Category: Big Picture

A New Kind of Science: A 15-Year View

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Starting now, in celebration of its 15th anniversary, A New Kind of Science will be freely available in its entirety, with high-resolution images, on the web or for download.

A New Kind of Science

It’s now 15 years since I published my book A New Kind of Science—more than 25 since I started writing it, and more than 35 since I started working towards it. But with every passing year I feel I understand more about what the book is really about—and why it’s important. I wrote the book, as its title suggests, to contribute to the progress of science. But as the years have gone by, I’ve realized that the core of what’s in the book actually goes far beyond science—into many areas that will be increasingly important in defining our whole future. Continue reading

Frontiers of Computational Thinking: A SXSW Report

Stephen Wolfram speaking at SXSW 2015

Last week I spoke at SXSW Interactive 2015 in Austin, Texas. Here’s a slightly edited transcript: Continue reading

Injecting Computation Everywhere–A SXSW Update

Two weeks ago I spoke at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX. Here’s a slightly edited transcript (it’s the “speaker’s cut”, including some demos I had to abandon during the talk):

Well, I’ve got a lot planned for this hour.

Basically, I want to tell you a story that’s been unfolding for me for about the last 40 years, and that’s just coming to fruition in a really exciting way. And by just coming to fruition, I mean pretty much today. Because I’m planning to show you today a whole lot of technology that’s the result of that 40-year story—that I’ve never shown before, and that I think is going to be pretty important.

I always like to do live demos. But today I’m going to be pretty extreme. Showing you a lot of stuff that’s very very fresh. And I hope at least a decent fraction of it is going to work.

OK, here’s the big theme: taking computation seriously. Really understanding the idea of computation. And then building technology that lets one inject it everywhere—and then seeing what that means. Continue reading

Talking about the Computational Future at SXSW 2013

Last week I gave a talk at SXSW 2013 in Austin about some of the things I’m thinking about these days—including quite a few that I’ve never talked publicly about before. Here’s a video, and a slightly edited transcript:

Well, this is a pretty exciting time for me. Because it turns out that a whole bunch of things that I’ve been working on for more than 30 years are all finally converging, in a very nice way. And what I’d like to do here today is tell you a bit about that, and about some things I’ve figured out recently—and about what it all means for our future.

This is going to be a bit of a wild talk in some ways. It’s going to go from pretty intellectual stuff about basic science and so on, to some really practical technology developments, with a few sneak peeks at things I’ve never shown before.

Let’s start from some science. And you know, a lot of what I’ll say today connects back to what I thought at first was a small discovery that I made about 30 years ago. Let me tell you the story.

I started out at a pretty young age as a physicist. Diligently doing physics pretty much the way it had been done for 300 years. Starting from this-or-that equation, and then doing the math to figure out predictions from it. That worked pretty well in some cases. But there were too many cases where it just didn’t work. So I got to wondering whether there might be some alternative; a different approach. Continue reading

Latest Perspectives on the Computation Age

This is an edited version of a short talk I gave last weekend at The Nantucket Project—a fascinatingly eclectic event held on an island that I happen to have been visiting every summer for the past dozen years.

Lots of things have happened in the world in the past 100 years. But I think in the long view of history one thing will end up standing out among all others: this has been the century when the idea of computation emerged.

We’ve seen all sorts of things “get computerized” over the last few decades—and by now a large fraction of people in the world have at least some form of computational device. But I think we’re still only at the very beginning of absorbing the implications of the idea of computation. And what I want to do here today is to talk about some things that are happening, and that I think are going to happen, as a result of the idea of computation.

Word cloud

I’ve been working on this stuff since I was teenager—which is now about a third of a century. And I think I’ve been steadily understanding more and more.

Our computational knowledge engine, Wolfram|Alpha, which was launched on the web about three years ago now, is one of the latest fruits of this understanding. Continue reading

“The Emerging Computation Revolution”–A Talk

Last week I gave a talk at the 2010 Emerging Technologies conference at MIT. I talked about many of my favorite topics, but with a particular orientation toward the future of the technology industry.

Stephen Wolfram at EmTech

Here’s a transcript of the talk:

The Emerging Computation Revolution

When we look back on the history of technology, I think we’ll see that the greatest revolution of the 20th century was the arrival of the concept of computation.

And in these years today, I think we’re seeing something else happen: the emergence of a second set of revolutions made possible by the concept of computation.

And it’s those revolutions that I want to talk about here today.

Now, needless to say, I’m quite involved in these.  And for me it’s really been about a 30-year journey getting to the point we’re at today—slowly understanding what’s possible.

Well, behind me here I have one of the fruits of that—Wolfram|Alpha.

And I want to talk about that, and about the idea of knowledge-based computing that it’s making possible.

There’s a lot of knowledge in the world.  A lot of data that’s been systematically collected.  A lot of methods, models, algorithms, expertise that have been built up.

And ever since I was a kid I’ve wondered whether we could somehow make all of this computable. Whether we could somehow build something that’s a bit like those old science fiction computers.

So that we could just walk up to a machine, and immediately be able to answer any question that can be answered on the basis of the knowledge that our civilization has accumulated.

It’s an ambitious goal. And when I first thought about this nearly 40 years ago, it seemed very far off.

But every decade or so since then I’ve returned to this. And finally, earlier this past decade, I started to think that perhaps it wasn’t crazy to actually try to build something like this.

There were several things that made that possible.

Continue reading