Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the last book I ever read (The Psychopath Test)

from The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson:

"I'm not familiar with Professor Hofstadter," I said to Deborah. "I know there are references to him scattered all over Being or Nothingness. But I couldn't work out if he's a real person or a fictional character. Is he well known?"

"He wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach!" she replied, surprised by my lack of knowledge. "It was momentous."

I didn't reply.

"If you're a geek," sighed Deborah, "and you're just discovering the Internet, and especially if you're a boy, Gödel, Escher, Bach would be like your Bible. It was about how you can use Gödel's mathematic theories and Bach's canons to makes sense of the experience of consciousness. Lots of young guys really like it. It's very playful. I haven't read it in its entirety but it's on my bookshelf."

Hofstadter, she said, had published it in the late 1970s. It was lauded. It won a Pulitzer. It was filled with brilliant puzzles and wordplay and meditations on the meaning of consciousness and artificial intelligence. It was the kind of book--like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or A Brief History of Time--that everybody wanted on their shelves but few were clever enough to really understand.

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