Read Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern by Douglas R. Hofstadter Online


Hofstadter's collection of quirky essays is unified by its primary concern: to examine the way people perceive and think....

Title : Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern
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ISBN : 9780465045662
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 880 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern Reviews

  • Andrew Breslin
    2019-06-19 05:20

    While this is clearly not a "better" book than the incomparable Godel Escher Bach, I would have to say that I enjoyed it more. Because I understood almost all of it the very first time through while GEB took me about a year to digest, chewing slowly over each cognitive morsel, sometimes metaphorically regurgitating it a few times before getting it through the cerebral equivalent of my lower intestines. Metamagical Themas is food for thought, but it’s simple sugars, perhaps a fruit smoothie to GEB’s heavy proteins and complex carbohydrates. GEB was work to read. Immensely satisfying, but work nonetheless. This was a stroll in the park by comparison, and what a delightful park indeed. This book introduced me to many fascinating concepts, and had a lasting influence on me in two significant ways. 1) I tried to develop my very own personal font. And 2) It inspired me write my own book about game theory. I finished writing the book. The font remains an unrealized fantasy. But definitely something with serifs. The title, by the way, is an anagram of “Mathematical Games.” This is appropriate, because games are, by definition, fun. And you’d have to look far and wide to find so much fun in mathematics.

  • Neil
    2019-06-09 09:20

    I don't recall how or where I got this book as a young teenager; I swear my aunt gave it to me but she denies it. This book is a collection of Hofstader's essays and columns, many of which were published in Scientific American. I'd say the first time I read this book I understood about an eighth of what he was talking about; I dare say if I read it again I might barely be above half. Not because the writing is difficult, but because the topics are diverse and deep. Hofstader's column in Scientific American was intended to bridge the literary and the scientific, and does. The book - titled after the column - contains essays on self-referential sentences ("The reader of this sentence exists only while reading me" is one of my favorites); the mathematics of Frederic Chopin's compositions; a taxonomy of Rubik's Cube variations; the emerging studies of chaos and compexity; metafonts; artificial intelligence and machine learning; what the word "I" means; and a deep study of the mechanics and ethics of cooperation. This book was probably the most influential book I read growing up, as I think it set me on the path to study computer science. But its effect was even broader. Metamagical Themas encouraged me to play with ideas, with words and with the world around me.

  • Glenn
    2019-06-14 05:26

    Hofstadter is best known for his 1979 Pulitzer prize book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, which I read during college. This 1985 book consists mostly of a compilation of articles from Scientific American in the early 1980's, along with updated post scriptums, and a few extra miscellaneous chapters on subjects not covered in those articles. He took over writing of the "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American from Martin Gardner in the early '80's, and when deciding for a new name for the column, decided to use the the anagram "Metamagical Themas". Some of the articles contain dated references, such as early versions of what would later become email and instant messaging along with an essay on Rubik's cube.Various topics are covered across the articles/essays, including language, art, music, the mind, creativity, consciousness, philosophy, self-reference, logic, cognition, science and mathematics. Hofstadter's intelligence and quest for thinking shines throughout as well as his passion for this broad range of subjects.For those familiar with the Prisoner's Dilemmma, there's a chapter devoted to the classic version, as well as other chapters devoted to various cooperator/defector offshoots.Personally, it brought back memories of my college years with a few articles on LISP, an AI (artifical intelligence) programming language, and it's car/cdr constructs, which I had to write programs for in one of my classes. It also briefly covered robotics and pattern recognition, a subject I did a thesis on in the late 80's.

  • Thomas
    2019-06-25 08:05

    While this is not exactly a review, I thought I'd leave a few comments here. I recently got this on Kindle, so I've been slowly revisiting a few choice bits here and there. For what it's worth, I was dumbfounded to see this was available on Kindle. Given that his most popular and best selling book Gödel, Escher, Bach is still not available for Kindle, I took it for granted that none of his books were available on Kindle (except, perhaps, I am a Strange Loop, published, if I recall correctly, after Kindles were already on the market).Anyway, after downloading this, I started flipping through the chapters wondering which I should reread and was a bit stunned to be reminded that there are 3 chapters on Lisp. What's interesting about this is imagining this text appearing in Scientific American. While I have fond memories of what SciAm used to be, it's hard to gel that with the image of SciAm that I currently have in my head. The days of meaty, tangible material in technical magazine that you could actually sit down and do something with (c.f., Byte), seem so long ago (Make and the recently deceased, in print format, Linux Journal, not withstanding) that it's hard to picture actual articles on Lisp appearing in what was, in fact, a fairly popular science magazine. This is not to say that SciAm is not still of good quality, but it's certainly a very different beast than what it used to be. These days, I would basically call it a nicer version of Discover (again, not to denigrate that magazine, but it certainly lacks depth in most cases).To be continued...

