Analogy is the core of all thinking.
This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work.
Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over 30 years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.
We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain's job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.
Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, "I undressed the banana!"? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, "Exactly the same thing happened to me!" when it was a completely different event? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea?
The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy - making - the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought.
Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights. Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds.
©2013 Basic Books (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
"I am one of those cognitive scientists who believe that analogy is a key to explaining human intelligence. This magnum opus by Douglas Hofstadter, who has reflected on the nature of analogy for decades, and Emmanuel Sander, is a milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas." Steven Pinker (Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought)
I am not sure if it is the narrator or the content but this book just drags and drags and drags on and on and on in the first few hours and has made no startling revelations to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Douglas Hofstadter seems like an interesting man but if I am going to listen for 33 hours, it needs to be way more entertaining than this. If I was doing a PhD in Analogy perhaps it would be riveting? But alas and despite being a listener with above average intelligence I am bored to death. Maybe it is fascinating later? I'll give it three stars just in case. Or perhaps this work is from a paradigm so alien in concept that my mind simply can't deal with it and I keep falling asleep listening to it. I will not be finishing the book and I am going to return it and get a credit. If I ever get insomnia...
"Lots of verbiage, few insights. Don't bother."
If you are on the fence about whether to buy this book, then skip it. Don't bother. The book contains very few insights.
If you were a fan of Gödel Escher Bach and are hoping for an equally insightful book, then look elsewhere. This book is nothing like that previous book.
I'm sold on the author's main thesis, that analogies underlie much of human thought, and that analogizing and categorization are the same process. I have no argument with that notion.
However, the author doesn't really investigate analogies or categorization very deeply, in spite of the book's length. What exactly is categorization? The authors never really investigate this question.
I'm not fan of narrator Sean Pratt. Pratt injects too much intonation and too much feeling into each sentence. Pratt wants each sentence to deliver a bit of drama. His sing-songy delivery distracts from the authors' train of reasoning, which develops over paragraphs and pages, and not in each sentence.
"Not my cup of tea"
I didn't listen to the whole book. I listened to about 9 hours of it. The book is clearly for lovers of words of which I'm not. I do like the authors overriding theme that we think by categorization through analogy. I just didn't want to sit through a countless stream of analogies and word play examples.
Some people (especially lovers of words) will love the book. I just prefer less examples and more facts.
(I bought this book because I absolutely loved the senior author's book, "Godel, Escher and Bach", and suspected that this word book would not be for me, but was willing to give it a try. I'm only writing this review to warn people who prefer science and mathematics type books that this book might not be suitable for you).
"A dance on the street is worth 2 in the club."
I already have demanded several people get it.
Category, that guy was tricky always trying to act like he's not an analogy.
The one where I had to stop listening and have an argument with an idea for ten minutes before I could continue.
This book demands reaction, it makes you want to yell, "of course Doug, get on with it." Then you realize he's pretty accurate at predicting how you think even though he's never met you. You probably won't cry but I ended of laughing at myself a lot.
This is all about thinking and you want it to be wrong, you want to believe your thoughts are ordered and consistent. Instead you're left knowing that your thoughts are arranged as needed and in ways that contradict past and future arrangements.
If you've read his other works this one is simpler and more focused in its idea. Therefore it takes a lot more effort to understand it. The premise makes Jungian psychology seem more relevant, Mel brooks more genius, and Einstein more like an average guy.
If you think you know the definition of words like; much, and, but, grow, time or play, you should get this book.
"'Mother occupies the chair.' So what?"
Perhaps, and by that I mean to say "no," which, as an utterance, occupies a rarefied category of one, with, of course, spelling being the only consideration. As a category of one, it is like the opposite of the Higgs-Boson particle in that, when present, nothing matters (which, as a word, "matters," has multiple meanings, including "relevancy, materials, events, Icelandic for "mother" and so on and so on.). Truthfully, I'll probably try "Strange Loop." I've given it as a gift enough times, it's high-time I got up on it myself.
92% fewer examples.
