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Author Topic: Heeee's Baaaaack!!! Stephen Wolfram is going to revolutionize everything again.  (Read 2600 times)

40hz

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Ok...the guy who brought us the Wolfram Alpha search engine, and that wonderful book A New Kind of Science, is now about to introduce a new programming language, modestly and creatively named The Wolfram Language.

Here's how he gushes about describes this latest marvel in his blog:

Quote
   
Something Very Big Is Coming: Our Most Important Technology Project Yet
November 13, 2013

Computational knowledge. Symbolic programming. Algorithm automation. Dynamic interactivity. Natural language. Computable documents. The cloud. Connected devices. Symbolic ontology. Algorithm discovery. These are all things we’ve been energetically working on—mostly for years—in the context of Wolfram|Alpha, Mathematica, CDF and so on.

But recently something amazing has happened. We’ve figured out how to take all these threads, and all the technology we’ve built, to create something at a whole different level. The power of what is emerging continues to surprise me. But already I think it’s clear that it’s going to be profoundly important in the technological world, and beyond.

At some level it’s a vast unified web of technology that builds on what we’ve created over the past quarter century. At some level it’s an intellectual structure that actualizes a new computational view of the world. And at some level it’s a practical system and framework that’s going to be a fount of incredibly useful new services and products.

I have to admit I didn’t entirely see it coming. For years I have gradually understood more and more about what the paradigms we’ve created make possible. But what snuck up on me is a breathtaking new level of unification—that lets one begin to see that all the things we’ve achieved in the past 25+ years are just steps on a path to something much bigger and more important.

Something big is coming...

I’m not going to be able to explain everything in this blog post (let’s hope it doesn’t ultimately take something as long as A New Kind of Science to do so!). But I’m excited to begin to share some of what’s been happening. And over the months to come I look forward to describing some of the spectacular things we’re creating—and making them widely available.

It’s hard to foresee the ultimate consequences of what we’re doing. But the beginning is to provide a way to inject sophisticated computation and knowledge into everything—and to make it universally accessible to humans, programs and machines, in a way that lets all of them interact at a vastly richer and higher level than ever before.

A crucial building block of all this is what we’re calling the Wolfram Language.

<more>


I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or ask for some of whatever it is he's drinking or smoking this week...

Oh well...time will tell I suppose. Just like it did before.  ;) ;D

Link to Wolfram's blog article here.


mouser

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I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or ask for some of whatever it is he's drinking or smoking this week...

ditto.

well it will be INTERESTING, that's for sure.  but if it's a new language in the same way that his book was a new kind of science, it basically means we are going to get a reinvention of Perl with new terms for everything.

xtabber

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...well it will be INTERESTING, that's for sure.  but if it's a new language in the same way that his book was a new kind of science, it basically means we are going to get a reinvention of Perl with new terms for everything.

... just wait for the price tag.

40hz

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it basically means we are going to get a reinvention of Perl with new terms for everything.

ROFLMAO!!!

Thx Mouser. That made my day! ;D :Thmbsup:

superboyac

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it basically means we are going to get a reinvention of Perl with new terms for everything.

ROFLMAO!!!

Thx Mouser. That made my day! ;D :Thmbsup:
This guy is such a fascinating character, and obviously not always in a good way.  He sure knows how to market himself.  I can't stand him normally, but then his website really is pretty genius.

TaoPhoenix

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This guy is such a fascinating character, and obviously not always in a good way.  ...  I can't stand him normally, but then his website really is pretty genius.

Prologue: What is his webpage link and why is it genius?

Re: his book "A New Kind of Science", it is kinda neat, and somewhere between "beautiful" per above and Mouser's remark. What I got from it was a metaphor/analogy, that sometimes it just takes "processing" to do something, and that it truly can't be short-circuited.

Very broadly, I think we're in one of those points with the Snowden Theme. The "2nd Term Obama + Snowden" feels different from say 2007.

