Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

April 9, 2005

From: Interview by Andres Hax, Clarín

Ray Kurzweil says of class 4 automata, “… they do not continue to evolve into anything more complex, nor do they develop new types of features… They do not evolve into, say, insects or humans, or Chopin preludes…”. Is this a damaging critique of the Principle of Computational Equivalence?

Class 4 cellular automata can actually make surprisingly good music! It takes doing a lot of actual experiments to get a good intuition for systems like cellular automata. One of the things I’ve always found is that whenever I think “they can’t do X”, I’m always wrong. It’s just that I can’t imagine how they do “X”. I think that over the next few decades, we’ll see some technological systems with remarkably simple underlying rules do remarkably sophisticated things. And one result of that is that typical people’s intuition will change—and in the end the Principle of Computational Equivalence will seem almost obvious.

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