in New York City, he entered City...

. He grew up on the campus of Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, where his father was a professor, and he attended the International School of Geneva
International School of Geneva
The International School of Geneva , also known as Ecolint, is a private international school based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the oldest currently operating International School in the world...

 in 1958–1959. He graduated with Distinction in Mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 from Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 in 1965. He continued his education and received his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 in Physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 from the University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

 in 1975.

Academic career


Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he directs the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition which consists of himself and his graduate students, forming the "Fluid Analogies Research Group" (FARG). He was initially appointed to the Indiana University's Computer Science Department faculty in 1977, and at that time he launched his research program in computer modeling of mental processes (which at that time he called "artificial intelligence research", a label that he has since dropped in favor of "cognitive science research"). In 1984, he moved to the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 in Ann Arbor, where he was hired as a professor of psychology and was also appointed to the Walgreen Chair for the Study of Human Understanding. In 1988 he returned to Bloomington as "College of Arts and Sciences Professor" in both Cognitive Science and Computer Science, and also was appointed Adjunct Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Psychology, but he states that his involvement with most of these departments is nominal. In April 2009 Hofstadter was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 and a Member of the American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society
The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications,...

.

Hofstadter's many interests include music, visual art, the mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

, creativity
Creativity
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

, consciousness
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

, self-reference
Self-reference
Self-reference occurs in natural or formal languages when a sentence or formula refers to itself. The reference may be expressed either directly—through some intermediate sentence or formula—or by means of some encoding...

, translation
Translation
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 and mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

.

At the University of Michigan and Indiana University, he co-authored, with Melanie Mitchell
Melanie Mitchell
Melanie Mitchell is a professor of computer science at Portland State University. She has worked at the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory...

, a computational model of "high-level perception" – Copycat
Copycat (software)
Copycat is a model of analogy making and human cognition based on the concept of the parallel terraced scan, developed in 1988 by Douglas Hofstadter, Melanie Mitchell, and others at the at , Indiana University Bloomington...

 – and several other models of analogy-making
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

 and cognition
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

, including the Tabletop project, co-developed with Robert French
Robert French
Robert Shenton French, AC is Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy....

. The Copycat project was subsequently extended under the name "Metacat" by Hofstadter's doctoral student James Marshall. The Letter Spirit project, implemented by Gary McGraw and John Rehling, aims to model the act of artistic creativity by designing stylistically uniform "gridfonts" (typefaces limited to a grid). Other more recent models are Phaeaco (implemented by Harry Foundalis) and SeqSee (Abhijit Mahabal), which model high-level perception and analogy-making in the microdomains of Bongard problem
Bongard problem
A Bongard problem is a kind of puzzle invented by the Russian computer scientist Mikhail Moiseevich Bongard , probably in the mid-1960s. They were published in his eponymous 1967 book on pattern recognition...

s and number sequences, respectively, as well as George (Francisco Lara-Dammer), which models the processes of perception and discovery in triangle geometry.

Both inside and outside his professional work, Hofstadter is driven by a pursuit of beauty. He seeks beautiful mathematical patterns, beautiful explanations, beautiful typefaces, beautiful sonic patterns in poetry, and so forth. Hofstadter has said of himself, "I'm someone who has one foot in the world of humanities and arts, and the other foot in the world of science." He has had several exhibitions of his artworks in various university art galleries. These shows have featured large collections of his gridfonts, his ambigrams (pieces of calligraphy created with two readings, either of which is usually obtained from the other by rotating or reflecting the ambigram, but sometimes simply by "oscillation", like the Necker Cube
Necker cube
The Necker Cube is an optical illusion first published as a rhomboid in 1832 by Swiss crystallographer Louis Albert Necker.-Ambiguity:The Necker Cube is an ambiguous line drawing....

 or the rabbit/duck figure of Joseph Jastrow
Joseph Jastrow
Joseph Jastrow was an American psychologist, noted for inventions in experimental psychology, design of experiments, and psycho-physics. Jastrow was one of the first scientists to study the evolution of language, publishing an article on the topic in 1886...

), and his "Whirly Art" (music-inspired visual patterns realized using shapes based on various alphabets from India). (The term "ambigram" was invented by Hofstadter in 1984 and has since been taken up by many ambigrammists all over the world.)

