Can thought arise out of matter? Can self, soul, consciousness, “I” arise out of mere matter? If it cannot, then how can you or I be here? I Am a Strange Loop argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the “strange loop”—a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. The most central and complex symbol in your brain is the one called “I.” The “I” is the nexus in our brain, one of many symbols seeming (...) to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. How can a mysterious abstraction be real—or is our “I” merely a convenient fiction? Does an “I” exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Gödel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is a moving and profound inquiry into the nature of mind. (shrink)
Essays from some of the 20th century's greatest thinkers explore topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, evolution, science fiction, philosophy, reductionism, and consciousness, presenting a variety of conflicting visions of the self and the soul. Illustrations.
High-level perception--”the process of making sense of complex data at an abstract, conceptual level--”is fundamental to human cognition. Through high-level perception, chaotic environmen- tal stimuli are organized into the mental representations that are used throughout cognitive pro- cessing. Much work in traditional artificial intelligence has ignored the process of high-level perception, by starting with hand-coded representations. In this paper, we argue that this dis- missal of perceptual processes leads to distorted models of human cognition. We examine some existing artificial-intelligence models--”notably (...) BACON, a model of scientific discovery, and the Structure-Mapping Engine, a model of analogical thought--”and argue that these are flawed pre- cisely because they downplay the role of high-level perception. Further, we argue that perceptu- al processes cannot be separated from other cognitive processes even in principle, and therefore that traditional artificial-intelligence models cannot be defended by supposing the existence of a --œrepresentation module--� that supplies representations ready-made. Finally, we describe a model of high-level perception and analogical thought in which perceptual processing is integrated with analogical mapping, leading to the flexible build-up of representations appropriate to a given context. (shrink)
Shows how analogy-making pervades human thought at all levels, influencing the choice of words and phrases in speech, providing guidance in unfamiliar situations, and giving rise to great acts of imagination.