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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

I maintain that people give other people credit for being conscious simply because of their continual external monitoring of other people—which is itself something like a Turing Test.

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

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

In his article, Turing raised nine plausible objections to his own Imitation Game approach to the question of mechanical thought, and answered them cogently one by one. The most serious one seems to be “Lady Lovelace’s objection”: that computers cannot originate anything, but can do only what we explicitly tell them to do. Turing’s answer to this—that one does not know what one has programmed a machine to do, except in the most superficial and general way—has a depth that eludes many good minds.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

What we ultimately want is for solidity to vanish, to dissolve, to disintegrate into some totally different kind of phenomenon with which we have no experience. Only then, when we have reached some completely novel, alien level will we feel that we have really made progress in explaining the top-level phenomenon.

No explanation of macroscopic X-ness can get away with saying that it is a result of microscopic X-ness.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Either you are gentle (using long-wavelength photons) and do not see the electron well, or you are violent (using short-wavelength photons) and throw the electron completely off its course.

To recapitulate: The uncertainty principle states not that the observer always interferes with the observed, but rather that at a very fine grain size, the wave-particle duality of the measuring tools becomes relevant.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

People tend to think that only extreme versions of things pose deep problems. That’s why few people see modeling the creativity of, say, the trite television character of Archie Bunker as a difficult task. It’s strange and disorienting to realize that if we could write a program that could compose Muzak or write trashy novels, we would be 99 percent of the way to mechanizing Mozart and Einstein. Even a program that could act like a mentally retarded person would be a huge advance. The commonest mental abilities—not the rarest ones—are still the central mystery.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Frantic striving to be original will usually get you nowhere. Far better to relax and let your perceptual system and your category system work together unconsciously, occasionally coming up with unbidden connections. At that point, you—the lucky owner of the mind in question—can seize the opportunity and follow out the proffered hint.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

Careful analysis leads one to see that what we choose to call a new theme is itself always some sort of variation, on a deep level, of previous themes. The trick is to be able to see the deeply hidden knobs!

Some readers … feel that I am unwittingly implying that it is easy for anybody to be a genius: after all, a crank can crank a knob as deftly as a genius can. The crux of their objection, then, is that the crux of creativity is not in twiddling knobs, but in spotting them!

Well, that is exactly what I meant by my slogan. Making variations is not just twiddling a knob before you; part of the act is to manufacture the knob yourself. Where does a knob come from? The question amounts to asking: How do you see a variable where there is actually a constant? More specifically: What might vary, and how might it vary? It’s not enough to just have the desire to see something different from what is there before you. Often the dullest knobs are a result of someone’s straining to be original, and coming up with something weak and ineffective. So where do good knobs come from? I would say they come from seeing one thing as something else. Once an abstract connection is set up via some sort of analogy or reminding-incident, then the gate opens wide for ideas to slosh back and forth between the two concepts.

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Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

…Yet it was stated in such a way that it invites you to perform a “light” mapping of him onto a waitress, just barely noticing (if at all) that there is a sex difference. What an amazingly subtle thought process is involved here!

And what is even more amazing (and frustrating) to me is how hard it is to point out to people how amazing it is! People find it very hard indeed to see what’s amazing about the ordinary behavior of people.