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,

Works of science fiction make many predictions. What differentiates the things that won’t happen from those that haven’t happened yet?

In the course of my life, for example, probably the thing that has most dramatically changed is computers. And what’s perhaps interesting about that is there are many things that happened as a result that were not readily predictable.

There are details [in the movie] like the fact that they don’t have the idea of multiple windows. So they put every different function in a different screen. That’s something which isn’t going to happen that way just because people figured out a better way to do it.

People at one time thought there would be cities in the deep ocean. That hasn’t happened, and my guess is it won’t happen. But it’s not that there’s something physically impossible about it; the main reason is because people don’t care.

I think space in the last 50 years is an example of “it turned out we didn’t care that much”. And that’s maybe turning around, again for very random reasons.

If you asked the question, “Is there something that is driving space exploration today?” the answer is: it’s a bunch of people who grew up in a certain generation, who made enough money to waste some of it trying to build rockets. And I think it’s great.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, the driving thing was the Cold War and intercontinental ballistic missiles. That caused things to happen quite quickly at that time. After that, it was like “who cares?” Yes, it’s kind of interesting science, but the typical person doesn’t really care about exploring the moons of Jupiter. [Whereas] the typical person does care about going on their social network and doing social media for some number of hours per day.

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