But it's odd because I think Bradley Manning and/or Julian Assange also had about the same grade of info, but the Powers managed to silence them. But maybe they proto-woke-up the public, like subtle precursors, before Snowden's stuff seems to stick far more.

Looping back: Wolfram - New kind of Science. Sometimes stuff "just needs to be processed".


40hz

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Looping back: Wolfram - New kind of Science. Sometimes stuff "just needs to be processed".


Looping back: Wolfram - New kind of Science...hmm...sometimes it's helpful to read up on what's been happening in your field for the last decade or two instead of wasting time independently rediscovering and re-articulating topics in information science that had already gone mainstream (and been discussed to death) about 10 years before your "new" science opus was published?

Moral: if you're going to lock yourself in an ivory tower - be sure to install a good broadband connection first.

Just sayin' 8)

superboyac

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Looping back: Wolfram - New kind of Science. Sometimes stuff "just needs to be processed".


Looping back: Wolfram - New kind of Science...hmm...sometimes it's helpful to read up on what's been happening in your field for the last decade or two instead of wasting time independently rediscovering and re-articulating topics in information science that had already gone mainstream (and been discussed to death) about 10 years before your "new" science opus was published?

Moral: if you're going to lock yourself in an ivory tower - be sure to install a good broadband connection first.

Just sayin' 8)
Yeah, you said it best.  I couldn't quite figure out the words that best explain why he annoys some people.

regarding the website...I was referring to his wolfram alpha site that is really useful for odd types of searches and questions:
http://www.wolframalpha.com/

40hz

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^My comments were mostly directed towards his book. One of the most frustrating and annoying things I ever tried to read.

There's a one-star review on Amazon by a gentleman named Joe Wiess than matches much of what I was thinking as I read through about 800 of the roughly 1200 pages in Wolfram's massive doorstop.

Quote
When the book came out some non-expert journalists hyped it without knowing its contents. Then cognoscenti had a look at it and recognized it as a rehash of old ideas, plus pretty pictures. And the reviews got worse and worse. As far as I can judge, positive reviews were written only by people without basic CS education and little knowledge of CS history. Some biologists and even a few physicists initially were impressed because to them it really seemed new. Maybe Wolfram's switch from physics to CS explains why he believes his thoughts are radical, not just reinventions of the wheel.

Full text of review here
Quote
The Emperor's New Kind of Clothes, February 28, 2003
By
Joe Weiss - See all my reviews
This review is from: A New Kind of Science (Hardcover)


This review took almost one year. Unlike many previous referees (rank them by Amazon.com's "most helpful" feature) I read all 1197 pages including notes. Just to make sure I won't miss the odd novel insight hidden among a million trivial platitudes.

On page 27 Wolfram explains "probably the single most surprising discovery I have ever made:" a simple program can produce output that seems irregular and complex.

This has been known for six decades. Every computer science (CS) student knows the dovetailer, a very simple 2 line program that systematically lists and executes all possible programs for a universal computersuch as a Turing machine (TM). It computes all computable patterns, including all those in Wolfram's book, embodies the well-known limits of computability, and is basis of uncountable CS exercises.

Wolfram does know (page 1119) Minsky's very simple universal TMs from the 1960s. Using extensive simulations, he finds a slightly simpler one. New science? Small addition to old science. On page 675 we find a particularly simple cellular automaton (CA) and Matthew Cook's universality proof(?). This might be the most interesting chapter. It reflects that today's PCs are more powerful systematic searchers for simple rules than those of 40 years ago. No new paradigm though.

Was Wolfram at least first to view programs as potential explanations of everything? Nope. That was Zuse. Wolfram mentions him in exactly one line (page 1026): "Konrad Zuse suggested that [the universe] could be a continuous CA." This is totally misleading. Zuse's 1967 paper suggested the universe is DISCRETELY computable, possibly on a DISCRETE CA just like Wolfram's. Wolfram's causal networks (CA's with variable toplogy, chapter 9) will run on any universal CA a la Ulam & von Neumann & Conway & Zuse. Page 715 explains Wolfram's "key unifying idea" of the "principle of computational equivalence:" all processes can be viewed as computations. Well, that's exactly what Zuse wrote 3 decades ago.

