From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
A New Kind of Science

May 20, 2002 1:06 PM

Steven Levy talks to Stephen Wolfram about A New Kind of Science.

I just ordered the book, and can't wait to read it. I imagine it will take a very long time, and a lot of effort, but I've got plenty of that. Why am I excited? A snippet from Levy's Wired cover story:

Wolfram finds an exception to the second law of thermodynamics; conjectures why extraterrestrials might be communicating with us in messages we can't perceive; explains seeming randomness in financial markets; defines randomness; elaborates on why the "apparent freedom of human will" is so convincing; reconstructs the foundations of mathematics; devises a new way to perform encryption; insists that Darwinian natural selection is an overrated component in evolution; and, oh, theorizes that there's a "definite ultimate model for the universe." What might this be? The mother of all rules; a single, simple "ultimate rule" that computes everything from quantum physics to reality television.

"You might think machines can't capture nature because these programs are too simple," Wolfram says. "But the principle of computational equivalence says that's just not true. These programs can do all the stuff that happens in nature." By that reasoning, no barriers exist to prevent machines from thinking as humans do. "I have little doubt," he writes, "that within a matter of a few decades what I have done will have led to some dramatic changes in the foundations of technology - and in our basic ability to take what the universe provides and apply it for our own human purposes."


More from the archive in Science.

A New Kind of Science (05.20.2002)

Next Entry: Internet Radio Stay of Execution (05.21.2002)
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