Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind Of Science: Computing A Theory Of Everything
#1
I was made aware of Stephen Wolfram and his work through Dr. Wadhawan's articles. Here's his latest TED talk. Be prepared to be blown away!



And here's the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_wolfram...thing.html
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
The Wolfram Alpha project is quite interesting. In the future, I can see people wearing implants from which they can ask for some information and get the answer delivered instantly. That would eliminate much of the drudgery that is today's school system. We would no longer need to memorize information or solve similar types of equations again and again. It will suffice to learn how to query the implant and use the brain's power for more important stuff like finding patterns and relationships in the data.
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#3
(29-Apr-2010, 08:03 PM)Lije Wrote: In the future, I can see people wearing implants from which they can ask for some information and get the answer delivered instantly.

Yes, this technology is not that far away, actually. I predict that we'll see prototypes within the next 20 years. Initially it will probably be very sense-driven, meaning that the data will be directed to the sense organs, but as the workings of the brain are slowly unraveled, and new adaptive paradigms in computing are opened up to us, we could start seeing technology that facilitates direct exchange of data between machine and brain tissue.

Sounds pretty crazy just speculating about it!
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
Ajita, I haven't seen the vid, but lemme jump the gun here, you may have already read this but here goes: http://chem.tufts.edu/science/Shermer/E-...lfram.html

All I know about Wolfram is that he designed mathematica and was a child prodigy!
Murthy

"Credulity kills" -- Carl Sagan
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#5
WolframAlpha is one of my fav sites. I've seen the video as well but haven't found the book anywhere in Kolkata. :(
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#6
I saw the TED talk a while back and was almost about to buy the book on flipkart, when I saw reviewers on amazon slam the book. The skeptics article posted by murthymail really adds to Wolfram's incredibility (I mean non-credibility Laugh).

@natselrox: The book may not be available in normal bookstores, but it can be got online, like from flipkart or pustak. It costs over 1.5K INR and has to be imported. No Indian editions because Wolfram is a control freak!
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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#7
I've just finished reading the book and some of the criticism. Very breifly, here's how I see it.

There is very little that you can say is absolutely wrong (if anything at all) in Wolfram's ideas. But if you read the book, there are plenty of ideas in it that you will absolutely agree must be right.

The foundation of the science behind Wolfram Alpha and Mathematica is the idea that the universe is a computational machine. Based on a series of simple rules, enormous complexity is generated (he does't say if the universe works guided by these simple rules). In the book Wolfram talks about how much new mathematics becomes possible as our computation power increases. He estimates that the majority of the knowledge that we can gain from the universe lies hidden to us because of our poor mathematics.

Of course, there is good reason why many scientists are not thrilled with Wolfram. He is, in many ways, what they all wish they could be. He has his own very successful company (which indirectly works to test his ideas in the real world) and doesn't publish papers or write grants. He doesn't have his ideas scrutinized by his peers and is making grandiose claims about the importance of his work. I think that the grandiose claims are not very relevant, and many scientists resort to some form of it or the other. But it is certainly not in the scientific tradition to act the way Wolfram does in protecting his work from peer review and scientific criticism.

But I think the reason he does as he does is because he really doesn't give a shit about the process. We can all agree that it's bad science protocol, and when he does present his ideas, they can and must be criticized. But Wolfram is absolutely convinced that his ideas would not have come to pass if he had been encumbered by the scientific process. He is genius enough to be right. Already we are starting to see some of his ideas come true. The type of computational complexity modelling developed by Wolfram (and other scientists around the world) is being used in drug design and other molecular level applications. This is only the beginning. As Steven Hawkings said, this century will be the one of complexity science. I think Wolfram is a pioneer in the area, even if he is an arrogant bastard.

I've heard many biologists criticize Wolfram for his portrayal of Natural Selection, but I think most misunderstand what he is saying. I've even heard people think that his ideas are an attack on reductionism. What Wolfram's ideas do is introduce another way of perceiving reality- one that wasn't available to us before modern computing (actually Wolfram is repackaging an idea that has been around for some time, but it is so well thought-out that for all intents and purposes he is introducing something new). Reductionism does not apply across levels of organization that differ functionally (in quality). This difference in quality is an emergent phenomenon that reductionist science cannot transcend, but can be studied using complexity science. Dr. Wadhawan in one of his articles on Nirmukta talks about how complexity science explains much about the evolution of life. This is what Wolfram implies when he talks about the computational nature of biological evolution. Of course, his ideas are too far out for most biologists, who are concerned with questions that lie within the reductionist paradigm and are unable to comprehend the vast amount of information that lies beyond our current understanding of biology.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#8
I think we should take Wolfram seriously. He is a stalwart in complexity science. The problem is that many otherwise good scientists are still not able to come to terms with the reality of emergence in complex systems. Even the second law of thermodynamics is an emergent law: The arrow of time implicit in it is not there in the equations of motion of individual atoms or molecules of a gas. Poor Boltzmann. He gave us the equation S = k log W for entropy. His work was attacked so viciously that he committed suicide. Wolfram may well be another Boltzmann in this context, only far more resourceful and arrogant. There is no danger that HE will commit suicide!
[+] 1 user Likes Vinod Wadhawan's post
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#9
@natselrox: The book may not be available in normal bookstores, but it can be got online, like from flipkart or pustak. It costs over 1.5K INR and has to be imported. No Indian editions because Wolfram is a control freak!


I strongly recommend that you buy this book. Considering its size and production quality, the price is very low! And never even think of hoping for a lower-cost Indian edition. The graphics HAVE to be of such high quality (that is mandatory) that only Wolfram Inc. can do a good job of producing it.
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#10
My son bought this book. I looked through it but didn't get much out of it. It may still be in our house somewhere. In my worldview, biological intelligence is completely different than machine intelligence and that it is a mistake to to confuse one with the other.

I don't know of my followup work on the Wolfram book.
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#11
Sojourner, I don't understand your claim "Biological intelligence is completely different than machine intelligence and that it is a mistake to to confuse one with the other". Can you elaborate more on that?

Ajita, Dr Wadhawan,
I have some queries for you. I went through the TED talk and then the link sent by murthmail. I am absolutely novice in this field and my knowledge in this field is next to nothing, so Sorry in advance if my queries sound stupid.
The link, as per me, had two strong points
1. "Wolfram is just proposing a new kind of computational method, not a new kind of science"
2. "Wolfram's theory lacks explanatory power. Not everything that is useful is explanatory"
What is your take on these?

Doesn't this method sound like a brute force method of figuring out fundamental laws of nature?

Thanks
Kanad
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#12
The discussion on biological and machine intelligence has been split into another thread - http://nirmukta.net/Thread-Is-Biological...telligence
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