If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: metamagical themas

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Those who would caution people that it might be counter-productive to work against the arms race—unless they believe one should work for the arms race—are in effect counseling paralysis. But would they do so in other areas of life? You never know if that car trip to the grocery store won’t be the last thing you do in your life. All life is a gamble.

What it seems to me is needed is a healthy dose of indignation: a spark, a flame, a fire inside.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Once you know you are a typical member of a class of individuals, you must act as if your own individual actions were to be multiplied manyfold, because they inevitably will be. In effect, to sample yourself is to sample the field, and if you fail to do what you wish the rest would do, you will be very disappointed by the rest as well.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

TIT FOR TAT fared spectacularly well in the ecological tournament, increasing its lead ever more. After 1,000 generations, not only was TIT FOR TAT ahead, but its rate of growth was greater than that of any other program. This is an almost unbelievable success story, all the more so because of the absurd simplicity of the “hero”. One amusing aspect of it is that TIT FOR TAT did not defeat a single one of its rivals in their encounters. This is not a quirk; it is in the nature of TIT FOR TAT. TIT FOR TAT simply cannot defeat anyone; the best it can achieve is a tie, and often it loses (though not by much).

(About Axelrod’s iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments, where the contestants were programmed strategies. The ecological tournament was one that repeatedly eliminated the worst-performing strategies from the pool, so that the ‘environment’ of strategies evolved until a winner came out on top. TfT simply begins by cooperating and subsequently does whatever its opponent did on the previous turn.)

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

One might regard DNA as a big, fat, aristocratic, lazy, cigar-smoking slob of a molecule. It never does anything. It is the ultimate “lump” of the cell.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Elegance is more than just a frill in life; it is one of the driving criteria behind survival. Elegance is just another way of talking about getting at the essence of situations.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Speaking of rigidity versus fluidity, when I gave a lecture on analogies in the Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology several years ago, one Richard Feynman sat in the front row and bantered with me all the way through the lecture. I considered him a “benevolent heckler”, in the sense that he would reliably answer each question “What is to X as 4 is to A?” with the answer, “4!”, and insist that it was a good answer, probably the best.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Analogy and reminding, whether they are accurate or not, guide all our thought patterns. Being attuned to vague resemblances is the hallmark of intelligence, for better or for worse.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Most analogies arise … as a result of unconscious filterings and arrangings of perceptions, rather than as consciously sought solutions to cooked-up puzzles. To put it another way, to be reminded of something is to have unconsciously formulated an analogy.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Creativity is part of the very fabric of all human thought, rather than some esoteric, rare, exceptional, and fluky by-product of the ability to think, which every so often surfaces in places spread far and wide.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Any intelligence has to have motivations. It’s simply not the case, whatever many people may think, that machines could think any more “objectively” than people do. Machines, when they look at a scene, will have to focus and filter that scene down into some preconceived categories, just as a person does. And that means seeing some things and not seeing others. It means giving more weight to some things than to others. This happens on every level of processing.

(spoken by a character in a dialogue, “Sandy,” who seems to best represent DRH’s opinion)