Rational Numbers has been inspired and influenced by the work and ideas of many people, most significantly:
Douglas R. Hofstadter – His work is on consciousness, analogy and patterns, creativity and discovery, but he is perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. When I was perhaps ten or twelve I discovered Gödel, Escher, Bach on my parents’ bookshelf and became fascinated with all the Escher prints in it. A few years later I read all the dialogs and fell in love with those as well. Later, in high school, I was finally ready to digest the rest of the book. I have no doubt that this strongly influenced my interest in science and philosophy today. His later works also deserve mention, especially Metamagical Themas and The Mind’s I (with Daniel Dennett).
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – Known for their Nobel prize-winning work in psychology, these cognitive scientists studied common errors in human reasoning, founding the heuristics and biases project in experimental psychology. Through their work we have been able to understand how our understanding of the world and our ability to make rational decisions are affected by common bugs in human reasoning. A collection of their academic work, Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases is a classic in the field. Kahneman’s 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow is an excellent popular summary of their work.
Edwin T. Jaynes – His work on probability theory and statistical inference is referred to in his obituary as a “vastly influential synthesis of the ideas and results of Laplace, Bayes, Jeffreys, Cox, and Shannon into a consistent modern framework of probabilistic reasoning”. Published posthumously in 2003, Jaynes’ book Probability Theory: The Logic of Science has been hugely influential, and is probably the single best textbook I’ve ever read on any subject.
Daniel C. Dennett – Dennett is best known for his ideas about consciousness, free will and determinism, his advocacy of secular humanism, and his insightful “tools for thinking” (such as intuition pumps, skyhooks and cranes). His works that have most strongly influenced my thinking include The Mind’s I (with Douglas Hofstadter), Consciousness Explained, and Freedom Evolves.
Judea Pearl – Pearl is best known for his work on Bayesian networks and belief propagation, for which he was awarded the 2011 ACM Turing award. According to the Association for Computing Machinery, “Dr. Pearl’s ideas have revolutionized the understanding of causality in statistics, psychology, medicine and the social sciences.” His book Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference contains some of the most profound insights into how knowledge and reasoning work that I have ever encountered.
Also deserving mention: Pierre-Simon Laplace, David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, Alfred Korzybski, Richard Cox, S. I. Hayakawa, Claude Shannon, Richard P. Feynman, R. M. Hare, John Rawls, Robert Pirsig, Hugh Everett, Carl Sagan, Jonathan Baron, Peter Singer, Carol Cleland, Keith Stanovich, Nassim Taleb, and David MacKay.
Thanks also to:
Stan Persky – I studied philosophy with Stan at Capilano University. Thank you for introducing me to some of the great thinkers of philosophy, and to the ideas of morality, ethics, metaphysics and epistemology.
Göran Fernlund – My Ph.D supervisor at the University of British Columbia. Thanks for the years of wisdom, guidance and advice you’ve given me, as well as a few wonderful conversations about probability theory we’ve had in taxi cabs and airports.
Thanks to all the people, too numerous to name here, for many thousands of enjoyable conversations about science, philosophy and human rationality. You know who you are. Finally, thanks to the people with whom I most profoundly disagree for what you have taught me about the incredible variety of ways that people think. You also know who you are.