Being or Nothingness: marketing viral bizarro?

Hoje chegou no meu escritório um envelope branco. Pelos selos foi enviado da Suécia. Sem remetente, nada, só uma etiqueta PRIORITAIRE, meu nome e endereço (sem nenhum erro), e, no cantinho do envelope, escrito à mão, com esferográfica azul, a frase

Will tell you more when I return!.

Dentro, embalado em plástico bolha, tinha um livrinho branco, fino (21 páginas), capa dura, bem produzido, com uma ilustração do Escher na capa. O título é “Being or Nothingness” (referência a “Being and Nothingness”, em português Ser e o Nada: Ensaio de Ontologia Fenomenológica, de Sartre), mas o autor é um certo Joe K.

Numa etiqueta colada ao livro tem um aviso:

Warning! Please study the letter to Professor Hofstadter before you read the book. Good Luck!

Dentro, uma cartinha (numa folha separada, dobradinha) endereçada ao Prof. Douglas Hofstadter (autor de um dos meus livros preferidos, o fantástico Göedel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid). Um trecho da carta, assinada por “The Writer” (com aspas).

The manuscript has a reproduction of Escher’s “Drawing Hands” on its cover. Should the text resemble what its cover implies it to be, reading it could be dangerous. Had I sent a copy without comments, it might have caused harm.

E ainda nem abri o livro pra ver do que se trata. Na primeira página se lê

This letter was received recently from an anonymous sender. Could this be the first and last post-post-modern work ?

Greetings from R

Na contra-capa, tem uma outra carta, endereçada a uma editora de Nova Iorque chamada “Basic Books”, que reproduzo aqui:

Enclosed you will find a Swedish translation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s long lost manuscript, “Being or Nothingness”, commonly referred to as “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”. Unfortunately, the English original vanished shortly after its appearance and we have, as of yet, not managed to retrieve it.

I send the book to you since it is oddly intertwined with Professor Douglas Hofstadter and his book “I am a strange loop” which will soon be released by your Publishing House.

“Being or Nothingness” contains a letter in English, directed to Professor Hofstadter, which might make you curious about the rest of the book. Should that be the case, you will need to have the book translated to English, twenty-one rather short pages.

I realize this is an unusual way of promoting a book project. If you are not interested, just throw the book away, but please send a short email to notify me of your disapproval.

With kind regards, “The Translator”

“Now in English”.

Ao que tudo indica, uma campanha de marketing viral. Mas se for isso mesmo, estou impressionado; uma coisa é mandar spam por email pra deus-e-todo-mundo, a outra é enviar um pacote caro e elaborado, da Suécia pro Brasil.

As outras teorias é que é um presente de alguém que conheço; pensei na Delphine, uma grande amiga francesa que mora em Berlim, ou nas minhas primas que moram na Suíça, mas não tem cara de nenhuma das duas.

O endereço é do escritório da Vetta Labs; provavelmente o endereço veio de lá. Pensei que pudesse ser um brinde do Google, porque esse ano participei como mentor do Google Summer of Code,mas a Leslie Hawthorn disse que só vão começar enviar as camisetas dia 29…

Alguém faz idéia do que é isso ? É claro que estou indo fazer a lição de casa Internet afora, mas gostaria de ouvir teorias… :-)

UPDATE: Acabei de ler o livro. É… completamente incompreensível. Não sei se de propósito ou o autor é esquizofrênico, ou então tem uma mensagem subliminar / vírus neurolingüístico feito o nam-shub de Enki :-). Eu estava com medo de ser uma bobagem mané feito O Segredo, mas é muuuuuito mais non-sense bizarro judaico-cristão-sherlock-holmes-hitchhiker’s-guide-to-the-galaxy que isso.

UPDATE: Alex Sato e Renato Marques sugeriram colocar a página com a palavra recortada em cima de alguma outra do livro, pra ver se o que aparece pelo vão faz sentido. Eu já tinha tentado isso, não percebi nada digno de nota.

A propósito A palavra recortada é nesse trecho, sobre o Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (o recorte está marcado com XXX…XX)

The digit 4 refers to the four space-time-dimensions of existence, that is Being, and the digit 2 stands for the two dimensions of time, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, that is Nothingness. Hence, the computer’s answer to the questionof the meaning of life is “Being and Nothingness”.

UPDATE: Stefan (nos comentários abaixo) explicou como descobrir as palavras faltantes; basta colocar a carta atrás da página (duh!). As palavras, em inglês, são “fé e escolha”.

Pode ser ou tá difícil ? :-)

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114 Responses to “Being or Nothingness: marketing viral bizarro?”

  1. Efraim Queiroz Says:

    Para entender o conteúdo do livro você tem que se harmonizar com as forças telúricas, galácticas e universais. Para isto primeiro aponte a diagonal que vai do canto inferior esquerda dele até o canto superior direito para Jerusalém e dê 7 voltas em torno do livro no sentido anti-horário, repita o processo na direção de Meca, Dharamsala e Chichén Itzá. Por último aponte o livro para o centro galáctico e dê 49 voltas em torno dele no sentido horário mentalizando “eu me conecto com todas as inteligências galácticas e as compreendo”. Depois de fazer isto pode ler o livro, o sentido ficará mais claro que “vovô vê a uva”.

  2. muriloq Says:

    Segundo a Wikipedia o centro galáctico tem entre 70.000 e 100.000 anos-luz, dar 49 novo voltas em torno dele tomaria muito tempo! :-D

  3. Stefan Says:

    I have received the same book in the same package with the same note “Will tell you more when I return”. I do not speak Portuguese, so I have trouble understanding what is written on this page. Did you solve the mystery?

  4. muriloq Says:

    Hi Stefan,

    No, I didn’t solve the mistery. In the blog post I just describe the package and the book… I’m almost sure that’s just an interesting viral market strategy - specially because since you also received something identical it doesn’t come from a friend or something like that.

    Please let me know if you have more details about it!

