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Hofstadter’s Law and the curse of absolutes

July 10, 2009

After I saw someone use the word “hofstadterially” today, my habit of looking things up led me to Hofstadter’s Law.

The law, defined by cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, states:

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

Oh dear.

The first part is often true. But the really interesting part of this law is the second part — the reference to itself. It turns the adage into a curse.

What it says is that if you know Hofstadter’s Law, you will factor it into your plans for completing a task, and therefore the task will take even longer. And it’s cyclical. If we accept the law as true, people with knowledge of the law are doomed to work on a single task forever.

Ah, the danger of absolutes.

So, uh, a big thanks to my possibly-jinxed readers.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mel Umbarger permalink
    July 10, 2009 5:06 pm

    Someone is an xkcd fan. 🙂

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