Hofstadter collects and studies cognitive errors (largely, but not solely, speech errors), "bon mots" (spontaneous humorous quips), and analogies of all sorts, and his long-time observation of these diverse products of cognition, and his theories about the mechanisms that underlie them, have exerted a powerful influence on the architectures of the computational models developed by himself and FARG members.

All FARG computational models share certain key principles, among which are: that human thinking is carried out by thousands of independent small actions in parallel, biased by the concepts that are currently activated; that activation spreads from activated concepts to less activated "neighbor concepts"; that there is a "mental temperature" that regulates the degree of randomness in the parallel activity; that promising avenues tend to be explored more rapidly than unpromising ones. FARG models also have an overarching philosophy that all cognition is built from the making of analogies. The computational architectures that share these precepts are called "active symbols" architectures.

Hofstadter's thesis about consciousness, first expressed in Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by his publishing company as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll"....

 (GEB)
but also present in several of his later books, is that it is an emergent consequence of seething lower-level activity in the brain. In GEB he draws an analogy between the social organization of a colony of ants and the mind seen as a coherent "colony" of neurons. In particular, Hofstadter claims that our sense of having (or being) an "I" comes from the abstract pattern he terms a "strange loop", which is an abstract cousin of such concrete phenomena as audio
Audio feedback
Audio feedback is a special kind of positive feedback which occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input and an audio output...

 and video feedback
Optical feedback
Optical feedback is the optical equivalent of acoustic feedback. A simple example is the feedback that occurs when a loop exists between an optical input, e.g., a video camera, and an optical output, e.g., a television screen or monitor...

, and which Hofstadter has defined as "a level-crossing feedback loop". The prototypical example of this abstract notion is the self-referential structure at the core of Gödel's incompleteness theorems
Gödel's incompleteness theorems
Gödel's incompleteness theorems are two theorems of mathematical logic that establish inherent limitations of all but the most trivial axiomatic systems capable of doing arithmetic. The theorems, proven by Kurt Gödel in 1931, are important both in mathematical logic and in the philosophy of...

. Hofstadter's 2007 book I Am a Strange Loop carries his vision of consciousness considerably further, including the idea that each human "I" is distributed over numerous brains, rather than being limited to precisely one brain.

Hofstadter's writing is characterized by an intense interaction between form and content, as is exemplified by the 20 dialogues in GEB, many of which simultaneously talk about and imitate strict musical forms used by Bach, such as canons and fugues. Most of Hofstadter's books are characterized by some kind of structural alternation: in GEB between dialogues and chapters, in The Mind's I between selections and reflections, in Metamagical Themas between Chapters and Postscripts, and so forth. Both in his writing and in his teaching, Hofstadter stresses the concrete, constantly using examples and analogies, and avoids the abstract. Typical of the courses he teaches is his seminar "Group Theory
Group theory
In mathematics and abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups.The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other well-known algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces can all be seen as groups endowed with additional operations and...

 and Galois Theory
Galois theory
In mathematics, more specifically in abstract algebra, Galois theory, named after Évariste Galois, provides a connection between field theory and group theory...

 Visualized", in which abstract mathematical ideas are rendered as concretely as possible. He puts great effort into making ideas clear and visual, and asserts that when he teaches, if his students do not understand something, it is never their fault but always his own.

Hofstadter is passionate about languages. He has studied many of them, and speaks them to varying degrees. In addition to English, his mother tongue, he speaks French and Italian fluently (the language spoken at home with his children is Italian). At various times in his life, he has studied (in descending order of level of fluency reached) German, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Mandarin, Dutch, Polish, and Hindi. His love of sounds pushes him to strive to minimize, and ideally get rid of, any foreign accent.

Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language is a long book devoted to language and translation, especially poetry translation, and one of its leitmotifs is a set of some 88 translations of "Ma Mignonne", a highly constrained poem by 16th-century French poet Clément Marot
Clément Marot
Clément Marot was a French poet of the Renaissance period.-Youth:Marot was born at Cahors, the capital of the province of Quercy, some time during the winter of 1496-1497. His father, Jean Marot , whose more correct name appears to have been des Mares, Marais or Marets, was a Norman from the Caen...