    Best,
    Murilo

  5. Albert Says:

    Hey guys,

    I just received a package similar to yours (identical note, etc.). Maybe we can solve the mystery together. I’m pretty sure that it is not a marketing-strategy, it would be way too inefficient for that. Maybe some kind of a joke, or event art? I don’t know. From where was you package sent? Mine from Göteborg (Sweden).

    Best,
    A

  6. muriloq Says:

    Hi Albert,

    my packet came from Sweden, too. Unfortunately the cleaning maid threw the envelope in the trash, so I can’t confirm the exact city…

    I would like to find out what we three have in common. Did you read / commented about “Gödel, Escher, Bach” ? I’m a computer scientist working with artificial intelligence, and I’m a big fan of the book…

    Murilo

  7. Albert Says:

    Hi Morilo,

    That was also the first question that came to my mind: what do we all have in common? Well, I am a philosopher, working mainly in logic (dynamic logics… a connection to computer science?). But I have neither commented on Hofstaedter’s book nor written anything on Gödel’s work.

    What about Stefan? Is he still reading this? And if not, can we somehow contact him?

  8. muriloq Says:

    Hi Albert,

    I sent Stefan an email (he registered his address when we posted the comment), inviting him to the discussion. :-)

    Since you didn’t mention Hofstadter or Gödel, what about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” ?

  9. Albert Says:

    I am a big fan of that one, but I didn’t mention it in a publication either. BUT: In a “social network” (which is public) I am member of a group called “42″. What about you and the Hitchhiker?

    Best
    A

  10. muriloq Says:

    I like the Hitchhiker, but it’s not one of my favorites. And I already commented about it on-line, but briefly…

  11. Albert Says:

    So at least the two of us are “scientists”. Maybe Stefan could shed some light on the mystery.

    There is (of course) always the possibility that there exists a special keyword which — when googled — leads to our websites. We have to do some research in this direction.

    Btw.: I googled the book and it was published 2007 in Kristianstad (Sweden). See http://www.bookfinder4u.com/search/Joe_K.html

  12. Patrick Says:

    I got one of these as well two days ago, exactly the same, sent from Göteborg with “Will tell you more when I return!” on the envelope. I’m also a philosopher, but working in a completely different field (Kierkegaard) so totally unrelated to Gödel - so that probably doesn’t clear things up much! All very strange, and a little unsettling.

  13. Agripino Says:

    This is clearly a work of the Illuminati. If I were you, I would delete this website and HIDE.

    :-)

  14. Stefan Says:

    I did not get your e-mail, muriloq (in my spam filter?). I am a computer scientist. I have read Goedel Escher Bach and ordered it on-line. I have not read about it. I have read some of Douglas Adams (Restaurant at the end of the Universe where the question to the answer (which is different from that presented here) is given). I am a computer scientist working in AI. I also have contact with an Iranian who is working on the same puzzle having received the book.

  15. Stefan Says:

    I think I know what the cut out words are. Has anyone tried placing the letter behind the page with the missing words? (P.S. sorry for hijacking the page into English…)

  16. muriloq Says:

    Hi Stefan,

    so we now have three computer scientists / AI researchers (you, me and your friend from Iran), and two philosophers (Albert and Patrick).

    And you’re right, if we put the letter behind the page, aligning their bottoms, we can discover the hidden words! :-) I tried it using the other pages of the book, but I didn’t think about using the letter (duh!)…

  17. muriloq Says:

    BTW, since the book is in English I don’t see a problem in making it the default language for the discussions. :-)

  18. Albert Says:

    Great you found out the hidden words! I googled them, without (any relevant) results.

    But the hidden words made me thinking: Do you have anything to do with religion (religious university, …)? I used to work in a Dpt which was partly financed by the (catholic) church.

    At least: On the 12.10.2008 my website was visited 26 times (!) from a swedish computer (ip-address: 90.224.170.62). Maybe something similar happened to your sites. The google search words won’t help, because they definitely do not establish some kind of connection between us (at least I think so) — if there is any need, I of course can post them here.

  19. george Says:

    I have also received the identical package - in South Africa, sent from Gotheborg. Weird.

  20. muriloq Says:

    Albert: I was raised Catholic, but I’m not religious, and I don’t remember any connections regarding this…

    And my blog was visited 60 times from Goteborg and 21 times from Nykoping, both in Sweden. The first visit was October 2nd (the peak is October 15th), so the visits came after I posted the article about the book…

    Perhaps someone is assessing its reception ?

  21. Stefan Says:

    No particular religious affiliations on my part.

    Does anyone know anyone in Sweeden?

  22. Ramin Says:

    Hi,
    I’m the Iranian AI researcher mentioned by Stefan some posts above. I received the book exactly the same as the others and have just started to decrypt the book with a friend. I’m a PhD student and today I found out that the book was also sent to my supervisor.

    About the hole on page 13, another receiver of the book (Tim Roberts from Australia) believed that it represents “Nothingness”, I think its a very interesting idea.

  23. Jon Says:

    Hi,
    I received exactly the same envelope from Sweden (”Will tell you more when I return”) and book. I am a physicist working on complex systems. I have collaborated with computer scientists.

  24. Ironwolf Says:

    Hello all.

    Today I also received a copy of the book. I believe it is is a clever form of “Christian viral marketing” aimed at intellectuals who have previously written admiringly of the works of Escher, Hofstadter, Adams, and such, as I have done at various times on my blog and other web sites.

    As one who was raised as a Christian and then left the faith, the allegorical nature of the work is quite clear, even from the enigmatic “Will tell you more when I return!” (clearly a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus) inscribed on the envelope where a return address should appear, to the book’s closing warning, “You wouldn’t want to trade the eternal loop of your life for an infinite loop in the world of ideas, would you?” (clearly a reference to choosing faith and eternal life over rationality and empiricism.)

    Overall, I’m impressed with the author’s willingness to try a new approach to reaching intellectual non-believers by the attempt at creating a faith-based logic-breaking koan. But the message is still the same: if you want eternal life then check your brains at the door.

