Sunday, October 18, 2009

Analogy and Douglas Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter is a well known cognitive scientist. His book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has been inspiring people interested in intelligence and cognition since it was published in 1979. The concept of analogy has been central in Hofstadter's work and this was also the main theme when we met at University of Indiana Bloomington on 16th of October.

Douglas R. Hofstadter, Timo Honkela and Nina Janasik

Hofstadter wanted to emphasize that when he talks about analogy he does not talk about analogical reasoning which he finds to be much too narrow view on analogy making as a central cognitive operation. According to his view, analogy making is a basis for recognition and categorization. He agreed that analogy and similarity are closely related concepts which also lead to a discussion on Kohonen's self-organizing map as an approach in which detection of similarities is central.

Hofstadter mentioned that sometimes people have viewed his work through the examples or microdomains that he uses. One example is the Copycat model with Melanie Mitchell that produces answers to such problems as "abc is to abd as xyz is to what?". He stressed, however, that his interest is in the general cognitive processes.

We also discussed the work of Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner on conceptual blending which Hofstadter found important from the point of view of recognizing the importance of analogy making.

Hofstadter's impressive series of books including "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid", "Metamagical Themas", "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies" and "I am a Strange Loop" calls for continuation.

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