This title contains five words.

June 25, 2007

More and more, it’s becoming apparent to me that we live in a world full of self reference and recursion, meta data and aggregators, collaboration and user generated content. Think about it for a second. Our world is full of recursive, self-referential examples. A movie trailer (a movie about the movie itself), blogs about blogging, meta-data (data about data), a YouTube video about YouTube. The examples go on and on.

I’ve recently begun thinking about these topics because of the book I am a Strange Loop. In it, Dogulas Hofstadter argues that consciousness arises as we become aware of the world, and therefore become aware of ourselves, and therefore become aware of ourselves being aware of ourselves being aware of the world, and therefore… on and on. This self reference cycle (referred to as a strange loop by Hofstadter) may, in fact, be the key to consciousness itself. Is the concept of “I” simply a recursive definition within the framework of our minds? I don’t know, but I do know that I really like this book.

On top of this, I recently stumbled across the YouTube video The Machine is Us/ing Us. In it, the author explains the elusive concept of Web2.0 by using Web2.0 tools. This bizarre and interesting approach seems to hit the nail on the head for me. Watch it a couple of times. Very cool.

I would say that the web is becoming more powerful now not simply because technology is advancing but because the way we think about thinking is changing. It seems to me that data itself is becoming less important than the ways in which the data is tracked, compiled, compared and communicated. To sum it all up, I leave you with this nifty phrase from Hofstadter’s book:

“preceded by itself in quotes forms a full sentence” preceded by itself in quotes forms a full sentence.

For more information, please see this article.

Update: A reader has added my post to his “lens” about strange-loops. I wasn’t familiar with lenses until today, but they seems to be a type of data aggregator, which I find very fitting. A web page containing information about web pages containing information about strange loops. What could be a more perfect self-referential showcase for this article?


4 Responses to “This title contains five words.”

  1. JoeB Says:

    Nice post. Looks like an interesting article, but if i read the article i would fall into the loop and it sounds like we can observe the loop better from outside the loop, but if we are observing the loop, it in and of its self is a loop…

    dang it. I cant get out of the loop.

  2. Darby Says:

    The theme of self reference creating meaning were explored in Hofstader’s earlier work Godel Escher Bach. Even though it was written 15 years before the invention of the Internet it contains much prophetic material about the interaction of technology and people.

  3. drewolson Says:

    Darby –

    I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve heard fantastic things about GEB and I intend to read it immediately after I finish IAASL. I’m really hooked on Hofstader’s imagery and I don’t seem to be able to stop myself from noticing self-reference all around me.

  4. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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