The Guardian

Can AI become conscious? Bach, Escher and Gödel's 'strange loops' may have the answer

In 1979, a cult book by Douglas Hofstadter explored consciousness via a mathematical idea found in art and music. Now, in the AI revolution, that concept could solve a vital question
Conceptual conundrum … Victoria Gould and Marcus du Sautoy in I is a strange loop at the Barbican, London. Photograph: Benjamin Ealovega/Science Museum

This year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of one of the cult books of my generation: Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. This Pulitzer prize-winning tome was essential reading in the 1980s for emerging geeks like me. But, despite its name, it is not a book about the composer Bach, the artist Escher or even the mathematician Kurt Gödel. It is about consciousness and Hofstadter’s belief that this elusive concept is related to the idea of what he calls “a strange loop”.

To celebrate the anniversary, I am staging a triptych of s, looking at the impact of technology on what it means to be

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