  25. muriloq Says:

    Hi Ironwolf,

    I agree with your interpretation; “will tell you more when I return” really seems a reference to the Second Coming, and the entire book seems to carry a Christian message, including the Lord’s Prayer at the end.

    But I’m still curious about the criteria used to find us. Not all of those who received the book had written something about Escher, Hofstadter and ohers… And randomly picking intellectuals isn’t a very efficient way to spread the meme! :-)

  26. Ironwolf Says:

    Muriloq,

    I would be curious to know whether anyone who has received the book is already a Christian— frankly that would surprise me, as it seems aimed at non-believers. Secondly, I am a fairly outspoken non-believer, so perhaps the people who have received copies of the book have at least mentioned non-belief or agnosticism at some point on the web. Third, I was actually quite lucky to receive my copy, as it was delivered to the address of a park in my city where no-one receives mail— but the local mail carrier recognized my name and re-routed it to my office. How did the mysterious sender get the address of that park? Clearly not omniscience— the only way that address is associated with my name is that I run a juggling club that meets in that park on Saturdays, and I give that address on one of my web sites as the meeting place of the club.

    So I can see at least three possible criteria: 1) outspoken non-believer (or religious skeptic) 2) public devotion to science and/or intellectual pursuits 3) mailing address publicly available.

  27. the cane toad Says:

    Colleagues, I believe we are being head-hunted.

    First one to crack the code, gets the job, so to speak.

    Unfortunately, personal family circumstances mean that I have no time to spend on this. If you wish to read my thoughts on the book, please email me at timro21@gmail.com
    .

  28. Ironwolf Says:

    Unfortunately, personal family circumstances mean that I have no time to spend on this.

    …and you’ll tell us more when you return? ;)

  29. Ramin Says:

    In reply to Ironwolf, October29th,

    About fist possible selection criteria, I’m Persian and therefor it was wise for the sender to assume me Zoroastrian or Muslim and I haven’t published anything on the web, at least in any other language except Persian, stating my religious ideas. Also, noting that there is no automatic text translation tool from Persian to any other language, we must either assume that the sender knows Farsi to select me as a not-completely believer, or this is not the selection criteria.

    About the third suggestion, its too wide and at least the people who have signed in this forum seem to have more in common than just a public address (One can say that only people more involved in computer related fields and scientific branches try to find other receivers on the net.)

    My supervisor also received the book, and his name is with mine and with my address on all the papers that I have published. And I’m sure there is nothing about his ideas anywhere on the web. So I think one of our papers has been the reason of selection. This is in favor of Ironwolf’s second suggestion.

    A Question: Is there any woman among us? As far as I know all the names belong to men, am I wrong?

  30. the cane toad Says:

    I believe the author of the book is Lennart Frantzell.
    .

  31. Ben Says:

    I also received the book under the same circumstances. I work in AI.

    I also note that the author’s name, “Joe K” is an anagram of “Joke” and if you say “Joek” in English, it sounds like “Joke”.

    The whole thing strikes me as rather ‘wanky’.

  32. Stefan Says:

    @CaneToad: is you speculation about the author based only on the contents of p. 8, or do you have more to go on than that?

    @Ben: Joseph Knecht is the main character of the Glass Bead Game (so there is that possibility too).

  33. Anne Says:

    I am in neuroscience and received a copy of the book under the same circumstances. In response to Ironwolf, I consider myself to be a Christian. In response to Ramin, I am female. And in response to Ben I note that the main character in Kafka’s quirky novel “The Trial” is named simply Josef K. I suspect that is more likely than a play on the word “joke”. My only publication that mentions AI uses the abbreviation to stand for anterior insula, although I expect some search engine looking for papers on AI could well have turned up my name. That makes a good joke right there.

  34. Louise Dennis Says:

    I just got this. I’ve not read it yet but my first assumption was that it was some sort of publicity stunt - though quite a convoluted one.

    I work in artificial intelligence, but I did maths and philosophy as an undergraduate. I don’t recall ever particularly mentioning or praising Hofstadter’s work - at least not anywhere on the Internet.

  35. Fred Cummins Says:

    I’m another recipient. I’m a cognitive scientist, went to Indiana University, took one class with Doug Hofstadter and knew him slightly 10 years ago. I have a small internet presence concerned with matters metaphysical and cognitive, and with links into Eastern philosophy. Does that shed any further light?

  36. the cane toad Says:

    Hello Stefan,

    Five different reasons pointed to Lennart - but they were all circumstantial.

    I now believe I’ve discovered the person who actually sent the books, and they really do live in Gothenberg, Sweden (from which the packages were mailed). I assume they are also the author; I’ve emailed the person to check (their first name has 3 letters, which is the only clue I’m willing to give at this point). They may not reply, of course….

  37. Sailseeker Says:

    Hi All,

    I first received the book some time ago and was intrigued but did little about it. I came across your creative interpretations on the same day I received a follow up message from the translator (or so he claimed). Coincidence or what? He also wrote, “I try to lead a decent, responsible life and the last thing I would want is to be reminded that I was the one who found the book you hold in your hand”…maybe we should respect this wish… Perhaps an oblique reply to the cane toad?

  38. Fred Cummins Says:

    I got it too. I studied at Indiana University in the early 90´s and took a class with Doug Hofstadter, who I also knew slightly beyond that. I have mentioned his influence on my ideas on the web. I´m a practicing cognitive scientist, and have no religious affiliation though I have expressed my abiding interest in Eastern contemplative traditions.

  39. Stefan Says:

    Hi Cane Toad:

    I may have followed that lead already. Is this based on the Stockholm library? You said you e-mailed the person to Check, are you Sure you are Linked to the right one?

  40. david Says:

    I got this package too. One thing crazy about it, is that it was actually addressed to Jose Arguelles. From the foundation for the law of time. I just assumed that it was a marketing ploy for another book coming out. hence the tell you more when i return.

    Is something we have in common have anything to do with the Mayan Calendar?

  41. the cane toad Says:

    Hi Stefan,

    Since the author is, I’m sure, monitoring this blog, I’d prefer to take this conversation offline. Email me at timro21@gmail.com if you want to know more.