. In this book, Hofstadter jokingly describes himself as "pilingual" (meaning that the sum total of the varying degrees of mastery of all the languages that he's studied comes to 3.14159...), as well as an "oligoglot" (someone who speaks "a few" languages).

In 1999, the bicentennial year of Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin, Hofstadter published a verse translation of Pushkin's classic novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin is a novel in verse written by Alexander Pushkin.It is a classic of Russian literature, and its eponymous protagonist has served as the model for a number of Russian literary heroes . It was published in serial form between 1825 and 1832...

. It is highly constrained and filled with many types of sonic pattern. Aside from Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin is a novel in verse written by Alexander Pushkin.It is a classic of Russian literature, and its eponymous protagonist has served as the model for a number of Russian literary heroes . It was published in serial form between 1825 and 1832...

, Hofstadter has translated many other poems (always respecting their formal constraints), and two other novels (in prose): La Chamade (That Mad Ache) by French writer Françoise Sagan
Françoise Sagan
Françoise Sagan – real name Françoise Quoirez – was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. Hailed as "a charming little monster" by François Mauriac on the front page of Le Figaro, Sagan was known for works with strong romantic themes involving wealthy and disillusioned bourgeois...

, and La Scoperta dell'Alba (The Discovery of Dawn) by Walter Veltroni
Walter Veltroni
Walter Veltroni, Knight Grand Cross, is an Italian writer, journalist and politician, who served as the first leader of the Democratic Party within the centre-left opposition, until his resignation on 17 February 2009. He served as Mayor of Rome from 2001 to 2008.-Biography:Walter Veltroni was...

, the then head of the Partito Democratico in Italy. The Discovery of Dawn was published in 2007, and That Mad Ache was published in 2009, bound together with Hofstadter's essay Translator, Trader: An Essay on the Pleasantly Pervasive Paradoxes of Translation.

Public image


Hofstadter has said that he feels "uncomfortable with the nerd culture that centers on computers". He admits that "a large fraction [of his audience] seems to be those who are fascinated by technology", but when it was suggested that his work "has inspired many students to begin careers in computing and artificial intelligence" he replied that he was pleased about that, but that he himself has "no interest in computers." In that interview he also mentioned a course he has twice given at Indiana University, in which he took a "skeptical look at a number of highly-touted AI projects and overall approaches." For example, upon the defeat of Kasparov by Deep Blue, he commented that "It was a watershed event, but it doesn't have to do with computers becoming intelligent".

Provoked by predictions of a technological singularity
Technological singularity
Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as...

 (the hypothetical moment at which artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 will surpass human intelligence), Hofstadter has both organized and participated in several public discussions of the topic. At Indiana University in 1999 he organized such a symposium, and in April 2000, he organized a larger symposium entitled "Spiritual Robots" at Stanford University, in which he moderated a panel consisting of Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec
Hans Moravec
Hans Moravec is an adjunct faculty member at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He is known for his work on robotics, artificial intelligence, and writings on the impact of technology. Moravec also is a futurist with many of his publications and predictions focusing on...

, Kevin Kelly, Ralph Merkle
Ralph Merkle
Ralph C. Merkle is a researcher in public key cryptography, and more recently a researcher and speaker on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics...

, Bill Joy
Bill Joy
William Nelson Joy , commonly known as Bill Joy, is an American computer scientist. Joy co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Andy Bechtolsheim, and served as chief scientist at the company until 2003...

, Frank Drake
Frank Drake
Frank Donald Drake PhD is an American astronomer and astrophysicist. He is most notable as one of the pioneers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1961 in Project...

, John Holland
John Holland
John Holland may refer to:*Sir John Holland, 1st Baronet , English politician*Sir John Holland, 2nd Baronet , British politician*John Holland, on the Los Angeles County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission in 1960s...

, John Koza
John Koza
John R. Koza is a computer scientist and a former consulting professor at Stanford University, most notable for his work in pioneering the use of genetic programming for the optimization of complex problems. He was a cofounder of Scientific Games Corporation, a company which built computer systems...

. Hofstadter was also an invited panelist at the first Singularity Summit
Singularity Summit
The Singularity Summit is the annual conference of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. It was started in 2006 at Stanford University by Ray Kurzweil, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Peter Thiel, and the subsequent summits in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 have been held in San...