  • Nicholas
    2019-05-27 05:14

    This is (mostly) a collection of Hofstadter's Scientific American columns. As a result the content is even more diverse in this book than in Gödel, Escher, Bach, and reading a few columns in a row left me a little bewildered. A couple of the essays seemed a little dated. For example, he gives a discussion of large numbers with frequent references to Rubik's Cube - but maybe my dislike of the reference is just because I'm terrible at that thing.That said, Hofstadter is a wonderfully imaginative and entertaining writer, and there were some themes underlying the whole book which anybody familiar with Hofstadter will be able to guess, such as the nature of intelligence and consciousness and the concept of self-reference. Each essay is small and self-contained, making this book one I will feel comfortable going back to and re-reading.

  • Jimmy O...
    2019-06-06 09:17

    I'd always wanted to solve the Rubik's Cube. Then, while reading his chapter on the principles of the cube, specifically 'Partial Inverses', I had the flash of insight I needed, and BLAMMO: cube solved. This isn't a joke, it really happened.I expect most people will have similar flashes of insight in every chapter. Buy this book. Read it. Forget treating it well. Destroy the book while reading it. Take it to the beach. Write in the margins. Scribble out words and replace them with improved approximations. Spill coffee on it. Throw it against the wall. Forget you left it on the bed and fuck on it. Dog ear the pages. Skip chapters and never look back (you'll be back).Do everything you can to get through it. No judgments. Feeling comfortable with these ideas will enrich your life.

  • Tatiana
    2019-06-01 05:11

    The thing I loved about this one is the playfulness involved. Sometimes I thought my head was going to explode from the weird wonderfulness of the ideas. The two chapters on self-referential sentences were absolutely delightful. Some I recall: "It goes without saying that""Let us make a new convention that any thing shown in triple quotes, for instance '''I've changed my mind, when you reach the close of the triple quotes, just go directly to the period at the end of the sentence, and ignore everything up to that point''' should not even be read or given the slightest attention, much less actually obeyed."Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.Definitely a great read!

  • Sara
    2019-06-05 07:17

    This book is huge - like a massive dictionary - and packed with a bunch of essays on a range of topics too broad to even try to describe. Some of them were great and either made you laugh or think about things you hadn't before, though a few weren't as good. But overall, if you can make it through this book, it's worth the interesting journey.

  • Patrick Sunset
    2019-06-04 07:00

    I read this book in high school (A long time ago) and it was overmy head. As I progressed in life I have reread it many times and its a gem full of quirky essays about patterns and self-reference and paradoxes. Highly recommended for a ride into an forest of bizarre thoughts from a brillant thinker.

  • Michael A.
    2019-06-15 03:27

    Pick up this book, and you will find yourself returning to it again and again. Not only is Metamagical Themas a great source (and resource) in itself, but it will lead you to other fascinating books--to wit books that deal not only with science but with literature and music. I owe Hofstadter a debt of gratitude for providing me with his wonderful introduction to the works of Allen Wheelis.

  • James Swenson
    2019-06-18 05:26

    First, read Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. If you love that, then read this, which is mostly a collection of the author's columns from Scientific American.

  • Nick Black
    2019-05-28 06:15

    There's some gems hidden in here, but it's pretty scattered. Be prepared for extensive and expansive discourse regarding calligraphy, typography and the design of fonts. Possessing a dysfunctional visual aesthetic sense and being generally wary of anything requiring more than UTF-8 and a console font to render meaningfully, I find these singularly uninteresting topics. Your meterage may very.

  • Tim
    2019-06-20 07:08

    Read this BIG book after college. Enjoyed it then...about 30 years ago! Just wondering if any of my friends online are familiar with it? We are going through our books. Thinking of reading it again...

  • Marke Schiffer
    2019-05-30 03:11

    A supreme joy. I can dip into this book anytime, and gain something from what I read (even if I can't entirely grasp it)."The Tale of Happiton" is one of the best pieces regarding nuclear disarmament I have read.

  • Michelle
    2019-06-15 03:10

    Totally incredible. If you want to get closer to/further away from understanding the world and yourself while being entertained and amazed, read this book. Or just parts of it. It's a series of columns on different topics, no need to be intimidated by the 800 pages.

  • Jenna Fearon
    2019-06-18 02:17

    I read this a long time ago and as I remember it was completely amazing, thus my 5 star rating. I'm going to pick it up again soon and see if I still love it as much as I once did. :)

  • John McIlveen
    2019-06-17 02:16

    My God this is deep! But rewarding!

  • Ruhegeist
    2019-06-06 03:14

    perhaps this before GEB.

  • Katherine Green
    2019-05-27 02:24

    a favorite

  • Assaad
    2019-06-23 03:07

    Another book added to my personal favorite! This book is just amazing, I liked it even more than the mystical Godel Escher Bach. I bought the book originally just to have the honor to read the original article of Dr. Hofstadter on Superrationality in game theory, and I was completely stunned by the diversity of articles presented in the book. Surely my best part of the book is the last 100 pages where he tackled game theoretical problems and experiments. The best passage ever, is the one that I have waited all along my reading, the recursive definition of superrational players: “Supperational thinkers, by recursive definition, include in their calculations the fact that they are in a group of superrational thinkers."What a beautiful mind on Dr. Doug. All my respects!

