Archive for April, 2007

Throughout all of history, folks have tried to determine what it is that makes a person have consciousness. What is it that makes the light illuminating our mind with awareness of being?

No one has found a physical “thing” in a person that could be called a soul. In spite of the images in Harry Potter, Ghost and other works, no structure, vapor or essence has been identified as the soul or consciousness. I suggest that the reason is that the soul is an action, not a thing. In I am a Strange Loop, Doug Hofstadter makes a convincing case that human consciousness consists of a self referential strange loop.Lightbulb

I don’t think Doug completed his thesis. He left the nature of the strange loop as simply “something” within the cranium. The definition of a loop can be anything from a complete electrical circuit, anything round or oval that is closed or nearly closed, a curl or coil, or finally, a computer program sequence that repetitively executes a series of instructions. If one looks at a strange loop as an algorithm that recursively refers to both new input and itself, a clearer picture of what might be consciousness arises.

DesCartes said, cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). He should have said “I think, and this makes me be”. Thinking is consciousness – while we are awake and aware the strange loop is the execution of thought. It depends on all the inputs from our senses, the state of our body and all the memories and associations or “tokens” we have developed through life.

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I Am a Strange Loop

I waited with great anticipation for the release of Doug Hofstadter‘s new book, I am a Strange Loop. Doug has expanded on a central theme of his landmark book, Godel, Escher, Bach (known as GEB) to explore and expand his concept of the strange loop, and its implications on human consciousness. I call him Doug in this review because he has written both an enlightening and personal book that makes me feel that I have known him for years, in spite of only reading two of his books.
The book meets all my expectations and hopes. It is not to be approached without effort, as Doug makes reading a mental exercise – illustrating his points on self referential loopiness by wildly alternating between straight exposition, and restating others’ illustrative passages in barely recognizable forms. This strategy shows additional meanings by mapping classic themes to new symbols. He also masquerades new parables as quirky stories using a vocabulary of anagrams of the main points and names in his thesis.

These antics can fatigue your mind, especially because he seldom lets you know what he is up to until you are several pages along. You then have to go back to pick up the fourteen points that you have missed along the way. (more…)