Hofstadter approaches the Mind from the perspective

Reading Comprehension L2

Hofstadter approaches the “Mind” from the perspective of the computer sciences, in that there are both hardware and software aspects of human intelligence. He looks at the enactment of intelligence in terms of a formal system. In turn, Hofstadter declares that in primal, natural systems, formal systems are embedded. He infers that in relation to what we perceive as explicit in such formal systems, there is also an aspect that is intrinsically implicit. The idea of an embedded implicitness ultimately suggests a “Within” in the heart of things.

To begin, there is a need for a descriptive presentation of Hofstadter’s brain system model. He uses the ant colony as an analogy of the human brain system. Hofstadter relays that individual ants seem to be able to cooperate as teammates and not randomly wander off. After billions of years of evolution, these ants have passed a critical threshold...reinforcing themselves into a collective behaviour that results in an ant colony. Hofstadter likens ant teams to signals; and, basically, “the effect of signals is to transport ants of various specialization to approximate parts of the colony.” Ultimately, the fully evolved ant colony takes on a holistic aspect, and emerging molecular mechanisms take form.

The colony’s teams, its signals, are low-level active sub-systems of a complex system. These signals trigger other signals. With this, Hofstadter draws a similarity between these team signals and the human brain’s neurons and their interconnections and firings. The colony’s team signals exist according to a caste distribution; in the brain, there is no caste distribution...but a counterpart can be found in what Hofstadter calls a “brain state.”

Now Hofstadter leaps into the full system, whether it is the ant colony or the brain. He believes that the full system is the “agent,” that “the full system is responsible for how its symbols trigger each other.” At this juncture, Hofstadter poses the question that leads to the other side of his analogy. He ponders on the fact that a single ant brain does not “carry any information about nest structure;” and then he asks, “how then does the nest get created...where does the information reside?” The above questions provide Hofstadter the vehicle in which to launch his probe of the human brain; thus, he asks how this brain carries out the processes of thinking, how it spawns intelligence?

Underlying everything in the hardwired brain is the reality of rules. In the elementary constituents of the brain, down to the level of the nerve cells, there is the presence of the rules. At this neural level, at this substrate level of the brain, there can be no interpretation. There is no imitation, because the rules in the brain’s hardware are basic. Hofstadter succinctly states, the brain “has a formal, hidden hardware level which is a formidably complex mechanism that makes transitions from state to state according to definite rules embodied in it.”

Intelligence resides in this brain hardware. Yet, it is of a *different quality* so infers Hofstadter. Intelligence, although brain bound, “can be lifted right out of the hardware in which it resides...or in other words, intelligence [can] be a software property.” Hofstadter focuses on the pivot that configures intelligence, mainly information and its various expressions: such as words, stories, messages, and interpretations of meaning.

1. Hofstadter is most likely to agree with which of the following statements?

  1. Intelligence in natural systems is explicitly dependent on brain structure.
  2. Intelligence has certain components that cannot be examined in functional isolation.
  3. Formal systems embedded in natural systems have an implicit aspect to them.
  4. At the most basic level of brain activity, rules cease to operate.

2. Which of the following is not true about the parallels Hofstadter draws between ant colonies and human intelligence?

  1. Caste distribution in the ant colony is functionally similar to brain states.
  2. The behaviour of an individual ant in a colony is analogous to an emergent molecular mechanism in the brain.
  3. Both are complex systems that have several subsystems built into them and in both cases the full system is the agent.
  4. Ant teams are likened to signals in the brain.

3. "…intelligence [can] be a software property." Hofstadter’s implied message is that

  1. intelligence carries explicit information about the underlying brain structure.
  2. intelligence can be variously interpreted and can have several expressions; however, it operates according to simple rules.
  3. intelligence is a rule-bound system and it has several expressions.
  4. intelligence can be conceptualised separately from the brain hardware, which houses it.


  1. C
  2. B
  3. D