Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander’s “Surfaces and Essences”

These authors examine familiar things and find new gold. Their perspective illuminates tools of thought that bear on any AI program. They are onto this cluster.

One feature in the concept of concept that I expect in the book might be called a “parameter” of a concept. The concept of family has within it a concept of mother. In order to make sense of “Sue is Bob’s mother.” one must point out that the parameter ‘mother’ in some instance of family, is bound to Sue in the same instantiation of family where Bob is bound to the parameter “son”. The book “Inside Jokes” explained that errors in such bindings is often the logic of jokes.

I jumped ahead to chapter 8 and I highly recommend it. Having become aware of some of these ideas in recent years part of my head observes as I write programs or do math. There is a great deal of analogies and familiar patterns fitting together in new ways. The mathematician must fall into rigorous mode before he believes what he has guessed, or at least before he tries to convince his peers. The programmer usually asks the computer what it thinks. These two strategies are slowly melding.

The sections on physics are highly illuminating as well. Hofstadter throws new historical light on the acceptance of Einstein’s photons.