, held at Stanford in May 2006. Hofstadter expressed doubt about the likelihood of the singularity coming to pass in the foreseeable future.

In April 2009, when asked about his Wikipedia article, he commented, "[It] is filled with inaccuracies, and it kind of depresses me." When asked why he didn't correct it, he replied, "The next day someone will fix it back." In Aug. 2011 Hofstadter said he is happy with the article and the only inaccurate part of his Wikipedia entry was the previous sentence because the inaccuracies were subsequently fixed. (See Talk:Douglas Hofstadter#Citation)

In 1988 Dutch director Piet Hoenderdos created a docudrama about Hofstadter and his ideas entitled Victim of the Brain
Victim of the Brain
Victim of the Brain is a 1988 film by Dutch director Piet Hoenderdos, loosely based on The Mind's I, a compilation of texts and stories on the philosophy of mind and self, co-edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett...

 based on The Mind's I
The Mind's I
The Mind's I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul is a 1981 book composed and arranged by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett...

. It includes interviews with Hofstadter about his work.

In 2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two is a 1982 best-selling science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It is the sequel to the 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, but continues the story of Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation with the same title and not Clarke's original novel. The book is a part of Clarke's...

, Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

's first sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (novel)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick's film version and published after the release of the film...

, HAL 9000
HAL 9000
HAL 9000 is the antagonist in Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction Space Odyssey saga. HAL is an artificial intelligence that interacts with the astronaut crew of the Discovery One spacecraft, usually represented as a red television-camera eye found throughout the ship...

 is described by Dr. Chandra as being caught in a "Hofstadter-Möbius
August Ferdinand Möbius
August Ferdinand Möbius was a German mathematician and theoretical astronomer.He is best known for his discovery of the Möbius strip, a non-orientable two-dimensional surface with only one side when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space. It was independently discovered by Johann Benedict...

 loop".

Hofstadter's book Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought was the first book ever sold by Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

.

Columnist


When Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner was an American mathematics and science writer specializing in recreational mathematics, but with interests encompassing micromagic, stage magic, literature , philosophy, scientific skepticism, and religion...

 retired from writing his "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

magazine, Hofstadter succeeded him in 1981–1983 with a column entitled Metamagical Themas
Metamagical Themas
Metamagical Themas is a collection of eclectic articles written for Scientific American during the early 1980s by Douglas Hofstadter, and published together as a book in 1985 by Basic Books ....

(an anagram
Anagram
An anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., orchestra = carthorse, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place, Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort. Someone who...

 of "Mathematical Games"). An idea he introduced in one of these columns was the concept of "Reviews of This Book", a book containing nothing but cross-referenced reviews of itself which has an online implementation. One of Hofstadter's columns in Scientific American concerned the damaging effects of sexist language, and two chapters of his book Metamagical Themas
Metamagical Themas
Metamagical Themas is a collection of eclectic articles written for Scientific American during the early 1980s by Douglas Hofstadter, and published together as a book in 1985 by Basic Books ....

are devoted to that topic, one of which is a biting analogy-based satire entitled "A Person Paper on Purity in Language", in which the reader's presumed revulsion at racism and racist language is used as a lever to motivate an analogous revulsion at sexism and sexist language. Another column reported on the discoveries made by University of Michigan professor Robert Axelrod
Robert Axelrod
Robert M. Axelrod is an American political scientist. He is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Michigan where he has been since 1974. He is best known for his interdisciplinary work on the evolution of cooperation, which has been cited in numerous articles...

 in his computer tournament pitting many iterated Prisoner's Dilemma
Prisoner's dilemma
The prisoner’s dilemma is a canonical example of a game, analyzed in game theory that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interest to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W...

 strategies against each other, and a follow-up column discussed a similar tournament that Hofstadter and his graduate student Marek Lugowski organized. The "Metamagical Themas" columns ranged over many themes, and included, to name just three, one on patterns in Frederic Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

's piano music (particularly the étude
Étude
An étude , is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The tradition of writing études emerged in the early 19th century with the rapidly growing popularity of the piano...

s), another on the concept of superrationality
Superrationality
The concept of superrationality was coined by Douglas Hofstadter, in his article series and book "Metamagical Themas"...