  42. Bob Cousins Says:

    Video link http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4810306213580013228

    Despite being fan of Hofstadter, Adams and an atheist, I am disappointed not to have received this book.

    As far as I can tell, the book + mailing is just the work of a religious loony. It could possibly be an ineffective ruse to trap intellectuals into religion, but I think unlikely.

  43. Ironwolf Says:

    Cane Toad,

    What difference does it make whether the author reads our conversation? Is there some dreadful conspiracy you’ve uncovered that we’re better off not knowing about?

  44. the cane toad Says:

    Hi Ironwolf,

    Yes, the way I figure it, it’s like Big Brother. We’re all killed off one by one, and the last one surviving gets control of Google.
    :-)

  45. Ramin Says:

    Dear All.

    There are three questions regarding the book: Who wrote/sent the book? Why are we selected? and What does the book say.

    Most of the discussion thus far has been related to the first two questions and there is very little about the last one. Hasn’t anybody found anything new in the book or followed any of the leads that are mentioned in the book, e.g. has anyone read any of the texts cited there and found anything revealing something?

  46. seleya Says:

    I have also received the book. I am an astrophysicist, and have no interest in religion (and have no connection to Hofstadter). I was wondering if everyone has different cut out words in their copies of the book. I have only one cut out word, and a reference by Stefan above to cut out WORDS piqued my curiosity.

  47. misteraitch Says:

    Anyone who’s interested in taking a look at the Swedish version of this book, Varat eller Intet can see a PDF version of it here.

  48. misteraitch Says:

    I didn’t see any words cut out in this copy, by the way.

  49. William Sims Bainbridge Says:

    I just got my copy, and recognized the references from the book people note on this blog, suggesting there is some cultural commonality to us. I am in human-centered computing at the National Science Foundation, and have published extensively on religion. I immediately sent a message to a Joe K whom I know, and who would be quite capable of creating this, although the theory that this is some kind of viral religious activity seems plausible. Except for page 20, the content does not look religious to me at all, however. Conan Doyle tried to find scientific truth in spiritualism, and the tone of the book is existentialist. I might have expected to see Zen references, but I have not yet discerned any. Religion aside, I must say I tend to agree with the perspective expressed by Joe K!

  50. seleya Says:

    Going on the theory that this represents a puzzle to be solved, rather than religious activity, if different people have different words cut out of their copy, perhaps we have to solve and exchange our cut out words for the puzzle to be solved.

  51. muriloq Says:

    Seleya: it seems that all books have the same words missing. If you place the Hofstadter’s letter behind the page, aligning the bottom, you’ll find the missing words (”faith and choice”).

  52. the cane toad Says:

    Professor Doug Hofstadter has very kindly replied to my email. I hope he will not mind me quoting the relevant part of his response:
    “I have nothing whatsoever to do with the book, in any way, shape, or form. Its author is a Swedish psychiatrist (I believe that’s his profession, anyway), and for his own very personal reasons, he undertook to write this book and to contact me many many times (I replied extremely minimally one time about two years ago) and then to print it and distribute it all over the place. I have no idea what the book is about or why he’s doing all this.”

  53. Stefan Says:

    In the Sweedish copy posted above (thanks for the link), the missing words are not missing, and the words are: “da’tid och framtid”. I think these are “past” and “future”, which I always considered to be opposite directions within the same dimension…then again it makes at least as much sense as “faith and choice”.

    The video link was fantastic BTW (and I was expecting a Rick-roll). Who made that?

    -Stefan

  54. Fred Says:

    Interestingly, I was at a meeting with some colleagues in Heathrow airport yesterday, and over drinks afterwards I mentioned the book, and one other person there had received one. Did any of the recipients ever meet any other one in the flesh? I thought it was a neat coincidence. Wonder how many have been distributed.

  55. muriloq Says:

    Fred: Ben Gortzel (an American AI researcher) told me he also received a copy of the book. I worked in many of his projects, and we published a few papers together; he visited me during his last trip to Brazil a few weeks ago, when I mentioned the book to him…

  56. the cane toad Says:

    OK, I now admit that my claim that we were being head-hunted was based on pure game theory.

    If I predicted fruitcake, and the originator was indeed a fruitcake, I gain nothing.
    If I predicted fruitcake, and the originator turned out to be a genuine mover-and-shaker, I gain nothing.
    If I predicted genuine mover-and-shaker, and the originator turned out to be a fruitcake, I gain nothing.
    If I predicted genuine mover-and-shaker, and the originator was indeed a genuine mover-and-shaker, then who knows?

    Hence the prediction.

    Ah well, such is life. It’s a bit like a box of chocolates.

  57. Joanna Bryson Says:

    Hi –

    I got this book last summer & spent a little while with Google until I found someone who wrote the same way & then stuck it on my shelf and largely forgot about it. One difference was that my envelope said “Will tell you more when I visit in September”, which worried me a bit since it was posted to my office in Bath, but I was (& am) on sabbatical in Vienna.

    Anyway, Fred Cummings & I were in a pub & he started talking about this book & this website. I can’t actually read the main content of this website, but anyway, for the record, here’s the guy I decided was the author:

    Willard van de Bogart
    http://www.earthportals.com/Portal_Messenger/willard.html

    I think he’s currently actually in Thailand. But some of his older writings from a few years ago sound a lot like the book (& obviously use some of the same keywords :-)

  58. Joanna Bryson Says:

    PS I assumed at the time the author found me via Susan Blackmore’s list of people who research memetics. I’m not sure why, maybe because of the Zen thing. Been a while since I read the book!

    http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/memetics/people.htm

  59. David C Says:

    I received the book several weeks ago with the same message in the corner. I flipped through it when it arrived but did not read it.

    I describe myself as a social philosopher. I completed a dissertation on the meaning of community using Niklas Luhmann’s theory of self-referential social systems. I think this, or parts thereof, is what links me to others on the book distribution list.