A quote which, used only as one example in a long line of examples, reads "Censorship is the mother of metaphor." Loved that! Worth the $22 (monthly plan at two credits).
Perhaps, and by that I mean to say "no," which, as an utterance, occupies a rarefied category of one, with, of course, spelling being the only consideration. As a category of one, it is like the opposite of the Higgs-Boson particle in that, when present, nothing matters (which, as a word, "matters," has multiple meanings, including "relevancy, materials, events, Icelandic for "mother" and so on and so on.).
The book was exceptionally well-narrated.
"Mind-exploding dance of ubiquitous wordplay"
Yes. A patient friend, anyway. If only to help them understand what I get so excited about.
Can't compare it to much, other than Hofstadter's other works. He (along with co-author Emmanuel Sander) goes deeply into heavy territory of linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, and other fields without ever becoming too technical or academic. Constant throughlines of playfulness and personal details keep things from becoming too dry.
I haven't, but I'd like to. He does an absolutely fantastic job making you feel like he's personally connected to the pages and pages of examples and organically meandering explanations that comprise this book. My one complaint is that his French pronunciation is pretty horrendous. For a book whose co-author is French, and thus makes use of fairly frequent forays into French phrasing (alliteration bonus +5), it would've been nice to have someone who can say the words. However, if you don't speak French or aren't a stickler for pronunciation, this isn't an issue, just like I didn't have any problem with his pronunciation of Mandarin words. Either way, it's worth this minor sacrifice for the excellent performance overall.
I would die. It's just under 34 bloody hours.
It's hard to express how much I enjoyed this book. While I'm sure it's not for everyone, it was one of the primary motivators that convinced me to go back to school to study cognitive science. Hofstadter has the most wonderful ability to tie together poetry, math, memory, languages, and visual design (among other areas of interest) into pure magic. To me, this itself serves as a metaphor for the amazing web of association and analogy that allows our brains to make meaning and creativity from our experience and culture. This book could be my bible. And while I don't want to see myself as too much of an evangelist, I'd humbly suggest you give it a try.
As a final note: some might prefer to have the hard-copy (a giant brick of a tome) in order to go back and review some of the lists and examples as you go. I bought the book after listening to the audio, and while I'm glad to own it, I think I prefer the audio experience overall. I did find myself pausing to think, or hitting the "30 seconds back" button fairly frequently, extending the 33-hour running time even further, but this is only necessary if you want to spend the time really thinking about the details.
"Doug, Doug, Doug"
Let's just say that Hofstadter is a fascinating combination of brilliant and boring. If you like the way he thinks, then it's a good book to have around to listen to here and there. He always has something interesting to say, often, though, the executive summary might be sufficient.
Oh good, time to move on to Dennett...
I am giving Hofstadter a hard time, but I love his mind, he's just, well, you know, tedious...
"Too many examples"
This book would have been better at half the length. The ideas I agree with but there are far too many tedious examples. They assume the reader is really dull and needs extensive examples to get it to sink in.
"Waste of Time"
This book has two interesting chapters: one on category of waves and the other on Einstein's analogy making in theory of relativity. The rest of the book should be summarized and reduced to 70-100 pages. There are too much repetition of the same few ideas and too many trivial examples
I am not sure. My plan was to read his other book "I am a strange loop". But after this bad experience I feel that I need to research further.
NO, but he is great
"Interesting, but could be a quarter the length."
Absolutely love Hofstadter as I've encountered him both here and in GEB. This is a set of ideas that I've had in an informal way for a long time, and he lays them out in his typical methodical, logical style with many surprising conclusions I hadn't reached. The moments of insight are... spread out... but they unfold spectacularly.
The only thing I can think of that is this casually philosophical is GEB, but that's a trivial example. The concepts resonate with some of Foucault's work on language, particularly The Order of Things, and some recent academic linguistics, but the book differs drastically in style.
Taking forEVER to read the ENDLESS lists of examples. I GET IT GOOD GOD
An invaluable tool and a must-read for anyone studying AI. Useful to those who realize it is important to think about how we think.
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