TITLE: This and That from Douglas Hofstadter's Visit AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 09, 2012 3:33 PM DESC: ----- BODY:
Update: In the original, I conflated two quotes in
"Food and Hygiene". I have un-conflated them.
The world manifests constraints and regularities. If a computer is to exhibit intelligence, it must exploit those constraints and regularities, no matter of what the computer happens to be made.To me, that is AI. Food and Hygiene. The propensity of mathematicians to make their work harder for other people to understand, even other mathematicians, reminded Doug Shaw of two passages, from famed mathematicians Gian-Carlo Rota and André Weil. Rota said that we must guard ... against confusing the presentation of mathematics with the content of mathematics. More colorfully, Weil cautioned [If] logic is the hygiene of the mathematician, it is not his source of food. Theorems, proofs, and Greek symbols are mathematical hygiene. Pictures, problems, and understanding are food. A Good Gig, If You Can Get It. Hofstadter holds a university-level appointment at Indiana, and his research on human thought and the fluidity of concepts is wide enough to include everything under the sun. Last semester, he taught a course on The Catcher in the Rye. He and his students read the book aloud and discussed what makes it great. Very cool. If You Need a Research Project... At some time in the past, Hofstadter read, in a book or article about translating natural language into formal logic, that 'but' is simply a trivial alternative to 'and' and so can be represented as such. "Nonsense", he said! 'but' embodies all the complexity of human thought. "If we could write a program that could use 'but' correctly, we would have accomplished something impressive." Dissatisfied. Hofstadter uses that word a lot in conversation, or words like it, such as 'unsatisfying'. He does not express the sentiment in a whiny way. He says it in a curious way. His tone always indicates a desire to understand something better, to go deeper to the core of the question. That's a sign of a good researcher and a deep thinker. ~~~~ Let's just say that this was a great treat. Thanks to Dr. Hofstadter for sharing so much time with us here. -----