    I have a website and checked the search strings people used to find it/me during October and November. Several of the search strings mention symbolic interaction and complexity. The most interesting to me (for various reasons), and perhaps most relevant to this group, is “according to symbolic interactionists what is meaning.”

    I really enjoy Douglas Adams’ work, and just happened to re-watch the old BBC television version of Hitchhikers Guide the other day, before finding this blog.

    About me…I am an Assistant Professor in the School of Environmental Planning at the University of Northern British Columbia, located in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.

  60. Rob Carlson Says:

    Well, I’ve got one too, now. It is postmarked 21 Dec 2008 in Goeteborg.

    To complicate your analysis of the affair I offer this: I am a physicist working in biology. I am mostly a technology developer/inventor. I left the UW a couple of years ago to finish writing a book and launch a start-up. Long, long ago I did neurophysics in blowflies. During a very slow week a couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about “Cosmological Eschatology”, but that is as close to AI and philosophy as it gets.

    I’ve no insight as to what the hell is going on.

  61. Darkwing Says:

    I was recently living in Indiana, and I am a computer scientist.

    I don’t understand why the sender would have spent so much time to find out our private mail addresses. It seems to be a lot of menial work.

    Or more plausibly, we might be the people who just come up as results on a search query. My resume is online, and the address on the envelope is only listed in that resume.

    I suggest one of the search terms is “cognitive science” or “philosophy of mind”.

    The sender is probably trying his/her skills in “memetic engineering”. Well good luck to you in your next project. You were able to connect us somehow, good for you. I hope you stick to book marketing, and don’t use it for an evil purpose next time.

  62. Philip Nel Says:

    I received one today, postmarked 30 Dec. in Goteborg. I’m a Professor of English and Director of the Program in Children’s Literature at Kansas State University. The package — which is in all respects like the one described (including the “Will tell you more when I return!”, the beautifully produced little book, the letter to Hofstadter) — was sent to my office address, which is fairly easy to find on-line.

    Why was it sent to me? I’m not sure. My latest book is Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature (co-edited with Julia Mickenberg, a professor of American Studies at U Texas at Austin) was published in November, but I’m probably best known for my two books on Dr. Seuss: The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats (2007) and Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004). Honestly, when receiving it, my first thought was that it was sent by a friend who knew my work on postmodern fiction — I’ve published five articles on novelist Don DeLillo. That said, the format of the book reminds me more of one of Borges’ experiments, and its arrival suggests a plot device from a Paul Auster novel. That and the Joe K reference (to Josef K, the protagonist of Kafka’s The Trial) confirms the interpretation — posed by some here — that the book is a puzzle. However, if it is a puzzle like those found in the works of Borges, DeLillo, Auster, and Kafka, then there may be no clear answer. Indeed, there may be only paradoxes and contradictory solutions, none of which fully solve the mystery.

    For those (like Ironwolf) who theorize that the book is a Christian allegory, I suppose it’s possible that I received the book because of my public support of The Golden Compass film:
    * Open letter to the editors of Snopes.com, 31 Oct. 2007 http://www.k-state.edu/english/nelp/pullman_letter.html
    * Lynn Neary, “Religious Groups Question Direction of ‘Compass,’” Morning Edition. National Public Radio. 7 Dec. 2007: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16996417
    Or it’s possible that my work on Harry Potter made me a candidate to receive the book. In the U.S., at least, some conservative Christians have attacked the Potter series as anti-Christian.

    Really, I’ve no idea why the package was sent to me. I’m grateful to Muriloq for starting this thread and to all who have posted before me. It’s good to know that I’m not alone in receiving this mysterious package! So, for sharing your experiences, thanks all!

  63. marsha Says:

    Did any of you receive the book at your home? Or did you each receive the book through the faculty/university where you work/study? This all seems geared towards academics in math or philosophy or religion or lit. I’m creeped.

  64. Paramita Says:

    I have also received the book in exactly the same way, at my office address. I am an Astrophysicist doing academic research at Univ. Laval, Canada. Years before I obtained a degree in Electronics Engineering. My office contact is public online in my website or through the Univ. website. The sender could have gotten it either way.
    I have no relation whatsoever with AI or philosophy, did not even hear about “Gödel, Escher, Bach” or “Prof. Douglas Hofstadter” before. My religious views are nowhere public.
    So I have no idea why a book with such a content would be sent to me.

    Browsing the previous entries, it seems that most of the people who received this are computer scientists / philosophers, and there are few physicists / professionals in other branches. Availability of the contact address through the internet seems like another criterion. It would be interesting to know if there is a receiver whose mailing address is not public / online. Also it does seem targeted to intellectuals / academicians.

    Reading the book, there is a religious undertone, but it has been presented in a very intellectual way. Starting from the method of sending, the front & back cover of the book, the letter inside and the text — I found all the presentation excellent !

    Whoever the sender is, no doubt that person has substantial time and money to go through all the trouble of finding our addresses and posting the book to us. (Seems like it has been sent to several countries of the world).
    Picking academicians from corners of the world and sending them some strangeness, does it sound like an effective way of promoting a cause ?
    When it is almost obvious that busy professionals are so involved in their daily work, the book will be least remembered after few days / weeks.

    More than who sent it and how they got our contacts, I wish we could figure out the PURPOSE of this (if there are any, other than freaking us out!).

    Thanks to all for writing in this blog!

  65. colin koopman Says:

    I received the book last November at my campus office — though the book was addressed to the wrong campus mail stop (to a building where I have never had an office though I believe a research institute I am affiliated with was housed there at the time). I brought it home where it landed in the ever-growing list of books to read. There it sat over the past few months — I’ve been working on my own ms.. This morning I finally pulled it out of the pile.

    Not knowing what to do with it, I thought I would search around for others who received it.

    I work in philosophy. But I have never worked in cog sci or phil mind. I mostly work in political philosophy. My most recent work is on Foucault, who is of course mentioned in the book.

    As for the question in which most recipients seem interested: I am not sure that there are any commonalities among all of us who have received the book, though I suppose it’s normal to search for a thread that ties us all together. We are a disparate bunch. My guess is that the author/sender spends a good amount of time rooting around on the web consulting research on various topics on which they are interested. Over time the author has come across all of our work and found it interesting or useful or inspiring in some respect.

