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.

March 8, 2017

From: Interview by John Horgan, Scientific American

The concept of computation, like information, presupposes the existence of mind. So when you suggest that the universe is a computer, aren’t you guilty of anthropomorphism, or perhaps deism (assuming the mind for whom the computation is performed is God)?

The concept of computation doesn’t in any way presuppose the existence of mind… and it’s an incorrect summarization of my work to say that I suggest “the universe is a computer”.

Computation is just about following definite rules. The concept of computation doesn’t presuppose a “substrate”, any more than talking about mathematical laws for nature presupposes a substrate. When we say that the orbit of the Earth is determined by a differential equation, we’re just saying that the equation describes what the Earth does; we’re not suggesting that there are little machines inside the Earth solving the equation.

About the universe: yes, I have been investigating the hypothesis that the universe follows simple rules that can be described by a program. But this is just intended to be a description of what the universe does; there’s no “mechanism” involved. Of course, we don’t know if this is a correct description of the universe. But I consider it the simplest hypothesis, and I hope to either confirm or exclude it one day.

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