Gödel, Escher, Bach Typogenetics/DNA/RNA Flashcards

A way to remember what you have learned

Buried deep within the 700+ pages of Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (GEB) is an excellent standalone introductory exposition of DNA and RNA (that is, basic molecular genetics) using a simplified system he calls Typogenetics. In our view, it’s a great way to learn about this topic for people with a background in computer science or mathematics, and does not require reading any of the earlier parts of the book. We want to raise this part of the book to people’s attention, so we made this website. This website provides digital flashcards for this portion of the book, which will help you better internalize and retain the material. Specifically, it covers Chapter XVI: Self-Ref and Self-Rep, pp. 504–532.

Because GEB is copyrighted, you will have to bring your own copy of the book. But assuming you have a copy, you can collect the cards on this website as you read along. Go to page 504 in GEB (starting at the section heading “Typogenetics”). Read one section at a time, and each time you finish a section, come to this site (or go to Anki, if you chose to download the deck) and review the cards corresponding to that section. In this way, you have a read → review loop that will help you to internalize the material better as you read it for the first time. And because these are flashcards plugged into a spaced repetition system, you will also be able to retain your knowledge long-term!

There are three ways to use this website:

↓ Download Anki deck

If you already use Anki and want to review these flashcards in Anki, this option is for you. Just download the file and then go to Anki and click “Import File” or do File → Import… from the menu bar. The Anki deck features randomly changing typefaces and font sizes to prevent pattern-matching on the appearance of the cards (this can be disabled by editing the card template).

Review cards using Orbit

If you don’t already use Anki and don’t want to install it on your computer, you can review the cards using Orbit, a browser-based spaced repetition system. Review reminders will come in via email. (We won’t have access to your email address, although the person running Orbit will.)

Show me the cards

If you just want to look through all the cards to see what they look like, you can pick this option. If you use a spaced repetition sytem other than Anki or Orbit, you can also go through this page and pick and choose which cards you want to add.

Feature highlights


These flashcards are not low-effort cloze deletions or ChatGPT-generated.

Created from experience

One of us (Issa) has about 5 years of serious Anki prompt-writing experience.

Follows best-practices

The cards follow current best practices for prompts as explained in e.g. Andy Matuschak’s prompt-writing guide.

Flashcards and website created by Issa Rice and Timothy Williams. Have feedback? Create an issue or a pull request. You can also email Issa.