Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Stephen Wolfram - Computation All the Way Down

I not sure I really grok this, but if you want big thinking, here you go...... This link takes you to Wolfram's whole essay. Here's the abstract:
We're now in this situation where people just assume that science can compute everything, that if we have all the right input data and we have the right models, science will figure it out. If we learn that our universe is fundamentally computational, that throws us right into the idea that computation is a paradigm you have to care about. The big transition was from using equations to describe how everything works to using programs and computation to describe how things work. And that's a transition that has happened after 300 years of equations. The transition time to using programs has been remarkably quick, a decade or two. One area that was a holdout, despite the transition of many fields of science into the computational models direction, was fundamental physics.
If we can firmly establish this fundamental theory of physics, we know it's computation all the way down. Once we know it's computation all the way down, we're forced to think about it computationally. One of the consequences of thinking about things computationally is this phenomenon of computational irreducibility. You can't get around it. That means we have always had the point of view that science will eventually figure out everything, but computational irreducibility says that can't work. It says that even if we know the rules for the system, it may be the case that we can't work out what that system will do any more efficiently than basically just running the system and seeing what happens, just doing the experiment so to speak. We can't have a predictive theoretical science of what's going to happen.

1 comment:

  1. I think you do grok it, Stephen. It is a point that's being understood everywhere: we can't predict the future. They say that mathematical models stand to reality like maps to the territory, but it is not exactly like that. It is like mapping a town that no one has ever visited, we only know its name and it is "Future"