Gödel, Escher, Bach: Session 7

A day late. Sorry folks. But I think I may be talking to myself by now. So, since we are at #7, I think I’ll let that be the perfect ending of our little discussion group (for now). I know this was a little ambitious to take on (schedule-wise), so I will re-think another book or topic to do next time.

Current Assignment: For Thursday, October 1
Read: Canon by Intervallic Augmentation and Chapter VI: The Location of Meaning
Listen: Bach never multiplied the intervals of a theme by 3 1/3. He did multiply them by -1 in this canon by exact inversion, the Canon Perpetuus from the Musical Offering. An effect of the exact inversion is that the piece has to oscillate constantly between major and minor chords, and technically it can’t end.

The Dialogue: Canon by Intervallic Augmentation

This Dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise tries to resolve the question, ‘Which contains more information–a record, or the phonograph which plays it?”

(By the way, how many haikus can you find in this dialogue?)

Rosetta Stone

Chapter VI: The Location of Meaning

This chapter discusses how meaning is divided among coded message, decoder, and receiver. Hofstadter gives examples of strands of DNA, ancient tablets containing undeciphered inscriptions, and some unusual phonographs.

Suggested questions for the chapter:
Is meaning the interaction of a mind (or mechanism) and a message, or is it inherent in the message?

How would you define information-bearer; information-revealer.

To what extent does your DNA “mean” you?

What is the difference between exotic isomorphisms and prosaic isomporhisms?

What does it mean to be “pulled out” of DNA?

Does all the information about a organism’s structure reside in its DNA? Why or why not?

Consider the record sent to an alien civilization. Does the record still have meaning?

Consider the artifacts sent to us from our past (Stonehenge, Easter Island, etc.). Do you think we are missing some intended meaning?

To what extent is the meaning of mathematical equations (in physics) the physical behavior of the universe?

What do you think of Hofstadter’s conjecture, on page 165? “Meaning is part of an object to the extent that it acts upon intelligence in a predictable way.”

What are the three layers of any message? How does this relate to the Contracrostipunctus?

What is the “Jukebox” Theory of meaning?

Does DNA need a bio-jukebox?

If you are feeling ambitious (or inspired) you can still follow the reading/listening schedule here. I may end up just doing a “Cliffs Notes” summary at some point so that we can move on to some of the discussion I had hoped to have. Namely, how do “animate beings come out of inanimate material? What is a self, and how can a self come out of stuff that is as selfless as a stone or a puddle?” (Hofstadter, in the preface to the 20th Anniversary edition of the book)