 (choosing to cooperate when the other party/adversary is assumed to be equally intelligent as oneself), and one on the self-modifying game of Nomic
Nomic
Nomic is a game created in 1982 by philosopher Peter Suber in which the rules of the game include mechanisms for the players to change those rules, usually beginning through a system of democratic voting...

, based on the way in which the legal system modifies itself, and developed by philosopher Peter Suber
Peter Suber
Peter Suber is the creator of the game Nomic and a leading voice in the open access movement. He is a senior research professor of philosophy at Earlham College, the open access project director at Public Knowledge, a senior researcher at SPARC , and a Fellow at Harvard's and...

.

Personal life


Hofstadter was married to Carol Ann Brush. They met in Bloomington, and married in Ann Arbor in 1985. They had two children, Danny and Monica. Carol died in 1993 from the sudden onset of a brain tumor – glioblastoma multiforme
Glioblastoma multiforme
Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans, involving glial cells and accounting for 52% of all functional tissue brain tumor cases and 20% of all intracranial tumors. Despite being the most prevalent form of primary brain tumor, GBMs...

 – when their children were five and two. The Carol Ann Brush Hofstadter Memorial Scholarship for Bologna-bound Indiana University students was established in 1996 in her name. Hofstadter's book Le Ton beau de Marot
Le Ton beau de Marot
Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language , published by Basic Books in 1997, is a book by Douglas Hofstadter in which he explores the meaning, strengths, failings, and beauty of translation....

is dedicated to their two children and its dedication reads "To M. & D., living sparks of their Mommy's soul".

Hofstadter has composed numerous pieces for piano, and a few for piano and voice. He created an audio CD with the title DRH/JJ, which includes all these compositions performed primarily by pianist Jane Jackson, but with a few performed by Brian Jones, Dafna Barenboim, Gitanjali Mathur and himself.

Hofstadter is related by marriage to the evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

: Hofstadter's paternal aunt was married to Gould's maternal uncle.

The dedication for I Am A Strange Loop is: "To my sister Laura, who can understand, and to our sister Molly, who cannot." Hofstadter explains in the preface that his younger sister Molly never developed the ability to speak or understand language.

Books


The books published by Hofstadter are (the ISBNs refer to paperback editions, where available):
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
    Gödel, Escher, Bach
    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by his publishing company as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll"....

    (ISBN 0-465-02656-7) (1979)
  • Metamagical Themas
    Metamagical Themas
    Metamagical Themas is a collection of eclectic articles written for Scientific American during the early 1980s by Douglas Hofstadter, and published together as a book in 1985 by Basic Books ....

    (ISBN 0-465-04566-9) (collection of Scientific American columns and other essays, all with postscripts)
  • Ambigrammi: un microcosmo ideale per lo studio della creatività (in Italian only) ISBN 88-7757-006-7
  • Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
    Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
    Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought is a 1995 book by Douglas Hofstadter and other members of the Fluid Analogies Research Group exploring the mechanisms of intelligence through computer modeling...

    (ISBN 0-465-02475-0)
  • Rhapsody on a Theme by Clement Marot. The Grace A. Tanner Lecture in Human Values, 1995. (Published 1996)
  • Le Ton beau de Marot
    Le Ton beau de Marot
    Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language , published by Basic Books in 1997, is a book by Douglas Hofstadter in which he explores the meaning, strengths, failings, and beauty of translation....

    : In Praise of the Music of Language
    (ISBN 0-465-08645-4)
  • Eugene Onegin: A Novel Versification (ISBN 0-465-02094-1)
  • I Am a Strange Loop
    I Am a Strange Loop
    I Am a Strange Loop is a 2007 book by Douglas Hofstadter, examining in depth the concept of a strange loop originally developed in his 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach....

    (ISBN 0-465-03078-5) (2007)
  • The Discovery of Dawn (ISBN 9780847831098) (2007) (a translation of a novel by Walter Veltroni)
  • That Mad Ache, co-bound with Translator, Trader: An Essay on the Pleasantly Pervasive Paradoxes of Translation (ISBN 9780465010981) (2009)
  • Surfaces and Essences, co-authored with Emmanuel Sander (ISBN 0465018475). Expected on 3 April 2012.

