I finally finished it. Many, a long, strange trip it certainly was. OK, so I am talking about that übergeek opus: Gödel, Escher Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadler which I started reviewing a few weeks ago. Overall, it was a big challenge to finish. Since I am not up on the latest trends or discoveries in Artificial Intelligence, I kept wondering how much of what he was saying towards the end was already obsolete or whether it was still “actualité” as we say here in France. I have to say that the creative asides with Mr Crab, Achilles and so forth were very entertaining if completely bizarre. The big twist at the end when the author visits the story written by himself about recursion was expected but nonetheless quite surprising. To be honest though, the best part of the book is the beginning and middle bits when he builds his arguments around self-ref and self-rep and strange loops via BLOOP and FLOOP and TNT. There was a certain nerdy pleasure trying to understand the Gödel number and especially the process of arithmoquining. My mind hasn’t been that twisted up in quite a while – at least not since the last time I filled out my taxes. Would I recommend it? Well, for geeks and programmers, it seems like an obligatory right of passage. Perhaps also for mathematicians. But for the layman, it is probably not as rewarding as one would like and probably will generate more frustration than pleasure. Personally, I am proud that I got to the end of it without giving up and took away knowledge about incompleteness that I certainly was completely ignorant of previously.
Whew, but I’ll tell ya, it was hard reading!