Chapter 9 (2nd law of thermodynamics) elaborates (without reference)on Zuse's old insight that entropy cannot really increase in deterministically computed systems, although it often SEEMS to increase. Wolfram extends Zuse's work by a tiny margin, using today's more powerful computers to perform experiments as suggested in Zuse's 1969 book. I find it embarassing how Wolfram tries to suggest it was him who shifted a paradigm, not the legendary Zuse.

Some reviews cite Wolfram's previous reputation as a physicist and software entrepreneur, giving him the benefit of the doubt instead of immediately dismissing him as just another plagiator. Zuse's reputation is in a different league though: He built world's very first general purpose computers (1935-1941), while Wolfram is just one of many creators of useful software (Mathematica). Remarkably, in his history of computing (page 1107) Wolfram appears to try to diminuish Zuse's contributions by only mentioning Aiken's later 1944 machine.

On page 465 ff (and 505 ff on multiway systems) Wolfram asks whether there is a simple program that computes the universe. Here he sounds like Schmidhuber in his 1997 paper "A Computer Scientist's View of Life, the Universe, and Everything." Schmidhuber applied the above-mentioned simple dovetailer to all computable universes. His widely known writings come out on top when you google for "computable universes" etc, so Wolfram must have known them too, for he read an "immense number of articles books and web sites" (page xii) and executed "more than a hundred thousand mouse miles" (page xiv). He endorses Schmidhuber's "no-CA-but-TM approach" (page 486, no reference) but not his suggestion of using Levin's asymptotically optimal program searcher (1973) to find our universe's code.

On page 469 we are told that the simplest program for the data is the most probable one. No mention of the very science based on this ancient principle: Solomonoff's inductive inference theory (1960-1978); recent optimality results by Merhav & Feder & Hutter. Following Schmidhuber's "algorithmic theories of everything" (2000), short world-explaining programs are necessarily more likely, provided the world is sampled from a limit-computable prior distribution. Compare Li & Vitanyi's excellent 1997 textbook on Kolmogorov complexity.

On page 628 ff we find a lot of words on human thinking and short programs. As if this was novel! Wolfram seems totally unaware of Hutter's optimal universal rational agents (2001) based on simple programs a la Solomonoff & Kolmogorov & Levin & Chaitin. Wolfram suggests his simple programs will contribute to fine arts (page 11), neither mentioning existing, widely used, very short, fractal-based programs for computing realistic images of mountains and plants, nor the only existing art form explicitly based on simple programs: Schmidhuber's low-complexity art.

Wolfram talks a lot about reversible CAs but little about Edward Fredkin & Tom Toffoli who pioneered this field. He ignores Wheeler's "it from bit," Tegmark & Greenspan & Petrov & Marchal's papers, Moravec & Kurzweil's somewhat related books, and Greg Egan's fun SF on CA-based universes (Permutation City, 1995).

When the book came out some non-expert journalists hyped it without knowing its contents. Then cognoscenti had a look at it and recognized it as a rehash of old ideas, plus pretty pictures. And the reviews got worse and worse. As far as I can judge, positive reviews were written only by people without basic CS education and little knowledge of CS history. Some biologists and even a few physicists initially were impressed because to them it really seemed new. Maybe Wolfram's switch from physics to CS explains why he believes his thoughts are radical, not just reinventions of the wheel.

But he does know Goedel and Zuse and Turing. He must see that his own work is minor in comparison. Why does he desparately try to convince us otherwise? When I read Wolfram's first praise of the originality of his own ideas I just had to laugh. The tenth time was annoying. The hundredth time was boring. And that was my final feeling when I laid down this extremely repetitive book:exhaustion and boredom. In hindsight I know I could have saved my time. But at least I can warn others.


"So it goes..." 8)