Douglas Hofstadter’s Eight Abilities for Intelligence: Humans vs. Artificial Intelligence

Douglas Hofstadter’s Eight Abilities for Intelligence: Humans vs. Artificial Intelligence

Forty-two years ago (in 1979), Douglas R. Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid was published. It became a very popular and influential work.

Forty-two years ago (in 1979), Douglas R. Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braidwas published_._ It became a very popular and influential work.

Hofstadter’s main subjects in that book (at least as I read it) are Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theoremsself-reference and“strange loops”. He also tied these subjects to artificial intelligence (AI) and the nature of computers.

Just to get one thing straight out of the way to begin with.

Neither this piece nor Hofstadter’s book have much — or indeed anything — to do with the debate about IQ (i.e., intelligence__quotient)and how it’s related to human groups and individuals. (This has become such a politicised issue — on all sides — that it’s hardly worth contributing to.)

Predictably, the question “What is intelligence?” is raised (if often obliquely) in _Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid._Thus Hofstadter offered his readers eight “essential abilities for intelligence”. So what immediately follows are some biographical details and quotes from Hofstadter which may help put this piece in some kind of perspective.

Hofstadter once said that “a large fraction [of his audience] seems to be those who are fascinated by technology”. Indeed his work “has inspired many students to begin careers in computing and artificial intelligence”. Yet Hofstadter himself has also (rhetorically?) said that he has “no interest in computers”.

Hofstadter has also advanced various sceptical positions on AI. For example, when Garry Kasparov was defeated by Deep Blue, Hofstadter wrote:

“It was a watershed event, but it doesn’t have to do with computers becoming intelligent.”

Yet despite all that, Hofstadter did once write (in his collection of articles Metamagical Themas) that

“in this day and age, how can anyone fascinated by creativity and beauty fail to see in computers the ultimate tool for exploring their essence?”

Indeed Hofstadter went so far as to organise a symposium (at Stanford University and in April 2000) called ‘Spiritual Robots’.

artificial-intelligence computers humans artificial intelligence

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