Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh It's You? No It's Me.

Are mosquitoes robots?

“I Is A Strange Loop,” that’s what Douglas Hofstadter (no no, not that Hofstadter, the other one!) wanted to call his book but his publisher objected (as publishers are wont to do) so he had to call it I Am A Strange Loop.

So boys and girls, I am trying to read this loopy book and I’m hoping someone (anyone?) will join me. Incidentally, the book should be in most libraries but I got it through the used book section of Amazon (no no, not that Amazon, the .com one!): it costs me one buck plus $3.50 in shipping (thieves I say!). The good thing about owning the book is that you can write all sorts of irrelevant things in the margins (like phone messages and oodles of doodles), as well as argue with the distinguished author....

The book has to do with loops and selves and at some point something with math (supposedly couched in words ignoramuses like me and I could comprehend –help!)

I didn’t get very far yet but I did get to the point where our very own Douggie at age 14 accompanied his parents to a camera shop where the clerk demonstrated the sort of video cam (brand new at the time) where the picture shows on a TV screen. Amazing! So our very clever 14 year old aimed the camera at the computer screen itself... The clerk started screaming in terror that the kid would injure himself, the TV set would surely explode and implode all at once, and cause the earth, nay the universe, to rip asunder, etc etc.. So like any inquisitive kid, our author wondered why. His parents bought the gizmo and as soon as they got home our Douggie aimed it at the TV set. It didn’t break and he lived to tell about it! No only that, when he came of age, he repeated the experiment with various objects. The results were amazing ever expanding patterns that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the original objects. Those intriguing images are in the book, the one on the cover began with him just holding his hand in front of the screen, and the rest is history...

Well you’ve guessed it, the book has to do with “self referentiality,” or in plainer words, with the way we are able to refer to the self, selfhood, I, me, etc... I won’t go into it yet because I’m still trying to figure out what he’s saying, and right now my head feels like a pocketless pool table and all the balls keep on knocking against each other and sometimes they stick into clusters and sometimes they don’t (this ever since I tried to comprehend one of the beginning chapters where he compares our brain to that very same thing. Oh the power of suggestion! But I don’t think I’ve clusters in my brain, just lots of loose billiard balls that are getting looser all the time –but I digress....)

One thing that bugs me though, it’s Hofstadter’s claim that mosquitoes are like robots. Now that seems loopy to me. What do ya’ll think?


  1. If robots suck blood and leave an itchy spot behind, then, yes, mosquitoes are exactly like robots.

    Welcome to The Fly, btw.

  2. Luckily, they haven't yet found a robot that did this!

    thanks for your welcome, Amy.