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 3, 2018

From: Interview by Harrison Tasoff,

Given the differences between this wave of space enthusiasm and that of the Cold War, do you think we’ll see things more like the space travel depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

I think the answer is yes. When we’ll see that, I don’t know.

I don’t know what will cause the everyday person to really experience space. Other than that they see cool pictures sent back from a spacecraft. I think that space today is definitely a spirit of adventure-type activity, as much as anything.

Insofar as space becomes a ubiquitous platform, things will emerge that we don’t expect, and one of them, or several of them, may turn out to be really important.

Let me give you an example with computers. Nobody expected word processors.

In the 1960s, the concept that you would use computers to do word processing was absurd. Because, how did you use those computers? Well, they were expensive things, they cost millions of dollars each. They were used by specific operators; no ordinary person sat in front of the computer and did anything. You ran your job. It did a big computation and got results.

The idea you would waste the time of a computer, sitting, waiting for you to type a key and edit text was absurd. And the fact that word processing was the earliest large-scale application of computers was a weird, unexpected thing.

But that came out because computers had become a ubiquitous enough platform, and cheap enough, that you could do something as silly as word processing. The question is, if space becomes cheap enough that any old person can launch a payload into space, what will that then mean?

What is the analog of word processing for space?

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