    I suspect the only thing we all have in common, unsurprisingly, is that we all received this book (well to be precise: we are all members of homo sapiens, we all probably have two eyes, and we may all be academics etc.). I detect no “hidden pattern”.

    I am, however, still curious about the “why” question.

    Perhaps we will receive another installment soon.

  66. Xammie Says:

    I think this should be noted as an idea as to why the author name is stated as Joe K.

    The main character in this book is named Joseph Knecht.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game

    It was published in Switzerland.

    I’m sure if I actually read the manuscript you all received and this book… there would be much found to correspond.

    ———

    Hi. I’m Artemis. I’m 21. I grew up in Bloomington, IN. I was looking at old friends pages I hadnt talked to in years… and found a note on finding a bundle of these books in a package by a railroad. The video I watched is on this page already.

    I have no degrees yet. I’m just a bright mind who stumbled on this.

    I’ll tell you more as I figure it out.

    OH! And I should state… just because there are religious “ideas” in the manuscript… does not mean it is a religious document. Humans… we naturally are searching for questions and answers… and until science really advanced… they only came in the form of religion. Just a thought.

  67. Xammie Says:

    Just take a click: http://www.corewave.com/index.htmlx

    Implementation of the idea of a Bead Game.

  68. Leviticus P Shand Says:

    Hey ppl. I’m the student who found that bundle of packages in Bloomington. Here’s a story I wrote for a Creative Nonfiction class:

    http://levishand.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/a-tenuous-chain/

    The video was filmed by my friend Andrew, a graduate student in IU’s Geology program. I just found out that others had received books last week. I think I might have been the first to bring this to Dr. Hofstadter’s attention, and it sounds like this is getting tiresome for him! Whatever the case, thank you Murilo for spending time with this.

    Best,

    Levi

  69. the cane toad Says:

    Levi Shand…Vile Hands….Evil Hands….Live Hands….

    The Glass Bead Game is my favourite novel. But only a selected few know this. Xammie says “Hi. I’m Artemis”. Explains it all, really.

    Per, are you still blocking me?

  70. Megan Says:

    I’ll go for “Live Hands”

  71. Kris Says:

    A couple of days ago I got one too (sent to my office), and have been mystified since! At first I thought a friend a sent it to me, but couldn’t figure out who it was. Really interesting (and a bit creepy) that all of you got it, too!
    I am a philosopher, too (female btw), working in philosophy of mind, and consider myself an atheist (browsing through the book it didn’t strike me as being particularly religious, though). But I neither have a blog nor a website and have never published on Hofstädter’s work, so I wonder how the sender found me…

  72. dee Says:

    hi guys,
    i have also received the book, presumably because i was involved in writing about free will in neuroscience.
    i am wondering if this may be a way of making lots of different kinds of experts think about an interesting problem?
    dee

  73. Andrea Says:

    Hi everyone,
    I got one too. I’m a neuroscientist and psychologist, but the closest I’ve come to anything that I perceive to be even faintly relevant is a single paper on the neuroscience of personhood attribution (and then only very tangentially), but it was picked up by some blogs, so maybe a dedicated websurfer would have found it. I’m also female, btw, to address a question raised above. Received at my (easily available) campus address, also postmarked Goteborg (where I actually have a friend and colleague, but I’m quite sure she didn’t send it), and same “will tell you more when I return” in place of return address.

    Glad to have found this page, and will follow the discussion, but otherwise not particularly interested in pursuing the puzzle (if there is one)…

  74. Ace Kittyhawk Says:

    Just got the same today. Sent to my old work address (I still have an office there but not for very long).

    Neuroscientist with a little work on CS/AI/Phil of Mind about a decade ago.

    I do have a website not a blog…

    Will keep following what happens next I suppose.

  75. the cane toad Says:

    I suspect rather than there being a pool of recipients, it is a chain. Each recipient is somehow connected to the next.

  76. Z. Fitz Says:

    I received this at my office yesterday (an easy-to-find address). I have B.S. in EECS from Berkeley (but that’s it), have no website or blog, and don’t publish anything. If you Google me, you don’t get much. I do work in technology in San Francisco. I’m not religious, I’m not a neuroscientist, I don’t work in AI. I do, however, like games and RPGs, so I thought this was perhaps an ARG from a friend.

  77. Z. Fitz Says:

    Addendum: If I place the letter behind the page with the hole, “my” words are “faith and choice.”

  78. enyhus Says:

    I received the book a few days ago just as everyone else described.

    I am a woman, graduate student in Cognitive Neuroscience. I have published and have a website discussing Cognitive Neuroscience. But I have never written about religion, AI, or the works of Escher, Hofstadter, Adams. Coincidentally, I just had a discussion with an old friend about consciousness and he suggested I read “Godel, Escher, Bach” by Hofstadter. The book was already in the mail when I got this suggestion.

  79. Alvaro M Says:

    In response to Ramin I can report on some research I did on the 25 quotations that seem to have inspired the author to produce the book.

    Could these be the ones:
    http://levishand.com/2009/05/04/the-book/

  80. Jon Ronson Says:

    Hello everyone,

    I’m a UK journalist and author - I work for The Guardian, Channel 4 television and the BBC, and my various books can be read about on my website, jonronson.com. I’ve been approached by someone who has been sent Being or Nothingness to try and solve this wonderful, fascinating, unsettling mystery once and for all!

    I would therefore love to talk with anyone who has received it, whether you’ve done any investigating about it’s source or not.

    It would be great to hear from you at jonronson@mac.com

    With very best wishes

    Jon Ronson

  81. Alvaro M Says:

    Levi Shand did it again:
    http://levishand.com/2009/06/05/we-turned-round-and-saw-a-puny-little-mouse/

  82. asdf Says:

    received today at academic address. postmarked 6-4-09.
    i’m an unpublished academic. not yet done with phd.
    new wave of mailings.