Papers


Hofstadter wrote, among many others, the following papers:
  • "Energy levels and wave functions of Bloch electrons in rational and irrational magnetic fields", Rev. B 14 (1976) 2239.
    • Written while he was at the University of Oregon, this paper soon became well-known because, extending the ideas of Russian (now Israeli) physicist Mark Ya. Azbel', it pointed the way to an understanding of a famous unsolved problem in quantum mechanics
      Quantum mechanics
      Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

      , by showing that the allowed energy-level values of an electron in a crystal lattice in a magnetic field form a graph (energy versus magnetic field) that is a self-similar (fractal
      Fractal
      A fractal has been defined as "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity...

      ) shape. This fractal structure is generally known as "Hofstadter's butterfly
      Hofstadter's butterfly
      Hofstadter's butterfly is the name of a fractal structure discovered by Douglas Hofstadter, which he described in 1976 in an article on the energy levels of Bloch electrons in magnetic fields. It gives a graphical representation of the spectrum of the almost Mathieu operator for \lambda = 1 at...

      ", which was the first fractal ever found in physics, and it has recently been confirmed in transport measurements in two-dimensional electron systems with a superimposed nano-fabricated lattice.
  • "A non-deterministic approach to analogy, involving the Ising model of ferromagnetism", in E. Caianiello (ed.), The Physics of Cognitive Processes. Teaneck, NJ: World Scientific, 1987.
  • "Speechstuff and thoughtstuff: Musings on the resonances created by words and phrases via the subliminal perception of their buried parts", in Sture Allen (ed.), Of Thoughts and Words: The Relation between Language and Mind. Proceedings of the Nobel Symposium 92, London/New Jersey: World Scientific Publ., 1995, 217-267.
  • "On seeing A's and seeing As.", Stanford Humanities Review 4,2 (1995) pp. 109–121.
  • "Analogy as the Core of Cognition", in Dedre Gentner
    Dedre Gentner
    Dedre Gentner is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. She is a prominent researcher in the study of analogical reasoning. Her work on structure-mapping theory was foundational for the development of the structure mapping engine by Ken Forbus...

    , Keith Holyoak
    Keith Holyoak
    Keith James Holyoak is a researcher in cognitive psychology and cognitive science, working on human thinking and reasoning. Holyoak's work focuses on the role of analogy in thinking...

    , and Boicho Kokinov
    Boicho Kokinov
    Boicho Kokinov received his PhD at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia. He is currently an Associate Professor in Cognitive Science and Computer Science at the New Bulgarian University and the Director of the Central and East European Center for Cognitive Science.He has been the main organizer...

     (eds.) The Analogical Mind: Perspectives from Cognitive Science, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press/Bradford Book, 2001, pp. 499–538.
  • "To Err is Human; To Study Error-making is Cognitive Science" (co-authored by David J. Moser), Michigan Quarterly Review, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, 1989, pp. 185-­215.
  • Hofstadter wrote over 50 papers that were published through the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition

Involvement in other books


Hofstadter wrote forewords for or edited the following books:
  • Sparse Distributed Memory
    Sparse distributed memory
    Sparse distributed memory is a mathematical model of human long-term memory that was introduced by Pentti Kanerva in 1988. It is used for storing and retrieving large amounts of information without focusing on the accuracy of the information. It uses patterns to serve as memory addresses, where...

    by Pentti Kanerva
    Pentti Kanerva
    Pentti Kanerva is a research affiliate at the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, and is the author of sparse distributed memory. He is responsible for relating the properties of long-term memory to mathematical properties of high-dimensional spaces and compares artificial neural-net associative memory...

     (Bradford Books/MIT Press, 1988). (ISBN 0262111322)
  • The Mind's I
    The Mind's I
    The Mind's I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul is a 1981 book composed and arranged by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett...

    : Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul
    (co-edited with Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

    ) (ISBN 0-465-03091-2 and ISBN 0-553-01412-9) (ISBN 0-553-34584-2) 1981
  • Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
    Andrew Hodges
    Andrew Hodges is a mathematician, an author and a pioneer of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s.For the past decades , Hodges has focused his research activities on the twistor theory — the new approach to the problems of fundamental physics pioneered by the mathematician Roger...