  • Dave
    2019-06-15 06:02

    A collection of essays by Hofstadter, mainly from his column in Scientific American but some written specifically for the collection. Generally very interesting stuff. I found the work on the maths of Rubik's cube particularly entertaining and really liked the essays towards the end exploring the rationality of people's approaches to dealing with the knowledge of the existence of nuclear weaponry and we settle into sort of 'well it's there but probably won't affect us' state of mind.The essays specifically on artificial intelligence suffer somewhat from having been written over 30 years ago and things have moved on dramatically since then. I would be interested to read what he says about it now, and if his views have changed.

  • Thomas A Wiebe
    2019-06-24 08:28

    Douglas Hofstadter took over Martin Gardner's Scientific American column Mathematical Games for a couple of years, and wrote some fine essays in his own column, Metamagical Themas, an anagram of Gardner's column. His best were on the subject of self-referential sentences, and his explanation of the mis-application of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to things other than the microcosm is the best I have read, including the most succinct description of the application of wave mechanics beyond atoms. His breakdown of molecular genetics in terms of basic information theory is excellent, even though he does not answer his own question as to whether the genetic code is arbitrary or not. A loan from my daughter-in-law, Jenn.

  • Chris
    2019-05-27 02:10

    A collection of Hofstadter's columns of the same name for Scientific American. Additional notes/thoughts/comments from the author are added after each, where appropriate (which vary from a few lines to a few pages long). A variety of topics are covered, some of which were less interesting than others, but none were dull. It did feel a slight shame that the topic I most enjoyed (self-reference) was the first in the book - that led to a slight feeling of everything being downhill from there on, but that's hardly a problem with the book itself... The section on AI is also particularly good (both of those last two points, though, are based on personal interests rather than quality of writing).

  • Jerzy
    2019-06-13 07:15

    It's been a long time since I read (parts of) this during a Rubik's Cube binge. It wasn't the giant cohesive work that GEB is, but a lot of the essays were pretty good.It's really interesting how much Hofstadter (and many other people at the time these articles were written) worried about nuclear proliferation. Somehow that concern has faded from the forefront of our minds, but now we have terrorism and global warming to deal with instead. Those are definitely real issues too, but I have to wonder - did we really "solve" the nuclear crisis that Hofstadter wrote about here, or has it just been replaced in the news with other, fresher problems?

  • A.K. Adler
    2019-06-17 03:10

    If I was forced to choose only one book to take to a desert island (and couldn't choose a book that explained, in great detail, how to survive on a desert island) then this is the book I'd choose. I've read it many, many times and it always makes me think about stuff that I'd forgotten to think about since I last read it.If you're interested in wordplay, artificial intelligence, self-referentiality, mathematics, logic, solutions to the prisoner's dilemma, how laws evolve or a myriad of other topics that (as mentioned above) I've forgotten since I last read it, then I urge you to get a copy of this book. You can thank me later.

  • Jef Pauwels
    2019-06-17 05:11

    GEB is undeniable better (but than again, how can anything ever be better than GEB), Metamagical Themas is also very interesting to read. I'd say the biggest difference between the two is the fact that GEB is more intertwined, everything is connected and falls into it's place in a very natural way. I miss that a bit in MT, but still, I find it a delight to read. On the plus side, because MT are small, mostly unconnected articles, it's easier to read one without having to be super concentrated and always remembering what came before, like you had in GEB.

  • Michael Norwitz
    2019-05-27 04:13

    A collection of essays which originally appeared in Scientific American, in which Hofstadter explores themes ranging from quantum physics, to genetics, to computer programming, to nonsense literature, to the threat of nuclear war, all with his characteristic wit and humanity. A pleasure to read from beginning to end with something to offer any thoughtful reader of just about any intellectual background.

  • Manny Tingplants
    2019-06-02 08:26

    The most intellectually stimulating grab-bag of magazine articles. Read if you are interested in the "paradox" of self-reference in language, the cold war promise of mutually assured destruction (it still exists), artificial intelligence and/or computer science, the nature of metaphor and analogy, the futility of both the lottery and democracy, or if you've heard great things about Hofstadter but do not have the attention span for Godel Escher Bach. (You should really read that too.)

  • Dan
    2019-05-29 03:13

    This book challenged me and expanded my understanding of many subjects. I explored iterative and recursive functions. It fundamentally altered my beliefs about consciousness. It closes with a surprisingly inspirational analysis of the prisoner's dilemma and other "games" and a call for superrational behavior from American citizens. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Erin
    2019-06-12 06:59

    Terrific mental gymnastics. I've been reading it off an on for a year; last night I read a great chapter that was a guided imagery into variations on the theme of the Rubik's cube. The mind boggles at these people's creativity.