April 9, 2005
One of the most stunning aspects of A New Kind of Science—at least for a layman—is the absence of mathematics. In the long term, will your discoveries make mathematics an obsolete tool for scientific inquiry?
Two things are already happening. First, there’s a new kind of basic science emerging—“pure NKS”. It’s like a physics, or a chemistry, or a mathematics, but concerned with systems in the computational world. Second, ideas and results from pure NKS are getting applied to lots of other places. Some of them aren’t science at all. Areas like art, music and architecture. Within traditional science, biology looks very promising: trying to understand the operation of cells using NKS ideas—perhaps a bit like understanding ideas of digital information led to the discovery of the mechanism of DNA 50 years ago. There seem to be particularly strong possibilities in areas of science where there’s obvious complexity, but it’s been hard to reproduce. Areas like linguistics, economics, social science and cognitive science. There are very clear and important opportunities in computer science and mathematics too—though my guess is that the applications there will be built on a lot of work in “pure NKS”. In fundamental physics, there’s a possibility of a tremendous breakthrough, but it’s hard to predict when that will happen.