    . (Preface)
  • Gödel's Proof (2002 revised edition) by Ernest Nagel
    Ernest Nagel
    Ernest Nagel was a Czech-American philosopher of science. Along with Rudolf Carnap, Hans Reichenbach, and Carl Hempel, he is sometimes seen as one of the major figures of the logical positivist movement....

     and James R. Newman
    James R. Newman
    James Roy Newman was an American mathematician and mathematical historian. He was also a lawyer, practicing in the state of New York from 1929 to 1941...

    , edited by Hofstadter (ISBN 0-8147-5816-9). In the foreword, Hofstadter explains that the book (originally published in 1958) exerted a profound influence on him when he was young.
  • Who invented the computer? The legal battle that changed computing history. (2003) by Alice Rowe Burks.
  • Alan Turing: Life and Legacy of a Great Thinker by Christof Teuscher
    Christof Teuscher
    Christof Teuscher, PhD, is an author and editor who works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.He was the initiator and organizer of the Turing Day, an international workshop to commemorate the anniversary of Alan Turing's 90th birthday.Dr...

     (Editor)
  • Jason Salavon: Brainstem Still Life
    Jason Salavon
    Jason Salavon is an American contemporary artist. He is noted for his use of computer software of his own design to manipulate and reconfigure preexisting media and data to create new visual works of fine art.-Life and art:...

    (ISBN 981-05-1662-2) 2004 (Introduction)
  • Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali & the Artists of Optical Illusion 2004 by Al Seckel. Hofstadter wrote the foreword.
  • King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry by Siobhan Roberts, Walker and Company, 2006. Hofstadter wrote the foreword.
  • Are Quanta Real? A Galilean Dialogue by J.M. Jauch (ISBN 0-253-20545-X) 1989 Indiana University Press; Hofstadter wrote the foreword.

Students


Some of Hofstadter's former students include:
  • David Chalmers
    David Chalmers
    David John Chalmers is an Australian philosopher specializing in the area of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language, whose recent work concerns verbal disputes. He is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University...

     – philosopher of mind
  • Melanie Mitchell
    Melanie Mitchell
    Melanie Mitchell is a professor of computer science at Portland State University. She has worked at the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory...

     – computer scientist and complexity theorist
  • Robert M. French
    Robert M. French
    Robert M. French is a research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. He is currently at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. He holds a Ph.D...

     – cognitive scientist
  • Scott A. Jones
    Scott A. Jones
    Scott A. Jones is an American inventor. Scott graduated with honors from Indiana University in 1984, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in computer science.-1980s:He is known for his work in the early days of voicemail...

     – inventor of voicemail
  • Harry Foundalis – creator of Phaeaco, an architecture to solve Bongard Problems
    Bongard problem
    A Bongard problem is a kind of puzzle invented by the Russian computer scientist Mikhail Moiseevich Bongard , probably in the mid-1960s. They were published in his eponymous 1967 book on pattern recognition...


See also

  • Platonia dilemma
  • Egbert B. Gebstadter
    Egbert B. Gebstadter
    Egbert B. Gebstadter is a fictional author who appears in the indexes of books by Douglas R. Hofstadter. For each Hofstadter book, there is a corresponding Gebstadter book...

  • BlooP and FlooP
  • Hofstadter's law
    Hofstadter's law
    Hofstadter's law is a self-referencing time-related adage, coined by Douglas Hofstadter and named after himself.Hofstadter's Law was a part of Douglas Hofstadter's 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. The law is a statement regarding the difficulty of accurately estimating the...

  • Superrationality
    Superrationality
    The concept of superrationality was coined by Douglas Hofstadter, in his article series and book "Metamagical Themas"...

  • American philosophy
    American philosophy
    American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

  • List of American philosophers

External links


  • Stanford University Presidential Lecture - site dedicated to Hofstadter and his work
  • Profile at c2.com
  • Profile at Resonance Publications
  • NF Reviews - bibliographic page with reviews of several of Hofstadter's books
  • Radio interview on Philosophy Talk
    Philosophy Talk
    Philosophy Talk is a talk radio program co-hosted by John Perry and Ken Taylor, who are professors at Stanford University. The show is also available as a podcast, available for purchase. The program deals both with fundamental problems of philosophy and with the works of famous philosophers,...