  83. Alvaro M Says:

    More info on how the books were found, with videoclip:
    http://levishand.com/2009/06/08/kevins-story/

  84. asdf Says:

    Academics who have been receiving this mailing, are you also listed on academia.edu?

    I’m trying to figure out how our names and addresses are being collected.

  85. njtt Says:

    You can add me as another data point. I received a copy a couple of days ago. The package was much the same as everybody else’s, with the message, “I will tell you more when I return,” and Swedish postage stamps. I am a philosopher of cognitive science, and I do have my own web site. The address used could have been found there by a determined searcher, but it is actually a home address and the sender appears to have believed that it is a university address. Another possible source for the address might be the American Philosophical Association membership list (I do not think these are available on the open web, but they are published in print every year, and can probably be accessed online by other members).

    I have just noticed an edge of paper in front of the main title page, as if there had been another page there that was cut out. Perhaps this is just an artefact of binding, but, given everything else, such as the page with the hole, it might be meant to mean something. Starting from the front, I have the black end-paper with the letter to Hofstadter attached to it, then a page with the Escher drawing, followed by this edge and then the main title page. Is that the same for everyone?

    With regard to the cut-out, I also see “faith and choice” if I align the bottom of the Hofstadter letter with the bottom of the page, but if I align the tops instead I see “a copy without.” Perhaps the alignment isn’t quite so good, but that for “faith and choice” is not perfect (and neither make much sense in the context of the text on the page).

    I have no connection with Hofstadter (well, I know David Chalmers, who was student of his, but that is it), and I have never published anything referring to Hofstadter (although I did make a passing mention of him in my doctoral thesis, which is on my site), or Douglas Adams or any of the other people that “Joe K” seems interested in. I am an atheist, but generally keep my religious opinions to myself: I am pretty sure there is no hint of that on my own web site, although if you were to scour old usenet postings or comments on other people’s blogs you might be able to figure it out.

    Levi Shand does not make it entirely clear in his postings here, but, if you look at his blog, he appears to be a recent graduate of Indiana University. The several copies of the book that he says were found by his friend Kevin seem to be the only ones we know of that were not mailed to someone individually, and it appears that they were found close to the UI campus, where Hofstadter is a professor. That seems to be a least weak circumstantial evidence that Hofstadter himself, despite his denials, is the source of this. Perhaps these were copies that he was about to ship off in bulk to a confederate in Sweden for mailing (I see no real evidence that the book was actually printed in Sweden).

    Does anyone know anything about Hofstadter’s religious views? Come to that, does anyone know him well enough to say whether he is seriously eccentric? “Gödel, Escher, Bach” certainly seems like the work of someone who is both brilliant and loopy (pun intended).

    At the end of the day, though, I guess I still lean toward the theory that it is all the work of some wealthy Swedish nutcase.

  86. Alvaro M Says:

    “Adventures of the Sussex Vampire”, the Sherlock Holmes story where The Giant Rat of Sumatra is mentioned, one of Conan Doyle´s best!

    Does it solve the mystery?

    Not at all, but I have a feeling that there are clues to be found for the meticulous reader:
    http://levishand.com/2009/06/19/adventure-of-the-sussex-vampire/

  87. Michael Silberstein Says:

    I received BON today just as others have described. I am a philosopher of cognitive science and a philosopher of physics, and GEB played a big part in my career choice. Indeed, I was very weirded out by BON because in grad school I had a SLEP seminar with Douglas Hofstadter (DH)–1989; I still have my signed copy of GEB which has an inspiring and flattering inscription as well. It gets weirder though. I am embarrassed to admit that in a PI-like state as an undergraduate I wrote an absurdly long tomb on GEB as a Glass Bead Game (GBG) complete with suggestions for how to formalize such a game–talk about missing the point of Hesse’s book! Flashforward to 1989 where I inexplicably discussed this syncretic bit of juvenalia with DH, unsurprisingly, he wasn’t very moved. If it weren’t for the christian angle of BON I might suspect that BON is to DH what leaving the GBG was to JK. Maybe this is DH way of saying: “all that I have written seems like straw to me” and the christian twist as such is just to throw us off the scent. If so, I hope DH doesn’t decide to take any long swims anytime soon. I also hope some small portion of what we children of GEB produce isn’t merely just scholastic garbage; I still adore GEB and GBG, I hope I feel that way about ANY of my work in the future. How’s that for a secular prayer.

  88. Fedneurfked Says:

    Thanx for the post.

  89. the cane toad Says:

    http://www.forward.com/articles/137690/

  90. A Tenuous Chain Broken (reprise) | La Luna y su Agua Says:

    [...] http://muriloq.com/blog/2008/09/being-or-nothingness-marketing-viral-bizarro/ [...]

  91. the cane toad Says:

    But the burr, to be effective, must have spines of sufficient strength, integrity, and quality that attractants do not quickly fall away…

  92. WT Says:

    Has anyone received a copy of the “collector’s edition” yet?

  93. Fred Cummins Says:

    Yep. Came today. Has anyone opened the seal? Is the text the same? I haven’t had time to consider this properly. 2,500 signed copies. I don’t think this is viral marketing. The facsimile is for sale: http://www.atremi.se/bok.php?id=305&page=index2.php

  94. muriloq Says:

    My office isn’t at the same address anymore, so probably if someone sent a copy I won’t be able to get it.

  95. Dorothea Barrett Says:

    I received the first BorN book in May 2009 at one of my two academic addresses. Last Friday (29/3/2013) I received a second book. I tore the paper but not the plastic padding inside. Through the plastic, I could see that it is a different book, also entitled Being or Nothingness. On the cover a cartoon of the Rat (character from the first BorN book). In the speech-cloud, “Don’t panic!”

  96. Stefan Says:

    Got my collector’s edition today. So awesome! I am number 0633. -Stefan

  97. Stefan Says:

    Special edition comes in an envelope with a stamp “Constructor Theory” in the top left corner, a butterfly (Monarch?) sticker and lots of Swedish stamps (including one identical to that on the original mailing - osprey?). My address was updated to include my new job title, the renaming of the unit that I work in and a different but equivalent address. The handwriting looks like it might be a bit different.

