Schedule 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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