Mar 12, 2003
A New Kind of Science?
Dr. Ilya Nemenman, KITP
Recently Stephen Wolfram has published a new book, whose very title,
"A New Kind Of Science", makes it a darling of weekend science pages
in popular press, but causes skepticism or outright dismissal in
traditional scientific circles. The rift in evaluations is further
strengthened by the book's encyclopedic size, which makes it almost
impossible to read, and causes most reviews, comments, and opinions
that flood discussions to be of a second-hand nature. In the brief
time I have for this colloquium, I will try to do justice to this
book's scientific contents leaving aside the majority of social,
stylistic, and political correctness questions that are the most
heated part of the controversy. I will analyze some achievements of
the field of science described in the book (which, in my view, are
plenty contrary to statements made by many). I will also devote much
of my time to the critique, which will center around insufficient
mathematical rigor, vagueness of some claims, and internal
inconsistency of abandoning the "traditional mathematics" approach. I
will try to persuade the audience that the book's value is in posing
(or, in some cases, restating) many profound questions that we should
think about. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Stephen Wolfram answers
very few of them. In an unlikely event the time permits, I will
present a few of my own suggestions trying to mathematize some of
these questions and answer them.
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