    Inside the envelope is a box with text Being or Nothingness Collector’s Edition and a picture of a rat with a “Don’t panic!” speech bubble. The back of the box contains the text “To keep your copy in pristine condition you may wish to retain the integrity of the seal and await the release of a facsimile of the of the Collector’s Edition. Tetelestai - March 21, 2013.” Tetelestai - Gr. “it is finished”. A card is contained in a transparent sleeve, a fixed to the back of the box. It has a number, and my name and depicts the same butterfly as the outside of the envelope, but with a shadow.

    Inside is the book. The book is wrapped in a sleeve with openings at the top and bottom. There is a seal with the initial JK and a thing black thread that covers the top and bottom openings in the sleeve. The front contains the title, author, “Collector’s edition” and the text “2.500 numbered copies - cut and ready, stamped and sealed. Will the mystery dissolve or the plot thicken? Break the last seal to find out!

    I was able to slide the thread to one side and release the book.

    The book is identical to the one that I received in the original mailing. The Escher print on the first page has my name written above it (sadly it was misspelt and a corrective tape was used to correct it. p. 8 has a stamp where the book number is recorded and the words “of 2.500 numbered copies”. p. 9 has a 1 Kroner stamp in the top right corner. p. 10 has a 2 Kroner stamp in the top right corner. p. 11 has a 1 Kroner stamp in the top right corner. p. 14 contains a handwritten letter “I” that lines up with the centre of the hole in the previous page.

    -S

  98. Dorothea Barrett Says:

    I got another Swedish package today (I got on in 2009 and another last week). This one contains a box. I haven’t opened the box…

  99. Stefan Says:

    Today received the “Facsimile” of the Collector’s edition. It arrived just like the collector’s edition the day before with the following exceptions: No butterfly sticker on the envelope, no “Constructor Theory” stamp on the envelope. Additional stamp with the rat standing on the word “BORN”. No clear envelope with card with my name—instead a picture of a similar car Number 0027 and the name “Alvar Ellegard”. ISBN Number and barcode on back of box. Front of box contains the word “Facsimile”. The sleeve: looks the same but instead of seal and string, it has a picture of the seal and the string, different ISBN number on sleeve. The book inside looks the same except that the name is “Alvar Ellegard” and the number on page 8 is 0027. The “I” looks a little bit different.

    -S

  100. Fred Cummins Says:

    So we are in exalted company. The Dalai Lama, Stephen Fry, John Cleese, Leonard Cohen and the Emeritus pope on the plus side. Tony Blair, Condy Rice and Warren Buffet on the sinister bank. I’m chuffed. Let’s converge on a common platform to discuss.

    –Fred (#687, and UCD, not UCSD. Several typos).

  101. Stefan Says:

    @Fred: How do you know about what company we are in? -Stefan

  102. Fred Cummins Says:

    Did you not get the next volume: a list of the first 700 recipients. As well as notable neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, philosophers, and A-list celebs (Bob Dylan! Ricky Gervais!!) it includes such ugly types as the Unabomber, and Geert Wilders, the nasty Dutch politician. Also Noam Chomsky, heads of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Dan Brown, David Hockney, Steve Hawking, Pope Emeritus Ratzinger, Mikhael Gorbachev, and on and on and on. Would actually make a good dinner party.

  103. Dorothea Barrett Says:

    I got all three packages and - after some hesitation - opened them. The “Recipients of Being or Nothingness” volume is fascinating, but still the questions remain: who did this? why? how were we chosen? Up until last week, if asked, I would have said I had nothing in common with Pope Benedict or the Dalai Lama…

  104. Stefan Says:

    Got the “Recipients…” book today. In before Zuckerberg (ha ha)!

  105. Paul Says:

    There’s a website now, too.

    http://beaconoftherationalnow.com/

    http://nobodysfriend.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/beacon-of-rational-now.html

  106. Stefan Says:

    Domain is registered to a photographer named Megan in Kansas.

  107. Dorothea Barrett Says:

    Today I received a much smaller envelope from the same sender, postmarked 14 April. Has anyone else received this? I haven’t opened it.

  108. muriloq Says:

    My Collector’s edition was sent to my old office, as I suspected; but today someone sent me an email talking about the book, and I went there to get it! I am number 0684. :-)

  109. Dobster Says:

    I’ve located the publisher, same as the original Swedish version - http://www.atremi.se. Search the title (you may have to translate the web page), and you’ll see the “Final Edition”, “Collector’s Edition”, and “Facsimile” listed for sale. The “Collector’s Edition” is sold out. Looks like this little “Mom & Pop” publishing shop is at least the source of the production copies.

  110. Geordie Says:

    So I got two copies today, one addressed to me (0977) and one belonging to Alvar Ellegard (0027), who according to wikipedia died in 2008. No return address but appears to be from Goteborg Sweden. Handwritten on the back of the envelope ‘Just thought you might appreciate this!’.

  111. David Says:

    Mystery solved.

    In Swedish:
    http://www.metro.se/jacks-internet/jakten-pa-joe-k/EVHngq!XwybXGNbiOBP6/

    Google translated:
    https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=sv&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=sv&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.metro.se%2Fjacks-internet%2Fjakten-pa-joe-k%2FEVHngq%21XwybXGNbiOBP6%2F&edit-text=

  112. muriloq Says:

    I just read the article (translated by Google) and I don’t think it “solves the mistery”… We still don’t have an authoritative answer about what the supposed “message” is, for example. :-)

  113. muriloq Says:

    BTW, the first chapter of “The Psychopath Test”, by Jon Ronson, which is about the book, can be read on-line here:
    http://www.picador.com/blog/june-2011/read-chapter-one-of-the-psychopath-test

  114. muriloq Says:

    And the version published in English (thanks Jack Werner):

    http://www.metro.se/jacks-internet/searching-for-joe-k/EVHngr!rdfNhdOikR2Cc/

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